Practice Relating to Rule 135. Children
Section A. Special protection
In 1998, an ICRC publication entitled “Spared from the Spear” recorded traditional Somali practice in warfare as follows:
The leader … gave out the following instructions which were to be strictly followed:
4. The weak and vulnerable members of the enemy such as … children … should be left unharmed.
The publication also described traditional Somali practice as follows:
In order to ensure that the values of honour and nobility were maintained at all times, traditional Somali society evolved a strict code of conduct that clearly defined the categories of people and things that were not to be abused in any way during a war. This convention of war, acknowledged and respected by almost all Somali pastoral nomads, is commonly known as xeerka biri-ma-geydada, or the “spared from the spear” code.
The traditional Biri-ma-geydo code covered certain categories of people who, far from being killed or harmed, were supposed to be cared for and assisted at all times. Adherence to this code was specially enjoined during hostilities. Among the types of persons afforded protection by this code were … children …
… [C]hildren belonged to the category of the weak and vulnerable persons whose harming was generally regarded with strong disapproval. Any man who allowed himself to come down to the lowly level of using force against … children was rightly regarded as a coward who could not face the men in battle and was, instead, taking out his anger on the weak and helpless. Looking at this matter from another angle … children were believed to constitute the … “seeds” that ensured the survival and continuity of society; and killing them was viewed as being tantamount to “cutting down the tree at its base”, leading society down the road to annihilation and extinction.
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.
In 2011, in its report to the Human Rights Council, Somalia stated:
Somalia has not ratified AP II [1977 Additional Protocol II] and it is therefore not directly applicable to Somalia as a matter of treaty law. The Government is aware that many provisions of AP II represent customary IHL rules and therefore apply to the situation in Somalia. Such provisions include Article 4 providing guarantees to persons taking no active part in hostilities … due to the fact that these norms are reflected in Common Article 3 of the  Geneva Conventions.