Sources of Ethiopian Privacy Law

Note: This piece is an excerpt from an upcoming law review article titled “The Dark Future of Privacy in Ethiopia, And How to Stop It”


Ethiopia doesn't have laws that are specifically designed to deal with privacy and data protection issues except a few set of rules contained in various pieces of legislation that guarantee right to privacy rather in a very indirect fashion. The major sources of Ethiopian law dealing with issues of privacy and data protection can generally be grouped into four categories. These are: (1) the constitution, (2) international human rights instruments, (3) subsidiary laws and (4) case law. This piece briefly highlights these sources of Ethiopian privacy law. In so doing, it aims at providing a synopsis of operational privacy rules in Ethiopia.

 A.   Constitution

Ethiopia recognized right to privacy throughout its brief constitutional history, albeit to a different degree. The first written constitution of 1931 explicitly recognized the right of Ethiopian subjects not to be subjected to domiciliary searches and the right to confidentiality of correspondences except in cases provided by law. These rights were also incorporated with a more amplified tone in the revised constitution of 1955. The 1987 constitution of the Dergue also did guarantee Ethiopians the right to the inviolability of their persons and home along with secrecy of correspondences. The transitional government charter didn’t make a specific reference to privacy safeguards; but it did state that all rights provided for under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) shall be fully respected, and without any limitation whatsoever.

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