Waiting For Justice

Shortcomings in Establishing the Rule of Law

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The Transitional Government of Ethiopia, which assumed power in July 1991, has set itself an ambitious agenda for transforming the political structure of Ethiopia and establishing democracy and human rights. The Transitional Charter, the basic constitutional document adopted at the national conference in Addis Ababa in July, incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as supreme law. The government, headed by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has promised that human rights and civil liberties will be respected, the press will be free, and the judiciary independent. It has said those accused of crimes committed during the former regime of President Mengistu Haile Mariam will be given a fair trial before an independent court. The government has initiated moves to make Ethiopia signatory to all major international human rights conventions. Free multi-party national elections leading to the adoption of a constitution and the creation of a permanent government are scheduled by the end of 1993. All these developments are welcome and indicate a commitment by the Transitional Government to the highest standards of respect for human rights. However, serious human rights abuses are still occurring. This newsletter addresses one series of concerns, to do with the arbitrary actions of the EPRDF and other political organizations, and the establishment of a functioning and independent judiciary. Sadly, in Ethiopia today, obtaining justice remains a privilege, not a right.

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