PROCLAMATION NO. 25/1996 FEDERAL COURTS PROCLAMATION
WHEREAS, in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, judicial power is vested in both the Federal Government and the Regions;
WHEREAS, it is found necessary to determine the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts on the basis of the Constitution;
NOW, THEREFORE, in accordance with Article 55(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, it is hereby proclaimed as follows:
1. Short title
This Proclamation may be cited as the "Federal Courts Proclamation No. 25/1996."
In this Proclamation:
1) "Officials of the Federal Government" means members of the House of Peoples' Representatives and of the House of the Federation, officials of the Federal Government above ministerial rank, ministers, judges of the Federal Supreme Court and other officials of the Federal government of equivalent rank;
2) "Employees of the Federal Government" includes all employees, other than those referred to under sub-Article (1) hereof, engaged in the activities of the Federal Government;
3) "Laws of the Federal government" includes all previous laws in force which are not inconsistent with the Constitution and relating to matters that fall within the competence of the Federal Government as specified in the Constitution.
4) "Federal Courts" means the Federal Supreme Court, the Federal High Court and the Federal First Instance Court;
5) "Person" means a natural or juridical person.
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;
The Federal and state courts system under the FDRE
Chapter nine of the Constitution, (Article 78 to 84) deals with the “structure and powers of the courts” on federal and state levels. It describes a “regular” three-tier Federal and State Court system. On the Federal level, the court system is comprised of Federal First Instance Courts, Federal High Courts and the Federal Supreme Court. On a state level, the system consists of State First Instance Courts (Woreda Courts), State High Courts (Zonal Courts) and the State Supreme Court. The Constitution also allows for Religious and Customary Courts. In addition, courts known as Social Courts have been set up in a number of States. Some of those courts have a historic origin. Others have been legislated for by the States’ Governments. Chapter nine of the Constitution, however, does not mention the Social Courts. This has led to a debate, in some quarters about whether such courts are constitutionally permissible.