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15 Jun
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The Police and Human Rights in Ethiopia

 INTRODUCTION

This article is about “The police and human rights in Ethiopia”. Every state has the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights of human beings. And police as one part the executive organ of government has its own obligations towards human rights. These include the obligation to respect and protect human rights. And police officers have also a direct and day to day contact with the entire society that requires an enormous effort and patience of police officers to respect and protect human rights.

The objective of this article is to survey the different aspects of human rights, explore the role of police in relation to human rights in the federal system of Ethiopia and examine the possible remedies for violation of human rights in a summarized fashion.    

The scope of this article is limited to the police, its role in relation to the respect and protection of human rights, the possibilities in which police officers violate human rights and the possible remedies for violation of human rights. And deep analysis of all responsibilities of police is not the concern of this article. 

Questions such as: What are the responsibilities of police in respecting and protection human rights? How are victims treated by police officers? Is there any guideline or technique regarding treatment of victims in Ethiopia? What are the international, regional and national legal frameworks of remedies for violation of human rights? What are the possible remedies for violation of human rights? Are all the remedies effectively applicable in Ethiopia? How far are police officers responsible for their actions that violate human rights of citizens? and other related questions are answered, assessed and analyzed under this article. 

Survey of literatures, analysis of laws, personal observation, personal experience and case analysis are the different types of methods that are used under the preparation of this article. 

 

1.1. Meaning of Human Rights 

Human Rights, by definition, are a universal moral right. Something which all men everywhere, at all times ought to have, something of which no one may be deprived without grave affront of justice, something which is owing to every human being simply because he is human”. The term “Human Rights” indicates both the nature and source: they are rights one has simply because one is a human being. If a right is determined to be a Human Right, it is general and universal in character, equally possessed by all human beings. All human beings should enjoy human rights because of the mere fact that they are human beings. Human Rights are held by all people and all human beings without distinction as to race, color, sex, language, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, family or social status, or political or other convictions. Irrespective of all these differences human beings are entitled to enjoy human rights simply because they are born human.

The very specificity of the concept of “human rights” is that they belong to the individual in his or her quality as a human being, who cannot be deprived of their substance in any circumstances; these rights are thus intrinsic to the human condition. Human rights are inherent in all members of the human family. Human rights are thus universal and inalienable rights of all human beings. Human beings cannot be deprived of the substance of their rights (inalienability). Only the exercise of some of these rights can be limited in certain circumstances. The fact that human rights originate in the unique nature of the human being means that they should be subjected to effective legal protection at the national and international levels.

 

1.2. Human rights Obligations of governments

As it is indicated above human rights and fundamental freedoms are naturally gifted to all human beings without making any distinction among human beings. And rights cannot exist alone. If there are right holders, there must also be someone who is responsible and duty bearer for the respect, protection or fulfillment of those rights since right and duty are the two faces of a coin.   

Governments are the principal duty bearers of human rights obligations. And the obligations that are related to human rights are generally of three kinds: to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights.

a. Obligation to Respect

The first obligation of any government in relation to human rights is the obligation to respect human rights. To respect human rights means simply not to interfere with their enjoyment. It is an obligation to restrain or to take hands off from violation of rights of human beings. And it is not also a difficult obligation rather it is a very simple obligation of any government. That is any organ or official of a government should refrain from any kind of acts or omissions that by any means violates the rights of human beings. And legislative, judiciary and executive branches of any government are expected to carefully discharge their duties in a way that can not violate the rights of individuals. For instance, states should refrain from unlawful arrest individuals violating the right to freedom of movement.

In Ethiopia also it is clearly indicated under article 13 (1) of the FDRE Constitution that all Federal and State legislative, executive and judicial organs at all levels have the obligation to respect human rights that are enshrined under chapter three of the constitution. And according to this provision of the constitution the legislative organ is expected to enact laws and pass decisions in a way that will not violate human rights either in terms the content of the law or in terms of its implementation; the executive is expected to abstain from violation of human rights in the process of execution and discharging of its duty; and the judiciary should refrain from violating rights in deciding cases.

B. Obligation to Protect

Human rights and fundamental freedoms can not only be protected just because of the reason that government and its officials are restricted from violating human rights. Taking the respect of human rights as one thing in the direct relationship of government and its citizen governments should also protect the weakest from the strongest in the horizontal relationship of citizens.

To protect human rights means to take steps to ensure that third parties do not interfere with the enjoyment human rights.

Governments in this sense are supposed to take all the necessary measures. And like that of the obligation to respect article 13 (1) of the FDRE Constitution oblige the three organs of the federal as well as regional organs to protect human rights that are guaranteed under chapter three of the constitution. Therefore, governments do not only have the obligation to respect human rights but also obligation to protect human rights. And this obligation requires governments to do something to protect the rights of individuals. For instance, states should assign police officers during demonstration of minorities to protect them from majorities attack. Redressing victims of violation of human rights and penalizing perpetrators are also other examples of government’s obligation to protection.

C. Obligation to Fulfil

In addition to respecting and protecting human rights governments have the obligation to fulfill facilities for the full enjoyment of human rights. To fulfill human rights means to take steps progressively to realize the right in question. This obligation is sometimes subdivided into obligations to facilitate and to provide for its realization. The former refers to the obligation of the State to engage proactively in activities that would strengthen people’s ability to meet their own needs, for instance, creating conditions in which the market can supply the healthcare services that they demand. The obligation to “provide” goes one step further, involving direct provision of services if the right(s) concerned cannot be realized otherwise, for example to compensate for market failure or to help groups that are unable to provide for themselves. Such kind of obligation requires huge budget of governments to build schools for the enjoyment of the rights to education, hospitals to enjoy the right to get medical treatment and for the full enjoyment of other social, economic and cultural rights. And where there is scarcity of resources and budget governments, governments should allocate their budget progressively to realize full enjoyment of human rights. In this respect the article 41 (4) of the FDRE Constitution and article 2 (1) of International Covenant on Economic, Social Cultural Rights (ICESCR) that Ethiopia is a party oblige the Ethiopian government to progressively allocate its resource and budget for health, education and other related rights.

Generally the obligation to fulfill is all about to capacitate citizens to enjoy their different rights of economic, social and cultural nature.

1.3. The Need for Human Rights  

Why do we need to protect and promote human rights?

In countries where human rights are violated peoples and individuals lose human dignity that is entitled to every human being. And such kinds of countries are living in the situation poverty, instability and internal conflict. As a result of these their citizens always flee to other countries to escape conflicts and violation o human rights or searching for a better life. Many African, Asian and Latin American countries can be taken as an example.

 

In countries where human rights violation is ordinary citizens may be deprived to exercise their human rights either partially or fully. The reason for violation of citizen’s rights is mostly the mere fact that they exercise their rights. In such kinds of situations peoples fail to think and work themselves as well as others. And this will by itself create a hopeless society with a country that has no peace and development at all. Therefore, protecting and promoting human rights contribute for citizens to use their potential for the development, peace and welfare of human beings and it will also help to create a civilized and stable society. 

THE ROLE OF POLICE IN THE RESPECT AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

2.1. Meaning of police

To start with the etymology of the word “police” is derived from the Latin word “politia” which is the latinisation of the Greek word “politeia”, meaning "citizenship, administration, civil polity". In ancient Greece the term “polissoos”, referred to a person who was "guarding a city". Black’s Law dictionary broadly defines the word police as the governmental department charged with the preservation of public order the promotion of public safety, and the prevention and detection of crime. Encarta dictionary on its part defines the word police as a civil organization whose members are given special legal powers by the government and whose task is to maintain public order and to solve and prevent crimes.  The Amharic dictionary published by Ethiopian Linguistic study and research Institute defines it as “ሠላምናፀጥታንእንዲሁምሕግንየሚያስከብር፣ወንጀልንየሚከላከልበመንግስትየተቀጠረመለዮለባሽ ”.  Therefore when we hear the word police we simply understand that it is a governmental organ that is indebted in the activities of ensuring the peace and security of the society, prevention of crime and investigation of committed crimes.    

 

2.2. Structure of the Police in the Ethiopian Federal System

The current government, in organizing the police according to the decentralized power system arrangement follows a complete deviation, as a result of the dictation of the federal arrangement. Currently, the Federal Government and the states share the police structure. Apart from the federal police headed by the Ministry of the Federal Affairs, the power to organize and determine the structure of state police is within the states’ jurisdiction.

The participation of the public in recruiting and evaluating the activities of the police, so as to enable the police to protect human rights and discharge its functions with the co-operation of the public, is highly emphasized. With regard to the decision to share police power between the regions and the federal government (in Ethiopia at present, this is dictated by political reasons) the powers and functions of police have emanated from the constitution -article 52 sub article 2 (g) - which gives power to regional states to own and administer regional police officers with the aim of maintaining public order and peace within the state. In addition, article 51 sub article 6 embraces the right of the Federal Government to institute a Federal Police Force.

 

At present, the country has a police force organized at central and regional levels. As stated in the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), the federal government has its own police force and the states have their own police agencies. According to Article 49 of the constitution of the F.D.R.E, Addis Ababa is the capital city of the Federal Government. Moreover, it is stated in the same article that Addis Ababa shall have a full measure of self-government and is accountable to the Federal Government under the ministry of the Federal Affairs.

2.3. Major Obligations and Responsibilities of the Ethiopian Police

 To focus on the major obligations and responsibilities of the federal police commission and Addis Ababa city administration police commission i.e. police in the federal government including the city administrations (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa City Administrations) its mandates and responsibilities mainly emanates from three laws. These are the Ethiopian Federal Police Commission Establishment Proclamation No. 720/2004, the Criminal Procedure Code of Ethiopia and Addis Ababa City Police Commission Establishment Council of Ministers' Regulation No. 96/2003.

According to the Federal Police Commission Proclamation No. 720/2004, article 6, the mandate of the federal police can be summarized as to:-

·        Prevent and investigate any threat crimes and to prevent any activities in violation of the constitution that may endanger the constitutional order.

·        Prevent and investigate any threat and acts of crime against the Constitution and the constitutional order, security of the government and the state and human rights;

·        work    in  collaboration  with  the  Ministry of Justice and other relevant organs with respect to crime investigation;

·        execute orders and decisions given by courts;

·        Prevent   and   investigate crimes falling under the jurisdiction of federal courts other criminal related matters.

Almost all the mandates of the federal police are highly related with the federal government and the federal structure ranging from the crimes prevented and investigated up to its contact with other organs of the justice system. And the crimes that are supposed to be prevented and investigated by the federal police are serious and more of political by their nature.   

Coming to Addis Ababa city police article 6 of Regulation No. 96/2003 enumerates its mandates and responsibilities. And according to this provision of the regulation the mandates of Addis Ababa city police is to:-

·        Prevent and investigate crimes except those that are listed under article 4 of Proclamation No. 25/1996 and vested under the jurisdiction of federal criminal courts as well as petty offences committed in the city of Addis Ababa.

·        Prevent crimes against the interests and institutions of the city government.

·        Execute orders or decisions of the federal and municipal courts.

·        Execute orders issued by the Federal Public Prosecutor and City Administration Public Prosecutor regarding investigations of crime and other criminal related mandates.

The mandates enumerated under the regulation are focused on Addis Ababa City and its administration. And the crimes that are to be prevented by the Addis Ababa city police are less serious than the crimes that are to be prevented and investigated by Federal police.

Generally, according to article 9 of the Criminal Procedure code of Ethiopia police whether it is federal, city administration or regional are generally mandated to:-

·        prevent commission of crimes and protect life and property guarantees.

·        preserve peace and order.

·        investigate crime. 

These obligations of police are enumerated during the emperor’s regime while the criminal procedure code was enacted and these obligations of the police have stayed for a long period of time still now. The federal government as well as the regional governments includes these mandates of police while they enact new laws concerning the mandates of police.   

2.4. Human Rights Obligations of police

As we have seen under chapter one of these article obligation to respect, protect and fulfill are the three different types of government’s obligations that are related to human rights. And among these three different types of obligations police is expected to discharge the two obligations of human rights. These are obligation to respect and obligation to protect.

2.4.1. Obligation to Respect of Police

As police is an organ of government within the executive branch it is expected to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms that are enshrined under chapter three of the constitution and international human rights treaties that are signed and accepted by the Ethiopian government. In the process of discharging its duties like preventing and investigating crimes and other related activities police has the obligation to refrain from acts that violate the human rights of citizens. It is also clearly indicated under article 13 (1) of the FDRE Constitution that every government organ has the obligation to respect human rights. And just because of the reason that this obligation is highly related with the day to day functions of police it requires a special attention from the police. The claims and criticisms over government in relation to violation of human rights is mostly the result of unwanted and excessive use of force by police officers.

Obligation of the police to respect human rights can be seen from two scenarios. The first scenario is the police are the first and responsible organ to treat victims’ of violation of human rights and crime in the justice system. In such situations police is expected to properly and smoothly treat victims and collect evidences against the perpetrators. And the police should also respect the right to justice of victims in such kinds of situations. This means the police should fairly and equally treat victims of violation of human rights and crime without any kind of discrimination based on sex, race, religion, language, ethnicity, political view and other related reasons. And any kind of mistreatment on the basis of sex, race, religion, language, ethnicity, political view and other related reasons amounts to violation of the right to equality and the right to access to justice which are guaranteed under article 25 and 37 of the FDRE Constitution respectively.

The second scenario lies on the relationship of the police and suspects. As police is an institution that is responsible to seize crime suspects, it will face serious challenge including bodily injury or loss of life of police officers. Even though the crime that is committed by the suspect is very cruel and serious, the suspect is very dangerous, the suspect uses abusive words that offend the police officers in charge, police officers are not allowed to use excessive power or take unnecessary measures in response. Police officers in this respect should follow the criterion that are listed under article 56 of the Ethiopian Criminal Procedure Code on how to arrest a suspect from identifying the suspect up to using proportional forces. There are also other rights that police should respect in the process of arresting suspects and after arrest. These include conducting all the necessary legal procedures to seize and search suspects and their private property (the right to privacy), the right to be brought before a court within 48 hours of arrest, the right to be protected from inhuman treatment, the right to remain silent, presumption of innocent and other related rights that guaranteed under article 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the FDRE Constitution. 

The history and experience of police as well as the understanding of our society in respecting human rights is not good and requires continuous development of systems to create awareness and build human rights culture within the society and police staffs. Victims as well as police officers usually took their own measures where they flagrantly found the offender committing crime. And many peoples and police officers doesn’t care about the human rights of offenders and consider that taking their own action is legal just because of the reason that the found the offender committing crime.

Generally, police is legally obliged to respect human rights and not commit any illegal act merely because of the fact that human rights are inviolable, inalienable and emanates from the nature of human beings. Therefore, police should handover the suspect to the law to get penalties for the crime he/she is suspected of. And police is supposed to respect human rights and basic freedoms of citizens and refrain from violation human rights of victims as well as suspects in the process of treating victims, arresting suspects and conducting investigations.

2.4.2. Obligation to Protect of Police

As it is explained under chapter one of this article one of the human rights obligations of government is obligation to protect human rights of citizens in their horizontal relationship. In this regard government is expected to enact a law that regulates the social interactions between the societies and enforce those laws. Police is at the forefront to protect members of a society from violation of their human rights by other members of the society. Police has the responsibility to protect citizens from any kinds of violation of their right to life, the right to bodily integrity, the right to property, the right to liberty, the right to assembly, the right to freedom of expression and many other rights of citizens that are guaranteed under the FDRE Constitution, international human rights treaties that are signed and accepted by Ethiopia and other laws.

 

The human rights committee explained the obligation to protect human rights saying signatory states of the ICCPR should take all the necessary measures to protect the human rights from violation by individuals, groups and legal corporations. For instance, signatory states should take all the necessary measures to prevent crimes. And where crimes are committed state parties have the responsibility to search, arrest and brought the suspect to judgment with sufficient evidences. 

There are very many responsibilities of police during the investigation stages. Those responsibilities of police are directly related with the human rights of suspects. All types of human rights of a suspect have collateral responsibilities on police. In this regard the following table shows all the human rights of suspects with the responsibilities of police.

Comparison checklist between the human rights of suspects with responsibilities of police

No.

Human rights of suspects

Responsibilities of police

1

The right to remain silent

Notifying the suspect about his/her right to remain silent and any statement he/she made may be used as evidence against him/her in court

2

The right to have a defence lawyer

Ascertaining that the suspect has a defence lawyer from the suspect (questioning the suspect whether he/she needs to have a lawyer or not)

3

The right to bail

Allowing the right to bail pursuant to article 28 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code or facilitating appearance of the suspect before courts for orders

4

The right to be visited by spouses or partners, close relatives, friends, religious councilors, medical doctors and their legal counsel

Allowing visit of the suspect

5

The right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

Providing food and neat shelters; (and refraining from causing bodily injury (it is included with in the obligation to respect not protect))

6

The right to speedy trial (justice)

Conducting investigation without delay

7

The right to privacy

Conducting search and seizure with and without warrant only as prescribed by the law

8

The right to claim and get compensation where there is illegal search and seizure 

Taking all the necessary measures to make responsible those who have committed illegal search and seizure

Therefore, the obligation of police whether it is federal or regional in relation to protection of human rights starts with prevention of crime and preserving the peace and security of the society. And this obligation is also an obligation that emanates from the ICCPR. Additionally, searching and arresting suspects and handing over them to judgment is also part and parcel of the obligation to protect human rights.

 2.5. Treatment of victims by police

Since victims of human rights violations and crimes have suffered some sort of damage due to the violation and crime, they need a special kind of treatment from the justice system specially from that of the police just because of the fact that police has an immediate contact with victims. After a human right has been violated and criminal offence has been committed, the victim’s first contact with the justice system is usually through the police, and this contact may continue for a considerable part of the judicial process. The response of the police during this first encounter may have a decisive impact on the victim’s attitude to the criminal justice system as such. Their role is therefore crucial at this early stage of the criminal process.

The Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power provides little guidance on police conduct as such, although paragraph 4 makes the general statement that victims “should be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity”, a rule that is equally valid for the police. The only explicit reference to the police is contained in paragraph 16, according to which police personnel constitute one of the groups that should receive training to sensitize them to the needs of victims and guidelines to ensure proper and prompt aid.

In Ethiopia police officers does not have any kind of guidelines on how to approach and handle victims. The police laws (proclamations and regulations) at the federal level don’t also say anything about handling of victims. That is why each and every police officer treats victims in their own ways. But, in a democratic state that protect and promote human rights the police must at all times show respect for, and courtesy towards, victims of human rights violation and crime.

·        The police should provide victims of human rights violation and crime with information about available help, assistance and compensation for injuries and losses they have sustained as a result of the violation and crime.

·        The police should share other relevant information with victims of human rights violation and crime, including information on the role that victims may play in the criminal proceedings.

·        the police should inform victims of the outcome of their investigation and provide the prosecution with detailed information as to the effect or effects that the relevant crime had and continues to have on the victims concerned.

·        by treating victims with respect and understanding, and by sharing relevant information with them, the police help to promote confidence in the criminal justice system.

 REMEDIES FOR VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

3.1. Remedies

The word “remedy” or “remedies” is defined as criminal, civil, administrative and other means for victims to protect their interests and exercise their rights. Remedies can also be defined as solutions for violations of human rights. Remedies are more of legal redresses about something wrong concerning the wrongdoer or victim. And the remedial actions taken against the wrongdoer and in favor of the victim are assumed to ease the pain that is suffered on the victim.

The objective of a remedy is to restore the person who has been victimized due to violation of human rights to the position he or she would have been in had the violation not occurred. And some peoples argue that it is not the purpose of the remedy to punish the person or persons who violated human rights. However, for the sake of this article punishing perpetrators will be included under the realm of remedies. 

3.2. Relevant legal provisions

 a. International Legal framework

The United Nations resolutions have provided a variety of ways to monitor the mechanism in the implementation of the international standards to ensure that violations can be investigated, remedial measures taken, and penalties, if necessary, can be given. The resolutions adopted by the United Nations provide remedial measures, sanctions, and punishments in violation of human rights. The resolutions include liabilities of police officers where they commit violation of human rights.

In regard to arrest and detention, remedial measures are provided by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Res. 2200A [XXI], December 16, 1966).The resolution prescribes that an arrested person or detainee is entitled to take proceedings before a court so that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of detention and order his or her release if the detention is not lawful. Besides, anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Res. 2200A [XXI], December 16, 1966) enables the Human Rights Committee, set up by the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Res. 2200A 9 [XXI], December 16), to receive and consider communication from individuals claiming to be victims of violations of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant (Preamble).

The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Res. 39/46, December 10, 1984) prescribes that (a) torture will be regarded as a criminal act (Article 4), (b) any victim of torture shall have the right to seek redress of his complaint through an investigation by a public official (Article 8), (c) even without complaints such allegations will be investigated by a public official (Article 9), and (d) appropriate legal and penal action will be awarded to anyone found guilty of torture (Article 10). The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) (Res. 39/46, December 10, 1984) provides that (a) if there is a reasonable ground to believe that torture has occurred, prompt and impartial investigation by competent authority of the state concerned must be made (Article 12); (b) there must exist opportunities for complaints against torture, and witnesses must be protected (Article 13);  and (c) provisions must be made for suitable compensation for victims of torture (Article 14). The Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (Res. 1984/50, May 25, 1984) provides that all suspected cases of extra legal, arbitrary, and summary executions must be thoroughly and exhaustively investigated with a view to uncovering the truth (Principle 9). Investigators of such executions should be vested with all powers necessary to conduct thorough investigations.

The Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, the text of which had been approved by consensus by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. The Declaration defines the notion of victim of crime and abuse of power and specifies victims’ rights of access to justice and fair treatment, restitution, compensation and assistance.

 b. Regional Legal framework

 Looking into the regional legal frame work from the African perspective it is only the Article 21 (2) of the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that guarantees recovery of property and compensation where there exist forceful and unlawful deprivation private property. Apart from this single provision of the charter there is no other regional legal framework that guarantees remedies for other forms of victims of violations of human rights and crimes committed by private individuals as well as police officers in the discharge of their duties than that of violation of the right to property.

 c. National Legal Framework

Coming to the national (Ethiopian) legal framework where police officers violate the human rights of citizens and commit crime there are different possible remedies for victims. These include criminal liability, civil liability, disciplinary measures and application of exclusionary rule regarding illegally obtained evidences.

For all the offences that are committed by police officers they are criminally responsible under article 407 - 419 for crimes that police officers commit against their public office and under article 420 - 425 for crimes that they commit in breach of their official duties.

Regarding civil liabilities of police officers for violation of human rights of citizens they are responsible under article 2031, 2033, 2035, 2040, 2053, 2054, 2126 and 2127 of the civil code for the violation of human rights that they have committed either professionally or ordinarily.

As to the disciplinary measures taken against police officers for violation of human rights it is governed under police establishment laws. For instance, article 54 (1) of the Federal Police Commission Administration Council of Ministers Regulation No. 86/2003 consider violation of human and democratic rights stipulated in the constitution as a serious offence that entail rigorous disciplinary penalties.

Exclusionary rule that is non admissibility of illegally obtained evidences is also acknowledged under the FDRE Constitution. Where an evidence is gathered through illegal means by police officers, it is not admissible according to article 19 (5) of the constitution.

 3.3. Different Types of Remedies

As guaranteed by the international, regional and national legal frameworks there are different types of remedies for victims of violation of human rights by police officer. These include penalizing perpetrators, restitution, compensation and non admissibility of unlawful acts (nullification of activities that violate human rights).  

 a.        Penalizing Perpetrators

The first and basic remedy for violation of human rights is penalizing the person or police officer who has violated the human rights of victims. Penalizing perpetrators is all about making police officers responsible for their illegal violation of human rights of citizens. And penalizing perpetrators may take a form of political, legal or administrative responsibility.

Political responsibility police officers include measures like removal or demotion of the human rights violator police officer from his/her position. Such kind of remedial actions are not as such experienced in Ethiopia where police officers violate human rights.

Legal responsibility of police officers is all about a situation of interrogating and prosecuting those police officers who have violated human rights of citizens. And where they are found guilty, they will be penalized through imprisonment or fine. The Ethiopian Criminal Code in this respect clearly and beautifully identifies the possibilities into which police officers violate human rights and commit crimes. And the penalties that are imposed under every of the provisions are more than enough in terms of securing respect and protection of human rights. What matters here is the issue of proper implementation of this law and incriminating police officers where they commit crime and violate human rights. In this respect there is a negative experience in interrogating and prosecuting police officers where they violate human rights in Ethiopia. Police officers who violate human rights and perform whatever they want are not prosecuted and penalized rather these kinds of police officers were considered as strong workers and were promoted to a better position. Complaining against wrongdoer police officers for violation of human rights by citizens before other police officers who are probably their friends and getting a public service that incriminate wrongdoer police officers is very challenging in Ethiopia. It is obvious and usual to everybody that Ethiopian police officers violate human rights of citizens here and there through different means. And there is no need to come up with empirical data to prove this situation. However, police officers were not legally responsible for their acts of violation of human rights of citizens for a long period of time for different reasons. These reasons includes absence of human rights culture in the society, absence of strong executive organ specially police organ that stood for protection of human rights and absence of challenge and demand of justice from victims etc.             

But, now days, these circumstances are changing from time to time and there are some instances in which police officers who have violated human rights of citizens and committed crimes are held legally responsible for their illegal acts. For instance, in the case of Federal Public Prosecutor (Plaintiff) V. Gedion Bekele (three suspects) (defendants) the third defendant Constable Atnafu Asrat is accused for improper and inhuman treatment of detained suspect while he was investigating the suspect’s case. The court after having consideration of all the evidences of the plaintiff and defendant found him responsible and convicted him for violation of human rights and contravention of article 424 of the criminal code which is use of improper method during investigations. The court has also penalized him with six months of imprisonment. Therefore, we realize from this case that there is a good start in combating violation of human rights committed by police officers.   

Coming to administrative responsibilities of police officers these are conducted through the disciplinary rules that govern the police institution. For instance, at the federal level there is Federal Police Commission Administration Council of Ministers Regulations No. 86/2003. Chapter eight of this regulation i.e. eight provisions of the regulation deals about disciplinary rules of police. Verbal and written warnings, fines from salary, demotion from rank and salary and dismissal are some of the penalties of administrative responsibility.  

A police officer who has committed a crime violating the human rights of citizens may face all these types of responsibilities concurrently. That is there may be a possibility of total responsibility from different dimensions.

b. Restitution

Black’s law dictionary literally defines the word restitution as return or restoration of some specific thing to its rightful owner or status. The term “restitution” means in this context that the offender restores to the victim the rights that were breached by the criminal act. Restitution to victims is of course only possible when the property or money stolen is still available. Restitution is not, therefore, a viable solution in the case of violent crimes such as murder, where there can be no reinstatement of rights.

Offenders or third parties responsible for their behavior should, where appropriate, make fair restitution to victims, their families or dependants. Such restitution should include the return of property or payment for the harm or loss suffered, reimbursement of expenses incurred as a result of the victimization, the provision of services and the restoration of rights.

Whenever appropriate, persons responsible for criminal offences should make fair restitution to the victims of their crimes for any harm or loss suffered. Through restitution, the offender restores to the victim the rights that were breached.

 c. Compensation

Compensation to victims of crime for physical or psychological harm suffered as a consequence of violation of human rights and crime is an important recognition of concern for the victim. When such compensation is not fully available from the offender or other sources such as private insurance, the State should provide it either to the victim or to his or her dependants, as the case may be. In Ethiopia there is no way that the government is responsible to compensate victims of every human rights violations and crimes unless and otherwise it is legally responsible for specific violations of human rights. The only situation in which the Ethiopian government is responsible to compensate victims of human rights violation and crime is where terrorism establishment fund established as pursuant to article 34 of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009. And such fund is not yet established by the Council of Ministers. But, in Ethiopia victims of human rights violations and crimes have the legal and institutional mechanism to claim and get compensation from those who violate their human rights.

d.       Nullification of activities that violate human rights

Nullification of activities that violate human rights of citizens is simply a mere declaration of nullity of the acts that violate human rights.  Such kind of remedy is usually called constitutional remedy and is abstract declaration of nullity. Constitutions clearly declare that laws, directives, orders and the like that are unconstitutional and violate human rights are null and void. That is it is muted. And this act of nullification is a remedy by itself.

This type of remedy does not directly benefit victims of human rights violation. But, it is beneficial in terms of disciplining state actions, expanding horizons of freedom for citizens in the future, and serving as signal messages of human rights culture that violations of human rights are not tolerable.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Human rights are rights that entitled to all human beings simply because of they are born human. States has different obligations for the full enjoyment of these rights. And these obligations includes obligation to respect, protect and fulfill.  Considering these obligations of states the police as an executive branch of government has the obligation to respect and protect human rights in its day to day activity. 

The manner in which police officers handle victims of violation of human rights and crimes is dependent on the mood and behavior of individual police officer. He/she can handle victims in a way he/she like and there is no working guideline or principle on how to approach and handle victims. The police laws at the federal level do not say anything about the way victims are handled. And having unmannered way and approach of handling victims by police will endanger victims for another potential pain and escalate their initial violation of human rights.      

Police officers have a day to day access with the entire society in the discharge of their duties. There are very many instances in which they violate the human rights of citizens. And the possibility of being responsible is very rare and challenging for victims of violation. Lack of awareness of victims about the possibility of demanding remedies for violation against wrongdoer police officers and lack of commitment from other police officers in exposing wrongdoer police officers are the reason for this. However, some cases and incidents show that there is now a good progress in terms of making responsible police officers for their actions that violate human rights. 

Police in Ethiopia has the responsibility of respecting human rights in the process of discharging its duties like preventing and investigating crimes and other related activities. In discharging its day to day tasks police has the obligation to refrain from acts that violate the human rights of citizens. The obligation of police in respecting human rights starts from proper and smooth treatment and handling of victims and collection of evidences against the perpetrators. It should equally and fairly treat victims. And it extends up to refraining from violation of human rights of suspects in the process of search and seizure as well as conducting of investigations. As regards protection responsibility police is always at the forefront to protect members of a society from violation of their human rights by other members of the society. Police has the responsibility to protect citizens from any kinds of violation of their right to life, the right to bodily integrity, the right to property, the right to liberty, the right to assembly, the right to freedom of expression and many other rights of citizens that are guaranteed under the FDRE Constitution, international human rights treaties that are signed and accepted by Ethiopia and other laws.

Where police officers violate the human rights of citizens, there possible international, regional and national legal basis in making responsible wrongdoer police officers. And the remedies that are acknowledged under the legal documents include penalizing perpetrators, restitution, compensation and nullification of the activities that violate human rights depending on the nature of violation. And some of the remedies among these are not as such applicable in Ethiopia. 

Having seen the problems relating to treatment of victims and making responsible wrongdoer police officer who violate human rights of citizens, I recommend for police to have a guideline or principle of handling victims that guides how the treatment should be guided. And additionally I recommend police and the office of prosecution to be committed for respect and protection of human rights to expose wrongdoer officers and build the image of police in relation to human rights. 

 

Abiyou Girma Tamirat

Abiyou Girma is a qualified and a licensed lawyer. He obtained Bachelor of Laws (LLB), his first degree, from Saint Marry's University, Faculty of Law, in June 2007 and master's degree (MA), from Addis Ababa University Faculty of Law specializing in areas of Human Rights in 2012. He was at Ministry of Justice both as a public prosecutor and Legal adviser at International Co-operation on Legal Affairs Directorate. During his stay he has acquired an extensive experience in Civil law, commercial law and criminal Law, prosecutions, Human Rights and International Law.