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3.3.1. Armed conflict (international or internal)

Last updated: June 2022

A definition of an international or an internal armed conflict within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD is not provided by the QD itself. In Diakité, the CJEU interprets the concept of ‘internal armed conflict’ under Article 15(c) QD and concludes that it must be given an interpretation, which is autonomous from international humanitarian law.

[…] internal armed conflict exists, for the purposes of applying that provision, if a State’s armed forces confront one or more armed groups or if two or more armed groups confront each other. It is not necessary for that conflict to be categorised as ‘armed conflict not of an international character’ under international humanitarian law;

CJEU, Diakité, para.35

The CJEU sets a low threshold to assess whether an armed conflict is taking place, noting that,

[…] nor is it necessary to carry out, in addition to an appraisal of the level of violence present in the territory concerned, a separate assessment of the intensity of the armed confrontations, the level of organisation of the armed forces involved or the duration of the conflict.

CJEU, Diakité, para.35

Furthermore, in the context of Article 15(c) QD, differentiation between ‘international’ or ‘internal’ armed conflict is not necessary, as the provision is equally applicable in situations of international and internal armed conflict. It should also be noted that an armed conflict can be taking place only in parts of the territory.

Several conflicts/rivalries take place in the territory of Somalia:

  • Al-Shabaab – anti Al-Shabaab armed conflict: according to RULAC, a non-international armed conflict with Al-Shabaab is taking place in Somalia, while the group controls parts of rural central, southern, and western Somalia, and permeates the Somali society beyond it. The FGS, the FMS, some clans, as well as other international actors, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, the US, and AMISOM, are all engaged, although in various degrees and forms, in the long-standing conflict against Al-Shabaab.
  • The inter and intra-clan rivalries: clan rivalries and competitions over political power, territorial control and scarce resources have resulted in clashes. Within this context, clans often compete against each other, as well as against other actors such as the FGS or the FMS. The existence of clan militias has been reported throughout Somalia, including Puntland and Somaliland. In some cases, clan rivalries have escalated to armed confrontations, therefore taking the form of an armed conflict in the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
  • Anti-ISS armed conflict: various armed forces, including AFRICOM, the Federal Security Forces, and the Puntland armed forces are engaged in various degrees in an armed conflict against ISS. While ISS is mainly active in Puntland, it carries out attacks also in Mogadishu and elsewhere. Furthermore, Al-Shabaab and ISS also fight against each other, causing rival clashes and assassinations between the groups.
  • Puntland versus Somaliland: Puntland and Somaliland contend over control of areas of the Sool and Sanaag regions - that border the two state administrations - as well as the area of Ayn, part of Togdheer region. In this context, clashes were reported in the beginning of 2020.
  • Other rivalries: other types of confrontations which do not necessarily develop into armed confrontations are taking place in Somalia. These include: the FGS versus the FMS, the intra-FMS control and governance dynamics, the FGS versus Somaliland. In some occasions, armed confrontations have been reported e.g. forces loyal to Jubbaland President Ahmed Madobe have clashed with SNA forces inserted into Gedo region by FGS President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.

[Security 2021, 1.3]

Further assessment with regard to the possible real risk for a civilian to be personally affected by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD is provided at region level within the section Assessment by region.