Owing to the collapse of national government, no national system exists. However, much of the country has reverted to Shari'ah with the possibility for appeals; secular courts exist in some localities. The UN operation in Somalia oversaw administration of the Somalia penal code in those areas under UN supervision. Islamic law and traditional mediation continue to be applied to settle disputes over property and criminal offenses. The fear of renewed anarchy interferes with impartial administration of justice, and prosecution of war crimes is difficult.
In 1993, plans were released for a three-tier judicial system with courts of appeals, regional courts, and district courts. In the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, adoption of a new constitution is pending and the pre-1991 penal code is in effect. In North Mogadishu and part of South Mogadishu, the middle Shabelle and the Gedo and Hi'ran regions, court decisions are only based on Shari'ah law.
Historically, under the 1961 constitution the Supreme Court was the highest juridical organ of the republic, having ultimate jurisdiction over all civil, penal, and administrative matters, and over all rights established by the constitution and by the laws of the state. Other judicial organs were qadi courts (Muslim courts), district courts, provincial courts, and courts of assize. Judicial organs of second instance were a tribunal of qadis, a court of appeals, and an appeals court of assize. Somali citizens participated as jurors in the courts of assize and the appeals court of assize. The Ministry of Justice administered the prison system and the offices and employees of the judicial organs. It prepared projects and regulations dealing with judicial matters and it supervised notaries, the bar, and the Office of State Attorney.
When the SRC assumed all judicial as well as executive and legislative powers in October 1969, it suspended the Supreme Court. However, the court was reopened in December 1969, and the rest of the court system was left much as before. A new National Security Court was empowered to rule on cases involving persons accused of attempting to undermine the independence, unity, and security of the state. The 1979 constitution established the Constitutional Court (composed of the Supreme Court and delegates to the People's Assembly) to decide on the constitutionality of laws. It also empowered the Higher Judicial Council, chaired by the president and composed of high-ranking SRC members, to be responsible for the selection, promotion, and discipline of members of the judiciary.