The law governing judicial selection, appointment and removal of judges has been in effect for almost 15 years, without any change. The system of Ethiopian judicial administration was being governed by three important instruments. These are;
1) Federal Courts Proclamation No. 25/1996
2) Federal Judicial Administration Commission Establishment proclamation No. 24/1996 and
3) A Proclamation to Amend the Federal Courts No. 321/2003.
Basically proc. No. 25/96 is a law establishing the jurisdiction of federal courts. But, it also contained some provisions about the criteria for judgeship, removal and disciplinary measures against judges. Proc. No. 24/96 is about the institutional structure of judicial administration. Proc. No. 321/2003 is an amendment to the jurisdiction of courts. However, it also contains few articles relevant for judicial administration.
Now after 15 years, the House of People’s representatives has made some changes to judicial administration. The new law amends mainly proc. No. 24 and 25 of 1996. We will have a brief look at the contents of this new law and try to identify the significant changes brought about by this act.
Selection and removal of judges
According to the new amendment, any one interested to be judge may submit his application to the Federal judicial administration council. Key changes in this regard, are that the position of judgeship is now open to any individual who fulfills the legal requirements. Judicial selection therefore will be totally conducted based on a competition, thus avoiding the possibility of favoritism on personal grounds and political affiliation.
The criteria to be a federal judge is almost similar with the previous law save some additional requirements. According to Article 11 of the new law, any Ethiopian who fulfills the following criteria may be appointed as a federal judge:
A federal judge whose tenure is terminated is not allowed to appear before any bench in a federal court in which he served as a judge representing litigants for a period of two years starting from the last date of termination of office.
Structure and Organization of the judicial Council
The Federal judicial council is established as an entity having its own legal personality. The Council has its own secretariat, head of secretariat, budget and the necessary staff. The head of the secretariat serve as the Council’s secretary.
The Council shall have the following members:
a) The President of the Federal Supreme Court-----Chairperson
b) The Vice President of the Federal Supreme Court---- member
c) Three members of the House of Peoples’ Representatives---- member
d) The Minister of the Federal Ministry of Justice --- member
e) The President of the Federal High Court ----- member
f) The President of the Federal First Instance Court ---- member
g) A judge selected by all the Federal Judges ----- member
h) A lawyer appointed by the Council from those practicing in the Federal Court--- member
i) Law academic appointed by the Council from a recognized higher educational institution--- member
j) A distinguished citizen appointed by the Council ---- member
Powers and Duties of the Council
As indicated above one of the key duties and responsibilities of the judicial council is related to the selection and recruitment of federal judges. In this regard it orders a notice to be issued and decide how and where such notice shall be publicized. After receiving application the council will nominate candidates who qualify for judgeship from among persons who applied for judicial positions.
Some of the important powers of the council include;
(Taken From Muradu Abdoand Gebreyesus Abegaz Customary Law Teaching Material (JLSRI)
State and Customary Law in Ethiopia: The relationship between State and Customary law can be divided into three phases: (1) The imperial imported sacred tradition in the pre-modern era, (2) the modern secular imported nation-building period under Emperor Haile Sellassie and the Derg, and (3) the post-modern ethnic federalist period under the EPRDF.
The first phase during the imperial period from the 15th century till the early 20th century can be characterized within the realm of the Empire by the imperial reliance on reference to indigenized translated texts based on 'imported' biblical and Roman-Byzantine traditions with a strongly sacred flavor. There was only nominal and limited reference to the importance or precedence of local customary law in imperial edicts and much of the country remained beyond the confines of the monarchies, administered in practice in legal terms through customary law.
The second phase began with Emperor Haile Sellassie's modernising drive from the early 1930s, pursued more vigorously after the Italian occupation especially in the mid 1950s and 1960s with the development of legal codes. Here again much of the legislative drive and influence, signalled most clearly in the assigning of the drafting work to foreign experts, was external to the Ethiopian context. Customary law was repealed by the Civil Code which included only token references to limited areas where customary rules could be applied. The second modernist nation-building phase ended with a socialist twist under the Derg, which continued the centralist project with very minor concessions to religious and ethnic interests as expressed in the 1987 Constitution.