Practice Relating to Rule 31. Humanitarian Relief Personnel
In 1998, an ICRC publication entitled “Spared from the Spear” recorded traditional Somali practice in warfare as follows:
When hostilities between two groups had reached an extreme level where neither of them would spare the lives of enemy wounded warriors who fell into its hands, a third neutral lineage, inhabiting the same area of settlement, would volunteer to render humanitarian assistance to the war wounded from both sides in the conflict. … The members of this clan who were engaged in this humanitarian task were not harmed or harassed by any of the two lineages involved in the fighting because their service was free from any considerations of material gain or any other selfish motivation.
In 2011, in its comments on the concluding observations of the Human Rights Council concerning Somalia’s report, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia referred to “Spared from the Spear” as its “own Geneva Conventions”:
In times of hostilities, the Biri-Ma-Geydo
(Spared from the Spear), i.e. Somalia’s own “Geneva Conventions”[,] which existed long before the adoption of the Hague and Geneva Conventions, mitigated and regulated the conduct of clan hostilities and the treatment of immune groups.