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Constitution, Government & Legislation | Courts & Judgments | Human Rights | Legal Profession
map courtesy CIA World Factbook; click for enlargement Constitution, Government & Legislation

Legislative authority in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is vested in a bicameral Parliament. The House of Peoples' Representatives has the power of legislation in all matters assigned by the constitution to Federal Jurisdiction. The term of duty is five years The House of Federation has the power to interpret the constitution. The term of duty is five years. Both Houses have a speaker and deputy-speaker.

The President of the F.D.R.E is the Head of State. The term of duty is six years and the President shall not be elected for more than two terms. The President is elected by a two-thirds majority vote of a joint session of the House of Peoples' Representatives and the House of Federation.

The highest executive powers of the Federal Government are vested in the Prime Minister and in the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister is elected from among members of the House of Peoples' Representatives and power of government shall be assumed by the political party, or a coalition of political parties, that constitutes a majority in the House of Peoples' Representatives. The Prime Minister is the chief executive, the chairman of the Council of Ministers and the Commander-in-Chief of the National Armed Forces. His term of office is for five years.

Source: Embassy of Ethiopia - Washington, D.C.

Courts & Judgments

The Ethiopian federal High Court and federal Supreme Court hear and adjudicate original and appeal cases involving federal law, transregional issues, and national security. The regional judiciary is increasingly autonomous, with district (woreda), zonal, high, and supreme courts mirroring the structure of the federal judiciary. In 2000 the president of the federal High Court created two new three-judge benches at the High Court level to handle criminal cases. The Special Prosecutor's Office has delegated some of the war crimes trials to the supreme courts in the regions where the crimes allegedly were committed, which has increased the efficiency of the process.

The Constitution provides legal standing to some preexisting religious and customary courts and gives federal and regional legislatures the authority to recognize other courts. By law all parties to a dispute must agree before a customary or religious court may hear a case. Shari'a (Islamic) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims. In addition other traditional courts still function. Although not sanctioned by law, these courts resolve disputes for the majority of citizens who live in rural areas and who generally have little access to formal judicial systems.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Human Rights

The Ethiopian Government's human rights record remained poor in 2001; although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained. Security forces committed a number of extrajudicial killings and at times beat and mistreated detainees. Prison conditions are poor. Arbitrary arrest and detention and prolonged pretrial detention remained problems. The Government continued to detain persons suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the OLF. The Government did not continue to detain and deport without due process Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin; however, approximately 1,800 prisoners of war (POW's) remained in internment camps at Dedesa at year's end. Despite some efforts, the judiciary continued to lack sufficient trained staff and funds, which limited its ability to provide citizens the full protection provided for in the Constitution. Thousands of suspects remained in detention without charge, and lengthy pretrial detention was a consistent problem. The judiciary continued to show some signs of growing independence; however, the Judicial Administration Council took disciplinary action against a judge after he released suspects on bail on habeas corpus grounds. The Government infringed on citizen's privacy rights, and the law regarding search warrants was ignored widely. The Government restricted freedom of the press and continued to detain or imprison members of the press. Journalists continued to practice self-censorship. The Government at times restricted freedom of assembly; security forces used excessive force to disperse demonstrations. The Government limited freedom of association, and while the nongovernmental organization (NGO) registration process continued to improve, the Government suspended temporarily the registration of a prominent NGO. In July the Speaker of the House of the Peoples' Representatives selected a nominating committee to elect members to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Office of the Ombudsman; however, neither entity was operational at year's end. The Government generally respected freedom of religion; however, on occasion local authorities infringed on this right. The Government restricted freedom of movement. Numerous internally displaced persons (IDP's) remained in the country. Violence and societal discrimination against women, and abuse of children remained problems. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread. The Government supported efforts to eliminate FGM and other harmful traditional practices. The exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes remained a problem. Societal discrimination against persons with disabilities was a problem. Discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities continued. Child labor, particularly in the informal sector, continued to be a problem. Forced labor, including forced child labor, also was a problem, and there were reports of trafficking in persons.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Legal Profession
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