Derogation of the right to life and its Suspension during State of Emergency: Art 93 of FDRE Constitution



Various international, regional and domestic laws imposes obligation on the state to respect and protect fundamental human right and freedom. Stated otherwise, government has the duty respect and protect fundamental rights of its subject. Protecting and respecting these fundamental rights of its subject is internationally and regionally recognized principle.

The same principle hold true in domestic law including our country Ethiopia. FDRE constitution under its art 13(1) provides that “All Federal and State legislative, executive and judicial organs at all levels shall have the responsibility and duty to respect and enforce the provisions of this Chapter”.  As per this provision, all organs of the government be it federal and regional are duty bound to respect and enforce the provisions concerning fundamental right including the right to life. Moreover, they are under the duty to ensure the observance of the constitution and the duty to obey. In this respect, art 9(2) FDRE constitution stipulate that “state that all citizens, organ of the state, political organization, other association, as well as their official have the duty to ensure the observance of this constitution and obey it.”

However, none of these human rights are absolute and without limitation. Thus, none of human right may be applauded without limitation and absolutely and hence, be restricted.

In accordance with international human rights law there are essentially two ways in which the State put aside this international obligation. In other word, there are exceptional circumstance in which state restrict fundamental rights of its citizen. These are limitation and. Derogations.

Thus, this piece examines the status of the right to life as far as derogation of human rights is concerned under FDRE constitution. In doing so, the distinction between limitation and derogation will be put. Some international and regional human right instruments will also be dealt with.

Continue reading
  31243 Hits

Examining the Current Demands of Ethiopian Muslims in light of the Constitutional Provisions

Over the past year we have witnessed a lot of political turmoil in the Arab world and the rest of Africa. Particularly, in Maghreb Region including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, there are unprecedented changes that swept the North Africa States in a very short time. Now in these countries, there is a shift from, at least, one man rule to rule by some people. Although situations seem to be better than ever, nobody still certainly knows where the revolution ends up and how far the positive changes could sustain. This uncertainty is created by, among other things, the coming of allegedly extremist religious political parties, specifically in Egypt, into power. Radical religious groups have also gone into clash with secularists in Tunisia for enormous times. In these countries, it is however legally permissible to establish a political party which seeks to even stake out an administration guided by religious rules. There is no thus any legal prohibition that bars people whatever they may be radicalists from forming a religious political party. 

In recent days, we all know that there is somehow different crisis hobbling in our country between Ethiopian Muslims who have been protesting for the last couple of months and the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian Muslims accuse the government of meddling in their religious affairs by extending its control on Muslim Council (Mejlis) which they claim does not represent them. The government on the other hand has been retorting their claim and accusing the leaders of the protest for spreading radicalism in the Muslim community with a political agenda behind their protest. Both sides claim to have evidences for their allegations. I do not intend to investigate on whose side there is more credible evidence. But I want to just focus on the legal aspect of the protest based on the assumptions that both sides are right and what both allege is true.

To begin with the protestors’ side, they argued that they have constitutional right to choose their leaders without the interference of the government in a place and manner that they want. And also the government is stepping out of the legality border, which proclaims the separation of state and religion, by encouraging the spread of a new sect dubbed “Ahbash”. Their accusation taken independently should be seen in light of article 11 of the Ethiopian Constitution. Article 11 ensures the separation of State and religion and proscribes that neither the state nor religion interferes in their respective affairs. Obviously, the representation and administration of Muslims in the Mejlis is clearly a religious affair. It should be solely left to the believers to choose who they want and be represented by whosoever they think promotes their religious values.

This right is also fostered by article 27 of the Constitution which declares that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to hold or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and the freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” In the second paragraph of the same article, believers have also the right to establish institutions of religious education and administration in order to propagate and organize their religion. However, this right, specifically, the freedom to manifest one’s own religion is not absolute right and may be limited by law when it is necessary to protect public safety, peace, health, education, public morality or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, and to ensure the independence of the state from religion(article 27 (6)).

Having this, when we examine the allegation of the protesters, it would blatantly become illegal for the government to intervene in the election process of the Council or encourage Ahbash sect. Its interference on the freedom to manifest religion which arguably includes the organization and administration of the Council could only be legally justified if it can show that there is a threat against the national security, public safety, peace, health, education, public morality and the rights and freedoms of others. The interference in the election process for the listed grounds could be legitimized when there is also no other alternative to do away with the threats. Therefore, the government contention that the leaders of the protest are teaching radicalism and propagating violence could only serve as a ground for its interference if it does not have any other option to trammel those actors. It should also be noted that, the act of encouraging the teaching of Ahbash cannot even be justified on the listed grounds of national security or public safety and security since it does not comport to the letter and spirit of the constitution. In addition, the way the right is understood in the jurisprudence of international human rights bodies is that any limitation on freedom of religion should be limited to the freedom to "manifest" one`s own religion. The government`s support of the so called Ahbash teaching thus cannot in any case be interpreted as a restriction against such freedom to "manifest"

Continue reading
  6199 Hits

Adjudication of FDRE Constitution


Ethiopia, embracing Federal system of governmental structure with the objective of creating a country of equal Nations, Nationalities and peoples and to put an end to authoritarian rule by democratizing the Ethiopian state and society as a whole, this being a precondition for durable peace and development. The constitution of Ethiopia explicitly acknowledges that the federal government and the states shall have the three governmental organ of legislative, executive and judiciary (Article 50(2)). The Ethiopian Constitution mandated the second chamber – the House of the Federation, a non-legislative house – with the authority to interpret the constitution (Article 62, 83 and 84). Comparatively speaking the mandate given to the House of the Federation in Ethiopia is exercised by the courts in general and of the Supreme Court in particular in case of United States and India, in case of Germany, this task is exercised by a special Constitutional Court. “In Switzerland the power of interpreting the Constitution is divided between the federal tribunal and the people. The former is empowered to decide the constitutionality of the laws of cantons, while the latter decide the constitutionality of the federal laws”. 

This paper will try to assess an overview of Ethiopian constitutional adjudication on a bird’s eye view and will continue to look at in to other countries model in relation with federal system of governmental structure alike to Ethiopia and provide an explanation and detail analysis of the mandate and function of the House of the Federation – a second chamber responsible to interpret constitution and solve disputes happen between states. Finally I will conclude by summarizing the whole idea of this paper and recommending my point of analysis.



Continue reading
  20828 Hits

What Do We Need To Be Reminded Of?

“The great American word is freedom, and in particular freedom of thought, speech and assembly.” Robert M. Hutchins

All freedoms are a single freedom- one and indivisible, although people consider one freedom as more important than the others. The above quote from Robert Hutchins is the sole spirit of the First Amendment to the American constitution. This First Amendment lumps together the freedom of religion, of speech and the press, of assembly, and of petition. Many people consider the freedom of speech as the most important strand. “It includes not just the words that come out of a person’s mouth but the freedom to think the thoughts behind the words, and the freedom to put them down on paper or to express them in some other way”. This is why the Americans put a higher value on their Constitution and all of its Amendments – because it is the document that guarantees the respect of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

One needs to keep this kind of document “where children do not reach”. Nothing should contravene the constitution and if it does, it will be of no effect in the cases of most constitutions, if not all. If, in the course of time, something new and something unforeseeable and fundamental to the well being and good of the people happened, any constitution goes through amendment. “The Constitution was intended to ‘keep step with the march of the age’ and should not hamper social or economic experimentation”. This is why the US constitution went through more than 25 amendments. However, if any other law, customary practice or decision of an organ of state or public official contravenes the constitution without keeping the proper procedure of constitutional amendment, it implies gross unconstitutionality.

We are not new for unconstitutional legislation, albeit multitude of reasons and justifications are given to legitimize them. But however, we are new to see the highest government officials of the country contravene the constitution blatantly. Having three Deputy Prime Ministers while the constitution clearly provides one Prime Minister and one Deputy Prime Minister is not a good sign of constitutionality. This is bad, even if we take out the precedential effect of it. This is bad even for our country. Something is wrong when the organ who is bestowed with the duty to ensure the observance of the constitution and at the same time the duty to obey it disregards his duty.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), a.k.a “The Great Dissenter” was a very devoted champion of the freedom of speech and of expression in the American history. This man felt strongly that Americans needed to be reminded of the importance of the First Amendment and he once said, “We have grown so accustomed to the enjoyments of these rights that we forget they had to be fought for and may have to be fought for again.

Continue reading
  5920 Hits

On the power of the federal government to develop and enforce criminal laws

The following is an extract from a monograph that I am developing on Ethiopian criminal law. I posted it here with a view to soliciting views from readers.

Ethiopia is a federal state. Hence, the first question that should be raised is as to how  trial jurisdiction is allocated between federal courts on the one hand and courts of regional states on the other.

Related to the jurisdiction to try criminal cases is the respective roles of federal and regional governments in the development of criminal laws. Article 51 of the Constitution enumerates the powers of the federal government. Since the federal government consists of legislative, executive and judicial arms, it can be assumed that, on these enumerated matters, the federal government will generally have legislative, executive and judicial powers. For example, the federal government is mandated to ‘determine matters relating to nationality’. On this basis, it may be submitted that, the federal government possesses legislative, judicial and executive powers over matters relating to nationality.

An exception is only with respect to certain matters. For example, the constitution authorizes the federal government to enact laws for the utilization and conservation of land and other natural resources. And regional states are entitled to administer land and other natural resources in accordance with federal laws. From these it follows that the federal government has only legislative power regarding utilization and conservation of natural resources. The power to administer such resources is left to regional states, except in relation to international rivers and waters or those crossing or linking two or more regional states. It can, therefore, be concluded that except in those cases where its power is specifically restricted, like in the case of natural resources, the federal government exercises legislative, judicial and executive powers over those matters enumerated in Article 51.

The Constitution goes further and explicitly deals with the powers of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the legislative arm of the federal government. The House of Peoples’ Representatives is said have the power of legislation in all matters assigned by the constitution to federal jurisdiction. This is a reference to the twenty-one items enumerated in Article 51. Therefore, on these twenty-one items the House of Peoples’ Representatives exercises legislative power.

Continue reading
  10480 Hits

On the power of the federal government to develop and enforce criminal laws: Part 2

In the previous post, I argued that legal form cannot and should not be used to allocate governmental powers and responsibilities between the federal government on the one hand and constituent units of the federation, i.e., regional states, on the other. On such basis I argued that criminal law as a form of law cannot be said to belong to the federal or regional level of government. Hence, I have cautioned against the literal and independent reading of article 55(5) of the constitution which says that the House of Peoples’ Representatives shall enact a criminal code and regional states shall enact criminal law on matters not covered by the federal criminal legislation.

I submitted that this constitutional provision should be read in light of Article 51 which deals with the powers and responsibilities of the federal government. Accordingly the federal government can pass any kind of law, including criminal law, on matters which fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Such matters are provided in Article 51. It is, therefore, the duty of the federal government to demonstrate that the criminal laws it has passed or plans to pass are relating to matters falling under one or more of the twenty-one items in Article 51 and other parts of the constitution. Regional states, on the other hand, can pass criminal legislation on matters which are outside the federal jurisdiction.

I finished the last post by posing a question. Regarding forestry offences, for example, can regional states provide for a higher penalty than what is provided in the federal law for the same offence? I will add another question here and address the two together: can regional states expand or contract the scope of federal offences relating to forestry?

As I have said, if we read Article 55 of the constitution literally and independent of Article 51, we ask a simple question: is the offence provided in the federal criminal legislation? If the answer is yes, then it follows that a given regional state can neither provide for a higher penalty nor expand and contract the definition of the relevant forestry offence. But I have suggested against this rather simplistic reading of the relevant constitutional provisions.

In my view, in order to answer the above question, we must first determine the respective roles of the federal government regarding management of forest resources? Does the federal government have exclusive power over the management of our forest resources? If the answer to this question were yes, then it follows that the federal government would have the exclusive power to develop and enforce forest laws, including criminal laws relating to forestry. But the constitutional reality is different.

Continue reading
  16005 Hits

Constitutionality of Constitutional Interpretation Uncontestable

In his viewpoint article headlined, “Unconstitutional Declaration of Unconstitutionality” (Volume 14, Number 719, February 9, 2014) posted at addis fortune, Mulugeta Argawi argued that the latest constitutional interpretation of Melaku Fenta’s case is unconstitutional, in and of itself. His argument rests on Article 84 (2) of the Constitution. I believe that it is important to counter his argument by focusing on the laws themselves.

Mulugeta’s criticism rotates around the purely legalistic thinking that a court of law cannot entertain any constitutional matter until such a time that either of the parties raise the issue, which should, in turn, be disputed and contested by the other.

But this is true only in a civil suit. It does not hold water in issues of constitutional interpretation.

Constitutional interpretation is not about litigation or jurisdiction. It is all about maintaining constitutionalism. Of course, there are varying mechanisms of interpreting constitutions, but even then, courts do not follow civil procedures.

Let us take the US constitutional tradition, for example. Even though all courts have parallel power to review and decide on issues of constitutionality, there should not necessarily be two litigants fighting for a case. Many cases have been raised as issues of constitutional rights (and hence constitutional interpretations), which were not exactly cases of one party against the other.

Continue reading
  10316 Hits

ሕገ መንግሥታዊ የዋስትና መብትን በመተርጎም በኩል ስለታየው ችግር



ዓለም አቀፍ የሲቪልና የፖለቲካ መብቶች ቃል ኪዳን ስምምነት& ዓለም አቀፍ የሰብዓዊ መብት ሕግጋት እና በኢፌዲሪ ሕገ መንግሥት የተካተቱት ሥነ ሥርዓታዊ መብቶች መሠረታዊ ዓላማ መርማሪ አካላት ያለበቂ ምክንያትና ሕጋዊ ሥርዓት የአንድን ሰው የነጻነት መብት እንዳይጥሱ ዋስትና እና ጥበቃ መስጠት ነው፡፡ የብዙ አገሮች ሕገ መንግሥት የአንድ ሰው በሕይወት የመኖር& የአካል ደህንነትና የነፃነት መብት ከሰው ልጅ ተፈጥሯዊ ክቡርነት የመነጩ ሊደፈሩና ሊገሰሱ የማይችሉ መብቶች መሆናቸውን ያረጋገጣሉ@ መሠረታዊ መብቶቹ ተግባር ላይ እንዲውሉ ጥረት የሚደረግ መሆኑ የሚታወቅ ነው፡፡ በሌላ በኩል የእነዚህን መብቶች አፈፃፀም የሚሸረሽሩ ወይም ዋጋ የሚያሳጡ የተለያዩ የወንጀል ድርጌቶች በዓለም ውስጥ በየደረጃው በስፋት ሲፈፀም ማየትና መስማት የተለመደ ሆኗል፡፡ ይህ የማይጣጣም ሁኔታ ከልዩ ልዩ የጥቅም ግጭቶች& ከአመለካከት ልዩነት& ካለመቻቻልና ከመሣሰሉት መንስዔዎች የሚመነጭ ሊሆን ይችላል፡፡

በዓለም አቀፍ ሆነ በብሔራዊ ሕግጋት ዕውቅና ከተሰጣቸው መሠረታዊ መብቶች አንዱ በወንጀል የተከሰሰ ሰው ጉዳዩ ሥልጣን ባለው ፍርድ ቤት ታይቶ ጥፋተኛ መሆኑ እስካልተረጋገጠ ድረስ ከወንጀል ነፃ እንደሆነ የመቆጠር መብት ያለው መሆኑ ነው፡፡ ይህ መሠረታዊ መብት ዕውቅና ሊያገኝ የቻለው ንፁሀን ግለሰቦች በወንጀል በመጠርጠራቸው ወይም በመከሰሳቸው ብቻ ሊደርስባቸው የሚችለውን የተለያየ የመብት ጥሰት ለመግታት ነው፡፡

ወንጀል ፈጽሟል ተብሎ የተያዘ ሰው በመሠረቱ የተጠረጠረበት ወንጀል በማስረጃ ከተረጋገጠበት ሊፈረድበት@ ማስረጃ ከሌለ ግን ሊፈታ ይገባል፡፡ ሆኖም መረማሪ ፖሊስ ወይም ዐቃቤ ሕግ ጉዳዩን እስኪያጣሩና ለፍርድ እስኪቀርብ ድረስ ታሣሪው በጥፋተኝነት የማይቀጣበት ወይም በፍጹም ነፃነት የማይለቀቅበት ሁኔታ አለ፡፡ ይህም በዋስ የመለቀቅ መብት ነው፡፡ መንግሥት የሕብረተሰብን ሰላምና ፀጥታ የማስከበር እንዲሁም የግለሰብን መብትና ነፃነት የማክበር ሃላፊነት አለበት፡፡ መንግሥት የወንጀል ተግባር ፈጽመዋል በማለት በሚይዛቸው ሰዎች ላይ ሕግ ለማስከበር የሚፈጽመው ተግባር ሁለት ተፋላሚ የሆኑ ጥቅሞችን የሚያስታርቅና የሚያቻችል መሆን አለበት፡፡ የሕዝብን ሰላምና ፀጥታ ለማስጠበቅ ሲባል በከባድ የወንጀል ተግባር የተጠረጠሩ ሰዎችን በፍርድ አደባባይ ተገቢውን ቅጣት እንዲያገኙ ለማድረግ  ከፍርድ በፊት ማሰሩ ተገቢ ሲሆን በሌላ በኩል ተጠርጠረው የታሰሩ ሰዎች ንፁህ ሰዎች የሚሆኑበት እድል ሰፊ ስለሆነ ከፍርድ በፊት እንዳይታሰሩ ጥንቃቄ ማድረግ ይጠበቅበታል፡፡  

Continue reading
  14117 Hits

Constitutional Special Interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Ababa City Administration


The phraseology of special interest is technical employment. The geographical location, historical, socio economic underpinnings and legal grounds attract the attention of ONRS and Oromo people. These grounds inspire them to know about the City and special interest. The Constitutional Special Interest is not only ethical, political or legal issue but it also involves the identity of the People, indigenous people are the foundation. It is, therefore, a particularistic interest recognized and guaranteed, almost the same, when the Constitution comes into scene. It is particularistic because it is of a single state interest that it shares with no other constituent regional states.

Today, we do not watch concrete job being done to implement the interest and things are left in limbo.  After the enactment of the Constitution two Charters, Proclamation, (Proc.) No. 87/1997 and 361/2003, have been issued for the City. However, both of them have failed to state the relationship between ONRS and AACA along with the Constitution. Though both Charters empower the City government and Federal government to reach an agreement with the Region, this has not yet been materialized. For the people, therefore, the past decades have meant a major loss of control over special interest. They are the gate keepers, of success or failure to husband their interest.


Even after decades of  talk  about  the political safeguards  of  federalism, there is  a lot we  do not know  about the  formal  even  informal  ways  in  which states’ interests  influence parliamentarian decision  making. What seems clear, however, is that there are avenues of influence, often very strong ones.

Continue reading
  28389 Hits

Joint Ownership of Land and Right of Secession in the FDRE Constitution



Ethiopia is the home to more than 80 ethnic communities with different languages, cultural and religious diversity. Except in a few urban areas such as the capital city, most of Ethiopia's ethnic communities predominantly live in their respective distinct geographic areas of habitation. There is no ethnic community in Ethiopia a majority that comprises a population of more than 50% of the total population of Ethiopia.  But  there  are  relatively  significant  majority  ethnic  communities  such  as  the Oromo and Amhara. Most of Ethiopia's ethnic communities are divided along mainly two religious cleavage lines: Islam and Orthodox Christianity. By crosscutting Ethiopia's ethnic cleavage lines, religion plays a moderating role in limiting the intensity of the ethnic factor in politics, giving rise to overarching loyalty.

The  1995  constitution  of  Ethiopia  established  a  federal  system  that  is  organized  on  the basis of the right of Ethiopia’s ethnic communities to self-determination. The recognition of the right of self-determination has become imperative to establish peace and democracy in the country and has demanded the reconstitution of the Ethiopian state on the basis of a federal political system that guarantees the maintenance and promotion distinctive  ethno-cultural  identities  while  building  a  common  polity  that  allows  them  to pursue their  common  interests.  In as  much  as  ethnic  federalism institutionalizes  the  self-rule  and  shared-rule  of  Ethiopia's  territorial  ethnic  communities  by  guaranteeing  their representation  and  participation  in  the  governance  process,  it  is  a  viable  constitutive means to democracy. The federal arrangement in Ethiopia is not only aimed at enabling ethnic communities to maintain and promote their distinctive collective identities and their particular forms of life it is also directed towards building one political and economic community for the promotion of their common interests collectively, in a mutually supportive manner.

Ramifications of Right to self-determination

Continue reading
  13457 Hits