Authorities in Puntland, a region in Somalia, have come under fire for prosecuting freelance journalist Kilwe Adan Farah in military court. Excerpt from this Horn Observer account:
During the Saturday’s court hearing, Kilwe was brought at the First Instance Court of the Armed Forces where a military prosecutor put forward five charges: Instigation of delinquency; Instigation of Disobey to the Laws; Publication or Circulation of False, Exaggerated or Tendencious News Capable of Disturbing Public Order; Offence against the Authorities by Means of Damaging Posters; and Bringing the Nation or the State into Contempt. The prosecutor asked the Military Court to sentence Kilwe with 10 years imprisonment.
However, the defense lawyer Mustafe Mohamed Jama, who is representing Kilwe on behalf of [the Somali Journalists Syndicate], challenged the military prosecutor’s charges and questioned the military court’s jurisdiction over the journalist’s case. The lawyer also insisted that his client is a professional journalist and that journalism was not a crime under the Somali laws and therefore there was no a case to be heard at the Court.
The report adds:
A London based international barrister, Michael Polak who is helping with the Kilwe case stated "moving from a charge of attempted murder, which has been abandoned, to offences clearly aimed at preventing journalistic activity and pursuing Kilwe through the Military Court when he is a civilian shows that these proceedings are a farce. The President of Puntland and the Military Court Judge must step forward to end this embarrassing affair.”
The Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa, 2003, promulgated by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights provide:
G. RIGHT OF CIVILIANS NOT TO BE TRIED BY MILITARY COURTS:
a) The only purpose of Military Courts shall be to determine offences of a purely military nature committed by military personnel.
b) While exercising this function, Military Courts are required to respect fair trial standards enunciated in the African Charter and in these guidelines.
c) Military courts should not in any circumstances whatsoever have jurisdiction over civilians. Similarly, Special Tribunals should not try offences which fall within the jurisdiction of regular courts. [Emphasis added.]
Despite this, a number of African countries persist in trying civilians in military courts.