CESSATION OF ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
Both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(Article 8) and
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(sub-art. 3 of Article 2) provide that everyone has the right to
an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts
violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution
or by other laws. It is also enshrined in Article 37(1) of the
Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
(FDRE) that Every person has the right to bring justifiable
disputes to, and to obtain a decision or judgement by, a court of
law or where appropriate by another body with judicial power.
However, this right has not been respected for the residents
of Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa and for those persons who have cases
before those courts which were established in the two cities.
Those individuals who have filed suits or lodged appeals before
the Central Courts have also faced similar problems. This is
because the Central and Regional Courts which were established in
these two cities have been restricted from conducting their major
functions. The reason given for this is that these courts and the
judges assigned to them have been denied their legal status as
they were established and appointed by the previous
administration prior to the ratification of the Constitution.
This situation was created because the Government did not
establish the Federal Courts and appoint judges, despite the fact
that 16 months have lapsed since the adoption of the new
Constitution. The Government has not also issued the relevant
laws dealing with the Administration of Addis Ababa and Dire
Dawa. Article 49 of the Constitution provides that Addis Ababa
shall be the Capital city of the Federal Democratic Republic of
Ethiopia. It also states that the residents of Addis Ababa shall
have a full measure of self-government and laws shall be enacted
to that end. However, despite the time lapse of 16 months, the
Government has not issued the law in accordance with which Addis
Ababa and Dire Dawa shall be governed. Although it is stated in
Article 78 of the Constitution that an independent judiciary is
established and supreme federal judicial authority is vested in
the Federal Supreme Court, the Federal Courts have not been
established and the judges have not been appointed up to now. It
was only a month ago that the Government appointed the President
and the Vice President of the Federal Supreme Court. The
President is the same person who had been serving as President of
the Central Supreme Court during the transitional period.
Article 78(2) of the Constitution provides that The Council of
Peoples' Representatives may, by a two-third majority vote,
establish nationally or in some regions of the country such
federal high and first-instance courts it deems necessary. And,
unless and until such lower federal courts are established,
federal high and first-instance judicial powers are delegated to
the State courts.
Article 81 of the constitution which deals with the selection
and appointment of judges provides: (1)The Council of Peoples'
Representatives shall, on submission of nominees by the Prime
Minister, appoint the President and the Vice President of the
Federal Supreme Court.
This article does not say anything about the selection and
appointment of the Federal High and First Instance Court judges.
The members of the Federal Government are the 9 States stated
in Article 47 of the Constitution. Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa are
not States. Since these two cities are not included in any of the
States, the provision of Article 78(2), which states that federal
high and first-instance judicial powers are delegated to the
State courts, cannot be implemented in these two cities. The only
way out is to implement the alternative provision of this same
Article which says: The Council of Peoples' Representatives may,
by a two-third majority vote, establish nationally or in some
regions of the country such federal high and first-instance
courts it deems necessary.
The citizens should not be deprived of their rights of access
to justice every time there is a change of administration or
whenever the judicial system is restructured. Judicial reform can
take place while the courts are performing their functions. There
are also precedents for this. For example, the Transitional
Government had stayed in power until the establishment of the
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on August 21, 1995, even
though the life of the Charter which established it came to an
end in January 1993. And, the judges who were appointed by the
Transitional Government had been performing their functions until
the end of February 1996, albeit unsatisfactorily. Why should
they be barred now? Why should the people be denied access to
The Constitution does not have a transitional provision and it
does not say any thing as to who will appoint the judges for the
courts that will be established in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa.
However, withdrawing the legal authority of the courts before a
solution is found to the problem will be a denial of the
citizens' right of access to justice. Such a withdrawal of
authority particularly at the time when thousands of persons are
languishing in prison without trial will be a very serious
violation of human rights. There is no benefit to the Government
if the people's grievances are aggravated by a denial of
justice.. Therefore, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council requests
the Government to authorise the judges to resume their duties as
before until the courts are reorganised in accordance with the
provisions of the Constitution and proclamations which may be
issued in the future.
EHRCO also urges all persons of good will, human rights and religious organisations, international organisations and governments to do whatever they can for the reinstatement of the right of access to justice in Ethiopia.