Jan 22 2019


Identification Parade is one of police identification procedure, in which the suspect of a crime is exhibited with a number of other persons, to be identified by a witness and/or victim. It is one way of identifying the suspect from a group of similar-looking persons. It is considered as one part of police investigation and commonly used when the suspect is in custody.

The process conducted on similar-looking persons that are shown simultaneously or sequentially to a witness. Accordingly the witness may identify one of them as the perpetrator or a person who has participated in the commission of the crime. Those persons who have participated in the parade are expected to be more or less similar in appearance, dress and social standing.

Eyewitness identification, selecting the suspect using identification parade, is more preferable in crimes committed in contact manner with the victim. And the identification parade is necessary in the absence of other evidence to the criminal investigation. Thus, if the identification parade conducted properly, it is considered as more accurate than a fingerprint.

In Ethiopia the practice of identification parade has a long history, however, it is not conducted in well organized and right based approach of the suspected person. In a traditional crime investigation, there was a practice known as labia shy, which resemble to identification parade.

Currently the identification parade is conducted differently from the traditional manner however, there is no manual and uniformity. As the practice revealed, there is no proper manual on how to conduct an identification parade. Investigators follow different type of procedures at different times and this challenge the admissibility of the procedure before a court of law.

Therefore, to ensure that the identification procedure is an independent, honest and being admissible before a court of law, it is necessary to familiarize the investigator and prosecutors, including suspected persons with all the necessary techniques, rights and procedures of the identification parade. Thus, this introductory paper will share some insights and inspire the criminal justice community to think about the preparation of a manual for identification parade.


1. Purpose of an Identification Parade

Identification parade devised to increase the accuracy of identification, by circumventing the errors of suggestibility that could result in a single suspect viewing. It is not only an effective investigative procedure, but also serves as an important evidential purpose. Besides, the identification parade will lead to individualization of evidence, particularly it will help to identify the perpetrator as a person rather than identifying his unlawful conduct.  


2. Authority to Conduct an Identification Parade

Persons, who have been arrested or released on bail, or on warning in lieu of bail, can be made available for identification purposes. The police official may also determine the condition, position or clothing of such person. Such a parade is considered as an important safeguard to minimize the possible unreliability of the identification evidence.

The FDRE constitution and different human right document stated that every arrested and accused persons has the right to a fair trial, which includes:

  • The right to have a legal council of his/her choice;
  • The right to be informed of the reason for arrest;
  • To be innocent until the contrary is proven;
  • The right to remain silent;
  • The right to be present before court of law within specified time limit and challenge evidence;

However, the issue of identification parade can be incorporated as one process of police crime investigation. In Ethiopia the criminal procedure code and other laws are genral on the legal support of identification parade.   

  • Rights of the Accused at the Parade

The accused should be informed of the purpose of the parade and the allegations against him/her, and should further be given an opportunity to obtain a legal representative to be present at the parade. The suspect/accused has the right to accept or refuse the request of identification parade. If s/he refused without justifiable reaons, the police will proceed the investigation identifying the person is the real perpetrator of the crime.

However, if the suspect/ accused accept the request, the police official in charge of the parade should tell the suspect to choose a position on the parade and, if s/he should so desire, to change position. Before the identification parade it has to be ensured that the suspect is satisfied with the parade and that all reasonable requests are granted. Although a police official may determine the condition, position or clothing of the suspect, the granting of a suspect’s reasonable requests will contribute to the credibility of the parade.

In the interests of justice, under certain circumstances, it is possible to refuse a suspect permission to change his clothing - for example, where the change would have the effect of completely or partially disguising the suspect and altering his appearance radically, which may have the effect of rendering the parade null and void.

The identification parade must not be conducted by the investigator who has the case. The investigator must request and assign another police officer who will conduct the identification parade. The request must be in writing. The following important information must be provided to the person in charge of the parade:

  • Names of the accused
  • Names of witnesses
  • The case number
  • The type of crime committed
  • The date, place and time the crime was committed
  • A blank (Identification form)

The Identification Parade Form will incorporate all the procedures for the identification and it has to be filled by a police officer who is in charge of the identification parade. The official in charge of the parade must record everything that occurs during the parade, in this form. Lastly the copy of this form must be available to the defense counsel.  

  • Clothing of Persons who Participate in the Identification Parade

Those persons who are included in the identification parade must wear similar cloth. If it is difficult to prepare similar cloth the accused should not be dressed differently from the others or have any distinctive features which would inevitably attract attention. This is conducted to ensure that the suspect is not easily noted as a result of his/her difference. Because, in most cases a witness’s attention is easily drawn to colorful clothing. Therefore, if the suspect is dressed in noticeably colorful clothes, while the other persons on the parade wear fairly plain-colored clothes, the suspect will stand out as a result of his/her clothing. Thus, those persons who have participated in the parade must wear similar clothes. However, it doesn’t mean that these persons have to wear the same cloth.  

  • Number of Persons on the Parade

The parade should consist of at least eight individuals who are similar to the accused in general appearance. It is preferably that one suspect and at least eight other persons are incorporated in the parade. In principle, it is advisable that the identification parade has to be consisting of at least eight to ten persons, but a greater number is desirable. It is generally undesirable that there should be more than one suspect on the parade; and, if a second suspect is placed on the parade, the two suspects should be more or less similar in general appearance and the persons on the parade should be increased to at least twelve to sixteen. The procedure is designed to provide for an accurate and reliable identification. The persons participating in the parade should have the same general appearance as the suspect, with respect to race, sex, height, hair, and clothing. Persons known to the witness should not be incorporated within the parade.

  • When does Identification Parade is Necessary

An identification parade should only be used when the identification by a witness and or victim is an important factor in the case. Thus, an identification parade may be dispensed with in the following situations:-

  • When there is a significant amount of other incriminating evidence and the eyewitness and or the victim’s recollection is weak.
  • When the witness and or the victim know the suspect and recognized him/her during the offense.
  • When the suspect’s appearance is so unusual that suitable identification parade participants cannot be located.
  • When the suspect is being held in custody at a great distance from the witness and or the victim.

4. Preparations

The investigating officer is responsible for the preparations of the identification parade. This includes arrangements of the venue, informing the police official in writing who will conduct the parade, the witnesses, accused and accused’s legal representative.  


  • Preparing the Witness for the Parade

Witnesses do not know what to expect when viewing an identification parade.  Some feel that the police have already captured the suspect and that s/he is definitely in the room. They feel compelled to identify the one whom they think most closely resembles the suspect.  Others will say that they do not think they can identify the suspect even if they do see him/her, yet, frequently, when witnesses see the suspect in the identification parade, they make a positive identification without reservation. Then the witness must be instructed and have explained exactly what is required from him/her at the parade.  

Witnesses should be told what to expect. They need to know that it is understood that the situation is extremely difficult for them.  It should be explained that there will be about ten people in the parade. In some cases, the suspect’s attorney may also be present in the room during the identification parade. If the attorney is present, witnesses must know that there can be no interference and that they are only there as observers. Witnesses must be informed that they will have as much time as is needed to scrutinise the people on the parade. If the witness needs them to speak certain words, it can be arranged. In order for an identification parade to be fair, witnesses must be informed that the suspect may not even be on the identification parade. The witnesses should be told that when viewing the identification parade, they will be asked if they recognize anyone. 

At an identification parade the witness stands in front of the one-way mirror and can see all the persons in a row, who stand as still as possible in a neutral position in order to reduce the possibility that movements or facial expressions may provide suggestive clues. 

Witnesses must be informed that they need not identify anyone in the parade, that they are not to confer with any other witness viewing the identification parade, and that they do not have to indicate any identification in any way.  

Investigators should be prepared for the emotional state that confronting the witness’s assailant might trigger in the witness.  Let the witness know that s/he cannot be harmed and that his/her safety will be ensured. 

  • The Procedure to be followed with a Witness before the Parade

Witnesses should be segregated or kept under supervision before the parade and it prevent them from comparing notes about the criminal’s appearance. Witnesses should be prevented from seeing any member of the parade before the parade, including the suspect, in circumstances indicating that s/he is the suspect. It should be ensured that the witnesses do not see the suspect under arrest before the parade. A witness’s judgment may also be influenced if s/he saw any other member of the parade beforehand. Identifying witnesses should be prevented from seeing any member of the parade before or after the parade. 

  • Helping the Witness to Remember

It is undesirable that the officer investigating the case should also take charge of the parade, and the person who escorts the witness to the place where the parade is held should not have seen the parade being formed or know who the accused is. If there are several witnesses, they should be segregated or kept under supervision before the parade, to prevent them from comparing notes about the criminal’s appearance, and witnesses who have completed identification should not be allowed to rejoin the others. 

Some witnesses find they cannot make any kind of identification at all, while others can still make identification even though it is difficult for them. The investigating officer needs to help witnesses through their ordeal. Witnesses need to understand that they are not to be blamed for what happened. It may sometimes be necessary for the investigating officer to speak with relatives or friends of the witness/victim to make sure that they do not imply that the witness/victim was in any way at fault for what occurred. 

The investigating officer must not try to help the witness who make the identification by saying or doing anything that would suggest the suspect. Accordingly, the court will examine the following five factors to establish the reliability of the identification parade:

  • Witness’s opportunity to observe the suspect during the commission of the crime;
  • Witness’s degree of attention;
  • Accuracy of the description given by the witness before making the identification;
  • Level of certainty in making an identification; and
  • Time period between the commission of the crime and the identification.


  • Aids when conducting the Identification Parade

    • Identification Parade Room

The identification parade should be held in a room away from the public view, so that there is little opportunity for disturbance. The room must at least be large enough to accommodate eight identification parade participants side by side, but still having room for their freedom of movement. Though not required, consideration should be given to installing a screen or one-way mirror, so that the witnesses can view the parade unobserved. The parade should geographically be held in the same town, city or place where the offence was committed. The reason for this is evident - namely, greater convenience and lower costs for everyone involved.

  • Persons who must be Present in the Parade Room

The following persons must be present at all parades, and without them a legal identification parade is out of question:

  • The suspect/accused;
  • At least eight other persons with more or less the same appearance, social standing, build, clothing, age, occupation, as well as of the same race and sex as the accused/suspect.
  • The member in charge of the parade;
  • The identifying witnesses/victim, one at a time.


  • Persons who may be in the Parade Room

The following persons, where applicable, also have the right to attend the parade:

  • The suspect’s/accused’s legal representative.
  • An interpreter, if necessary.
  • A police photographer or video camera operator, if the investigating officer or member in charge of the parade considers it advisable, especially in the event of serious cases or large parades. Photographs or videos of identification parades may later help to confirm or disprove allegations in court.


  • Aids to Assist the Parade

It is extremely desirable that at least one photograph should be taken of all persons - including the suspect - on the parade, depicting them as they appear on the parade and standing next to each other. It has become almost standard practice to produce in evidence a photograph of the line-up, and this in itself greatly assists in determining whether the suspect was placed among others whose general appearance did or did not resemble his own.  

The absence of a photograph precludes the court from making its own assessment. A colour photograph was found to be very useful. The absence of a photograph of all suspects on the parade was a factor which the court took into account in holding that there had been an irregular parade. The use of video footage will enhance the persuasive value of the identification. 


The suspect’s has the right to request the presense of the legal council at the identification parade. The duty of the legal council presence at the identification parade is that of an observer.  S/He is not permitted to participate in any way in the conduct of the parade or converse with any official, witnesses or the participants.  However, s/he is permitted to make suggestions to the person holding the parade about the procedure of the parade, to ensure fairness for his client.  If the requests are reasonable, they should be adopted. 

The accused’s legal representative would be entitled to make notes or a statement of whatever irregularities he might note in the proceedings, the positions of various participants in relation to his client, who pointed out what persons, when, where, how and how long the witness took to identify the suspect, what the witness said and what he was asked, what the suspect was wearing and the colour of his clothing, etc. This would help the legal council to question the validity of the parade and cross- examine on the proceedings at any subsequent criminal trial.

Read 23527 times Last modified on Jan 22 2019
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ጦማሪው ከመቀሌ ዩንቨርስቲ በ2000 ዓ.ም በህግ የመጀመሪያ ድግሪ፣ በ2006 ዓ.ም በወንጀል ፍትህ ስርዓት እና በሰብዓዊ መብት ከባህር ዳር ዩንቨርስቲ የሁለተኛ ዲግሪ ሰርቷል፡፡ በአሁኑ ሰኣት በኢትዩጵያ ፖሊስ ዩንቨርስቲ ኮሌጅ በወንጀል ምርመራ ዲፕሎማ ፕሮግራም ማናጀር እና በመምህርነት እያገለገለ ይገኛል፡፡ ጽሐፊውን በኢሜል አድራሻው ማግኘት ይችላሉ፡፡