Contemporary Violations of Human Rights in Ethiopia in light of Tripartite Human Rights Obligations



“The world can never be at peace unless people have security in their daily lives.”

UNDP. 1994. Human Development Report 1994.

When governments or non-state actors do horrible, cruel and unjust things to their citizens we are now likely to describe those actions as violations of human rights-instead of simply saying that they are unjust, immoral, or barbaric. Human rights are not just illusions they are certain basic entitlements tied to all human beings irrespective of any status.

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What is the 'good' in good governance?

1. Introduction

The purpose of this piece is to highlight the link between good governance and democracy. Through an examination of the key components of both, it argues that the two concepts are indeed one and the same: ‘good governance’ is but a sanitized name for ‘democratic governance’. (I have to admit a level of dislike for the term ‘good governance’ which, for me, suggests that it is an option rather than an obligation tied to a set of fundamental rights.)

2. Meaning and Elements of Good Governance

The word ‘governance’ is a noun normally used to designate a system or manner of government, the act or state of governing, or control or formal authority and as a synonym for management, administration, direction, or control. So, taken literally, ‘good governance’ would mean a good system of government, good standard of governing, or good practice in exercising formal authority to govern. While this literal translation may be applicable to many instances of everyday use, such as corporate governance or organizational governance, good governance takes an additional meaning with reference to the management of public affairs. In this sense, it describes

“…the transparent and accountable management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for the purposes of equitable and sustainable development” within “a political and institutional environment that upholds human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law”.

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The Right to Bail in Cases Involving Sexual Offences against Children

1 Introduction

This post was originally prepared for use in the internal publications of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in an effort to strengthen the engagement of the Commission in protecting and promoting the rights of victims of sexual offences while at the same time ensuring the due process rights of the accused. However, it never got to see the light of day for reasons unrelated to its content. Now that we are done with the adoption of a criminal justice administration policy and taking up the revision of the criminal procedure code, it may be time to give it another try.

Children are the most vulnerable individuals in our society; they are also the most precious commodity that the world has and have a right to be protected from all forms of abuse

2  Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Offences against Children

Sexual offences, especially those against children, are among the least reported offences in countries like Ethiopia. This has to do with the private nature of the settings in which the offences take place, the relationship of vulnerability between the victims and perpetrators, cultural tolerance of some forms of sexual violence against children, inaccessibility of the formal legal system to child victims and their families and other structural causes. Whatever the case, it is impossible to draw a comprehensive picture of the prevalence of sexual offences against children in Ethiopia.

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Assessment of National Response to Child Labor in Ethiopia

This post, which was originally part three of a larger report, seeks to assess the national response to child labour in Ethiopia in light of the international standards identified in the previous part of the report. The assessment principally focuses on the ratification of international instruments relevant to child labour and harmonization of legislation with their stipulations. Since Ethiopia does not yet have a comprehensive policy on child labour, the assessment does not directly cover issues that have to be addressed though the policy framework.

1.    Ratification of International Instruments

Ethiopia is a signatory to the UDHR and has ratified the major international human rights instruments including the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) as well as the ACHR and the ACRWC. The ILO Convention Minimum Age Convention 138 (1973) and ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour 182 (1999) have also been ratified.

Table 1: Status of Ratification of Major Child Labor Instruments

International Instrument

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Conceptual and Methodological Framework for Human Rights Monitoring

This material was initially prepared in 2010 as part of a background document for the development of a national human rights report for Ethiopia. Its publication here is intended to serve as an input for individuals and groups interested in preparing a human rights monitoring report as well as informing discussion on the assessment of existing or future human rights monitoring reports. God willing, I hope to follow it up with a brief assessment on the implementation of access to justice in Ethiopia as per this framework.


The conceptual and methodological framework for human rights monitoring should be informed by:

– best experience among international, regional and national human rights organizations with particular attention to treaty monitoring bodies, and National Human Rights Institutions;

– the international and regional human rights normative framework;

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Briefing Notes on Human Rights Education

This ‘Briefing Notes’ have been prepared to serve as an introductory orientation and awareness raising material targeting members of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission as well as sections of the general public. It is intended to introduce the conception and recognition of human rights education in the international and national human rights systems and the activities of the Commission in this important area forming part of its core mandate. Alas, it was never used (the fault being totally and wholly mine). Hopefully, someone could make some use of it.

Human Rights Education under the International Human Rights System

Human rights education has been recognized as an essential component of the international human rights system. The first such recognition in what has come to be called the modern international human rights system in the post WWII era is to be found in the Charter of the United Nations [1945] which called for cooperation "in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms." This provision of the Charter is widely recognized as creating state responsibilities for educating and teaching human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948, which proclaimed human rights as "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations," also directed states as well as "every individual and every organ of society...."to "strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms....". The UDHR further stressed "strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms...." as one of the goals of education (Article 26, Section 2).

The dual aspects of human rights education were formalized into the international human rights framework through the provisions of the international covenants developed by the U.N. and coming into effect in 1976 to formalize the basis in international law of the rights declared in 1948. The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights placed the educational objective of strengthening respect for human rights in a cluster of related learning objectives. For example, Article 13 of the Covenant says that "education shall be directed to the "full development of the human personality" and to the person's own "sense of dignity...."(Section 1). The Covenant also says the State Parties:

further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace." (Article 13, Section 1)

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Responses to Homelessness and its Impacts in Ethiopia

Housing forms an indispensable part of ensuring human dignity since it is essential for health, privacy and personal space, security and protection from inclement weather, and social space.  In this context, “adequate housing” en­compasses more than just the four walls of a room and a roof over one’s head.  However, population growth, migration to urban areas, conflicting needs for existing land, and insufficient financial and natural resources have resulted in widespread homelessness and habitation in inadequate housing. In every country children, men and women sleep on sidewalks, under bridges, in cars, subway stations, and public parks, live in ghettos and slums, or "squat" in buildings other people have abandoned. The United Nations estimates that there are over 100 million homeless people and over 1 billion people worldwide inadequately housed.

In Ethiopia, these problems are felt broadly and in depth throughout urban centers across the country due to various reasons. One major cause is the irregular pattern of urban growth leading to the emergence of slums’ and homelessness. This is especially true for the situation in Addis Ababa where housing is a serious problem in terms of availability and quality. According to one study,

-        75% of the total population of the city is living in overcrowded houses or dilapidated structures, under unhygienic conditions, lacking basic urban services like safe drinking water and sewage, and in sprawling informal settlements with growing number of shacks.

-        85% of the housing structures in Addis Ababa are dilapidated and would have to be demolished or rehabilitated in a costly manner. They are in their major without the minimum basic infrastructure such as flushing toilets and connection to the sewer system.

-        An estimated 80% of the 150,000 kebele houses have serious problems of maintenance and are in a very bad shape. Up to 50% of the population is without fixed employment.

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የሰበር ሰበር ስልጣን በኢትዮጵያ የህግ ስርዓት ውስጥ ያለው እንድምታ፡- ህገ- መንግስታዊ መሰረትና በዝርዝር ህግ ውስጥ የሚካተትበት አግባብ

የኢትዮጵያ የህግ ስርዓት በተለያዩ የመንግስት የአስተዳደር ስርዓት ውስጥ በልዩ ልዩ ጉዳዮች ላይ ልዩነቶች ሲታዩበት የነበረ ቢሆንም አደረጃጀቱም የዚያኑ ያክል ተለዋዋጭነት የነበረው መሆኑ ግልፅ ነው፡፡ በተለይም ከያዝነው ርዕስ ጋር በተያያዘ የፍርድ ቤቶች አደረጃጀትና በጉዳዮች ላይ የመጨረሻ ውሰኔ የመስጠት ሂደት በተለያዩ ስርዓቶች የተለያየ ሂደት ሲኖረው ተስተውሏል፡፡ 1980ዎቹ አጋማሽ በፊት የነበሩት ስርዓቶች የአህዳዊ ስርዓትን የሚከተሉ ከመሆናቸው አንፃር የፍርድ ቤቶች አደረጃጀት በዚሁ አይነት አተያይ የተቀረፀ ነበር፡፡

በዘውዳዊው ስርዓት የነበረውን የፍርድ ቤቶች አደረጃጀት ስናይ በተሻሻለው ህገ መንግስት አዋጅ ቁጥር 149/1948 ምዕራፍ  6 ስለ ዳኝነት በሚዘረዝረው ስር  አንቀፅ 108 እና አንቀፅ 109 ስር የዳኝነት ስልጣን በህግ ለተቋቋሙ ፍርድ ቤቶች የተሰጠ እንደሆነ እና የጠቅላይ የንጉሰ ነገስት ፍርድ ቤትና እንዲሁም በህግ እንደሚወሰን ወይም እንደሚፈቀደው ሌሎች ፍርድ ቤት እንደሚኖሩ ይደነግጋል፡፡ ከዚህ ድንጋጌ አንፃር በሐገሪቱ አንድ ማዕከላዊ ጠቅላይ ፍርድ ቤት እንደሚኖርና ይህም በሐገሪቱ ለሚነሱ ጉዳዮች የመጨረሻ ውሳኔ እንደሚሰጥ እንዲሁም 1966 . የተዘጋጀው የኢትዮጵያ ህገ መንግስት ረቂቅ አንቀፅ 120 መሰረት ጠቅላይ ፍርድ ቤት የሐገሪቷ የመጨረሻ ፍርድ ቤት እንደሆነና ይህም ህገ መንግስትን ጭምር የመተርጎም ስልጣን እንዳለው ይደነግጋል፡፡ ከዚህም በተጨማሪ የይግባኝ ፍርድ ቤቶችና የመጀመሪያ ደረጃ ፍርድ ቤቶች እንደሚኖሩ አስቀምፀጧል፡፡


በሌላ በኩል የኢትዬጵያ ጊዜያዊ ወታደራዊ መንግስትን ለማቋቋም በወጣው አዋጅ ቁጥር 1/1967 ምዕራፍ 14 አንቀፅ 102 (12) በህዝባዊ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ሪፐብሊኩ የበላይ የዳኝነት አካል ጠቅላይ ፍርድ ቤት እንደሆነና ይህም በሐገሪቱ ፍርድ ቤቶች ሁሉ የሚከናወኑ የዳኝነት ተግባሮች የመቆጣጠር ስልጣን ያለው መሆኑን ያስቀምጣል፡፡

ከእነዚህ  የሁለት ህገ መንግስት ድጋጌዎችና ጊዜያዊ ወታደራዊ መንግስትን ለማቋቋም ከወጣው አዋጅ ለመረዳት እንደሚቻለው በአህዳዊ ስርዓት ውስጥ አንድ የጠቅላይ ፍርድ ቤት እንደሚኖር እና ፍርድ ቤቱም የመጨረሻ ውሳኔ እንደሚሰጥ ያስረዳናል፡፡

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Legal Empowerment of the Poor

Beginning in the early 1990s, Africa in general and the Greater Horn in particular, have been experiencing a major ground swell of social, economic, cultural and political changes. While the movement towards fundamental political change is remarkable, there are certain formidable challenges that will make the transition to a stable, democratic and pluralist system of governance very difficult. The cultural, historical, political and socioeconomic conditions of this troubled region are not simply too conducive to the emergence of strong democratic polity. This is indeed the context within which the legal empowerment of the poor has to be recognized. It is difficult to anticipate and legal protection of rights when from Darfur to Northern Uganda, from the Red Sea to the banks of the Zaire; genocidal marauders go left unchecked by the international community.

An array of declarations, communiqués and action programmers’, notwithstanding, the human development crisis and progress towards pluralism and the rule of law continues unabated. Massive militarization and persistent armed conflicts, economic crisis manifested by absolute poverty and a vicious socio-political environment, has rendered societies and polities one of the tragic scenes of present day human crisis, rendering whole populations chronically dependent on international food aid charity.

The High Level Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor (HLCLEP) has been set-up as yet another attempt in the evolution of centers of excellence that seek to augur on new policy and strategic trajectories to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a more radical way. Its core mission to “secure, enforceable property and labour rights, within an enabling environment that expands legal business opportunity and access to justice” is yet a novel attempt at bringing in marked changes in the fulfillment of sustainable livelihoods: a set of normative goals and an integrative concept which aims simultaneously to maintain or enhance resource productivity, secure their ownership of and access to assets, resources and income earning activities, and ensure adequate stocks and flows of goods and services. 

Download the concept Note here for further reading.

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Regional Systems in Pursuing International Criminal Justice: An Examination of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights


It has been more than thirteen years since the International Criminal Court was established and started its operation on most serious crimes of international concern, namely Genocide, crime against humanity, crimes of war and aggression. The Court was established by virtue of the Rome statute as a permanent international criminal tribunal independent from other United Nations bodies. To date, all cases that have been investigated by ICC are from Africa, specifically on Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan, Libya, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire. African countries generally have cooperated in the early stages of the establishment of ICC.

Nowadays, however, it seems that the relationship between ICC and Africa is turning into a growing trend of contention. It has been a point of discussion in the academia and in the international politics as to whether the court is indeed exclusively targeting Africa regardless of their contribution and cooperation for its creation and advancement. Some commentators also argued that it is “a mechanism of neo- colonialist policy” or “post-colonial court”, especially after the issuance of arrest warrant against the current president of Sudan- Al Bashir. The former chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, expressed his displeasure on the relationship between the court and some countries in the continent as it is “unfair that all those situations referred to the ICC so far were African”, and “it seems that Africa has become a laboratory to test the new international law.” Similarly, the Benin president in 2009, the Rwandan president and the Ethiopian prime minister in 2013 have portrayed their dissatisfaction on the functioning of the court as a new form of imperialism that seeks to undermine powerless states in terms of politics and economic development. The AU has also expressed its dissatisfaction by rejecting a request to open an ICC liaison office at the head quarter of the AU, Addis Ababa.


As a result, in 2008 the AU in its 11th ordinary summit at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt adopted a protocol on the establishment of African Court of Justice and Human Right (ACJHR). At the time of publication five countries, namely Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Congo and Benin have signed the protocol. After six years, on October 2014 the AU has adopted a draft protocol on the statute of the ACJHR which specifically extends immunity to heads of governments, states and other officials before the court.  While the document is still important particularly in creating regional systems for pursuing international criminal justice, it still poses a great risk on the integrity of the African court and ensuring justice for victims of serious crimes under international law. The immunity exemption clause has been criticized as it contradicts with the AU’s human rights law regime and Article 4(h) of its constitutive act which calls for intervention in case of gross human right violation.

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