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.