Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
The neglected cases of homicide using poison in Somalia

By Ibrahim Hussein
Saturday April 29, 2023



The world we live in today is full of opportunities and mysteries that affect humans differently, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or continent. However, humans possess unique virtues and brainpower that enable us to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore, while we cannot shape our destiny, we have the ability to make choices that reflect our character. Humans are judged and penalized for their offences, unlike animals, which are not punished for their behaviour.

Although science and technology have improved our standard of living, they have also brought undesired adverse effects on our physical and emotional health. Every innovation of science and technology that comes into contact with our daily lives has the potential to improve our lives. Still, it also has negative effects that can accumulate in our systems and bring us to our knees. Human innovation has the potential to transform our essential economic development and social progress, but we must control it constantly to maximize its positive potential and reduce its negative outcomes.

One of the leading problems we face today is the psychological effects of electronic gadgets such as smartphones and TVs that we use persistently in an urban setting. We have become dependent on these gadgets, making them a necessity in our urban standard of living. Overpopulation and poverty in metropolitan cities also negatively contribute to the effect of mental health on modern man, especially in poor and undeveloped countries with fragile public health systems like Somalia. Somalia records the highest number of people affected with personality disorders, and the most vulnerable sufferers are women and children. Hence, these people are lured into committing homicidal acts.

Despite this, there is clear evidence that homicide is associated with specific manifestations of mental illness, such as individuals affected by antisocial personality disorder and drug abuse. However, most people with a history of mental disorders are not acutely ill enough to be under mental healthcare. Therefore, people in our community are typically seen as incapable of committing murder until it happens. Unfortunately, no one speaks about it because it is not seen as a priority since there are dozens of harmful byproducts from the civil war that need to be taken care of.

The reason why this article concentrates on poison is because it has traditionally been used as an invisible weapon. A poisoned victim could be buried without detection of an actual crime. Furthermore, malpractices in medicine happen daily in Somalia hospitals and clinics, with no one questioning or investigating clients/patients who die suddenly without any major life-threatening illness while under the hospital's care.

Although it is not common in Somali culture, homicides that occur among married couples and their offspring are increasing, according to media outlets. These trajectories can be attributed to the influence inherited from the impact of 30 years of civil war and exposure to diverse cultures that Somali people have intermingled within the countries where they were accepted as refugees in Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. Consequently, it has acculturated their distinctive social homophily. Homicide using poison in the Somali context is a complex, growing, enigmatic phenomenon that should be studied.

Who Chooses to Murder With Poison?  

Many men and women are dying at the hands of their intimate spouses. Unfortunately, most deaths are classified as natural or due to other lifestyle habits. Burial takes place within 24 hours, and the body is taken to its final resting place. Even if the deceased is suspected of being poisoned, exhumation is not easily decided upon because it conflicts with Somali norms and culture.

Studies suggest that men are responsible for most homicides worldwide, with femicide accounting for most reported cases. However, it is becoming clear that historically, female involvement in homicide has been given less attention than their male counterparts, even though women account for a lower percentage of homicides. This article does not single out one gender. Instead, it seeks to shed light on the use of poison as a murder weapon, which, statistically, women tend to choose more often than men do.

According to studies and available data, women are known to use poison mostly when it comes to homicide. This preference for poison is not difficult to understand. Poison allows women to execute their plans stealthily. Women also have easy access to food and chemicals because society believes the kitchen is a woman's place. This gives them the opportunity and plenty of time to poison their prey.

One reason why women prefer poison is to avoid the risks of physical confrontation with their target victims. Customarily, women do not like the bloody havoc left behind by guns or knives. In addition, males tend to use brutal methods of murder to show their masculinity. In contrast, female offenders tend to use weapons that are physically less demanding.

Conventional wisdom suggests that women who use poison are selective in choosing victims and plan carefully to conceal their homicidal traces. They believe that poisoning is the only method that allows them to get away with murder. This article is not meant to make a final conclusion on this subject. However, it provides several clear and reasonable justifications suggesting that poison is a weapon of choice for female offenders.

The perpetrators of poisoning fall into three categories, depending on their level of madness, grudge, and degree of hatred towards their prey. The first category targets an unwanted spouse due to an unhealthy marriage or relationship, using a lethal dose that kills the victim instantly. The second category targets business partners for money and property, eliminating them instantly with a deadly dose. The third category targets family members for wealth inheritance and political opponents' disposals, using a slow poisoning method that gradually takes effect over a period of one to two months. Murders related to poison are challenging to

Understanding Poison

To understand the subject of this discussion, defining what constitutes a poison is essential. It is worth noting that administering too much of a substance or medication can also be fatal, a phenomenon known as an overdose in medical practice. One notable example is when patients whose lives depend on medication experience disabilities or death as a result of an increased dosage.

The basic definition of poison is any substance that can harm living organisms, including humans, plants, animals, and insects. These substances are typically extracted from animals, plants, or minerals. Even in small quantities, they can cause death or illness to living things through chemical actions. Poisons can be ingested, inhaled, absorbed, applied, injected, or developed within the body. The potency of the chemical action is what causes damage to the structure or disturbance of function that produces symptoms, illness, disability, or death.

When it comes to homicide, poison is a preferred weapon for assailants as it allows them to carry out the act in secrecy. Poisoners often exhibit extreme antisocial behaviour. Criminal profilers consider two traits common to poisoners: first-time poisoners often derive pleasure from seeing their victims suffer, while serial poisoners usually enjoy the thrill of having power over the life and suffering of their victims.

High-risk Individuals for Poisoning

Those at the highest risk of being victims of poisoning include unwanted spouses, business partners, talented individuals, and leaders in political positions who are kind and trusting. The offender is often personally involved with the victim, either through a relationship, spouse, partner, or caregiver in hospitals or schools. In the majority of cases, the accused had a close family relationship with the victim. However, there are instances where the murderer might be a stranger to their victim. If someone plans to kill one person but accidentally kills someone else in a scenario where the assailant serves a poisoned meal to their victim, only for it to be eaten by someone else, this is still considered premeditated homicide because the assailant initially wanted to poison a specific target.

In the context of Somalia, the highest risk of being victims of poisoning are the terminally ill, mentally incapacitated, drug addicts, the elderly, and the very young. Taking a life has no justification whatsoever, and it is important to note that in such situations, the intention does not need to be directed at a specific person(s); the act is still considered premeditated murder.

Social Legal Systems in Solving Homicide 

Homicide is the act of killing another person. In Somalia, homicides are traditionally divided into two categories: premeditated and accidental (Kas iyo Ka'ma), and each is often investigated and treated differently. However, the various social and legal systems in place sometimes create more problems than solutions due to cultural influences.

Increasing the severity of sentences does little to prevent crime, as potential criminals are unlikely to know what the punishment is when they commit a crime. However, if people are aware that they might face execution or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for committing a homicide, they may be deterred from such actions. Regardless of the type of criminal, taking a human life is unjustifiable and unacceptable, and all murderers deserve to be punished through the criminal justice system with a fair trial in court.

In some cases of femicide, crimes are settled outside the court of law through customary law by clan leaders and elders. However, this undermines proper investigations and creates a barrier to crime prevention. It also leads to the loss of records similar to modern criminal justice systems, which undermines secular law and Islamic sharia. When perpetrators go unpunished and move freely in public, it can create psychological trauma for survivors of homicide victims and shatter their trust in the criminal justice system. The constant miscarriage of justice can encourage failure in the criminal justice system, which can hurt not just the defendants but the society as a whole and lead to further crimes.

When homicides occur, there is considerable public interest. People want to understand more about the location, specific regions, cities, areas, and gender of the perpetrator out of concern for their safety. Therefore, all cases of homicide should be treated with equal seriousness, regardless of the method of killing. By ensuring that justice is served, society can deter future crimes and restore faith in the criminal justice system.

Challenges of Homicide Investigations.

Homicides in overpopulated metropolitan cities of Somalia, like Mogadishu, are predominantly caused by gunshots, whereas those caused by poison are often neglected and obscure as there are no reports or practitioners who investigate them. This neglect is immoral, and it needs to change. Poison-related homicides must be acclimated to the standards of homicide investigations before it gets worse.

This article does not provide a list of poisonous substances used in homicide in Somalia, as obtaining this information was difficult due to the unavailability of data. However, worldwide, poisons such as arsenic, cyanide, thallium, strychnine, aconitine, atropine, and antimony have been used to perpetrate homicidal poisoning.

In the past, detecting a perfect poison that is odourless and tasteless was difficult, but modern scientific advances have made it easier to detect toxins. Unfortunately, Somalia lacks modern forensic science laboratory facilities, which limits the capacity of investigations.

In some cases, detecting poison is easy, as there is evidence readily available at the crime scene or captured on CCTV cameras installed in modern urban buildings. However, there are other complex cases that require more effort. In every crime investigation, two factors are important: the weapon used and the resources dedicated to solving the crime, which largely determines the success of a murder investigation. Forensic fields such as pathology, serology, odontology, blood spatter evidence, bank transactions, mobile money transfer evidence, fingerprints, fabric and hair examination, time-line analysis of mobile GPS tracking, and interviewing people associated with the victim can provide critical clues to cracking sophisticated homicide cases, including cold cases.

Solving crime requires proper investigations that can establish whether a crime has occurred or not by checking all known facts and identifying any gaps or issues overlooked. Physical evidence has the potential to play a critical role in the overall investigation and resolution of a suspect. It is essential that the collected evidence is strong enough to show the court that something occurred without the need for the judge to make inferences or assumptions to reach a conclusion to serve justice.

Post-mortem investigations need to be considered for the cause of deaths that arouse suspicion, even if law enforcement and family members do not raise any questions. This is where honest undivided collaboration and teamwork are required between police homicide detectives, pathologists, and toxicologists.

In most countries, poisons or any substances considered poisonous are regulated. However, they are still widely available and sold items in the market by unlicensed quacks who do not care about what the buyer wants to use them for. Worse still, sellers and stores do not keep records of buyers, which is a mandatory requirement for selling a controlled substance, and this act also jeopardizes investigations. In the context of Somalia, it is unclear what the regulations and control systems for poisonous substances are.

According to data published on the Global Economic website, the average homicide rate in Somalia for a period of four years from 2012 to 2015 was 5.6 homicides per 100,000 people. Although this data is unsegregated, it is lower than the world average in 2015 based on 155 countries, which was 7.6 homicides per 100,000 people. However, these statistics do not provide sufficient information to be used for planning or decision-making that could facilitate crime prevention and investigations.

To better understand the extent to which poison is used for homicide in Somalia, it is necessary to conduct tough data interrogations that include both quantitative and qualitative analysis, including secondary data. However, the current health information systems in Somalia do not capture detailed information on homicides, making it challenging to determine homicide trends, the characteristics of assailants, and the substances and methods used.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Every country's criminal justice system requires robust strategies that encompass crime prevention and investigation systems to reduce the risk of crimes and their harmful effects on individuals and society. Somalia's national criminal justice institutions are still in the infancy stage of recovery from the civil war, but they are making progress in strengthening their capacity in the area of community policing, which has improved police investigations and violence prevention to some extent.

Some individuals may consider comments, questions, clarifications, or objective contributions trivial and unnecessary contention because they lack information on the subject discussed in this article. It is crucial to conceptualize the content of the article before making assumptions.

Another factor that may affect the availability of resources for the criminal justice system could be public funding. Nevertheless, the article provides valuable information on the need for research on homicides using poison. Further studies are required to provide an enabling environment for criminal justice personnel and information that can increase solution rates and reduce crimes.

In summary, homicide using poison in Somalia has received little attention, and existing systems need to be strengthened to fulfill the most critical roles in law enforcement by determining the circumstances that lead to the loss of life. This requires well-trained professionals who are experts in their field of homicide specialty. Homicide investigations need to be solved with logic, reason, efficiency, and high ethical standards. Data systems play an essential role, which requires basic studies and constant research.

The article looks at the concerned safety of citizens in regard to the prevention, detection, and investigations of crimes related to homicide using poison. It found that currently, there is not enough data and information that covers in detail poison homicidal crimes.

Considering the data gap, the article concludes with recommendations for further studies that require resources. The author appeals to donors to fund the proposed detailed homicide studies in Somalia, with the possibility of outcomes that can provide capacity development of personnel and systems to further the ongoing efforts of homicide prevention, investigations, and criminal justice systems in the country.

Ibrahim Hussein

Email: [email protected]

Ibrahim is a Humanitarian worker working in Horn and East Africa, Human Right Activist and autodidact in forensic investigations and is passionate about solving crimes.

[1] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/negative-effects-of-technology

[2] https://www.africaw.com/bad-medical-practices-in-somalia

[3] https://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/globalization-and-its-impact-somalia

[4] https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/global-study-on-homicide.html

[5] https://networks.h-net.org/node/24029/pages/31510/women-and-crime-poison-discussionmarch-1998

[6] https://gsdrc.org/document-library/stateless-justice-in-somalia-formal-and-informal-rule-of-law-initiatives/%23:~:text=Somalia%20has%20four%20justice%20systems,jurisdiction%20that%20often%20becomes%20contentious.

[7] https://ocindex.net/country/somalia

[8] https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Somalia/homicide_rate/


Click here