Indigent’s Right to State Funded Legal Aid in Ethiopia

in International Human Rights Law Review
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This article examines the extent to which state-funded legal aid in criminal cases is recognized and implemented in Ethiopia. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) Constitution and human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party recognize an indigent’s right to defense counsel at state expense where the interests of justice so require. However, on the basis of available data collected from the courts, the police stations and prisons, this article finds that the implementing institutions, such as the Office of Public Defenders, are not operating effectively and moreover the public generally lacks legal awareness. These impediments have in turn contributed to a number of indigent accused being tried and convicted without the benefit of legal advice and representation at different stages of proceedings. It has also been found that almost all unrepresented accused have committed serious errors in said proceedings. In addition, lack of legal aid affects the overall justice system since the indigent cannot defend themselves against trained prosecutors armed with state power. In this article it is argued that in order for Ethiopia to implement an indigent’s right to state-funded legal aid, an independent legal aid agency must be established, which should be responsible for the administration of legal aid.

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References

1)

 See FDRE Constitution, 1995, Article 37 and Article 20(5); ICCPR, Article 14(3) (d).

13)

 See E Blankenburg, Lawyers’ Lobby and the Welfare State: The Political Economy of Legal Aid, (Aldershot: Dartmouth Publishing Company, 1997) 4.

50)

M Hacohen, ‘Israel’s Office of Public Defender: Lessons from the Past, Plans for the Future’, in Access to Justice in Central and Eastern Europe: A Source Book (PILI, 2003) 134.

62)

UN Doc. A/44/49 (1989).

65)

FDRE Constitution, 1995, Article 37.

73)

FDRE Constitution, 1995, Article 13(2).

85)

FDRE Constitution, 1995, Article 20(5) cum the Revised Constitution, 2001, of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State Proclamation No. 35/2001, Article 20(5).

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