Dr. Adem Kassie Abebe, for Addis Standard
Addis Abeba, November 07/2018 – The wave of reforms that dazzled Ethiopia and the world came to the shores of the judiciary when she named Meaz Ashenafi as the first woman of the Supreme Court president, and the real time that inspired the film "Difret," where a young lawyer confronts the tradition of forced abductions into marriage. Given that Ethiopia is joining the edge of the new era of democratic disputes, the independence of the independent judges of the democratic game can not be exaggerated. In an interview shortly after her official appointment, she said her top priority would be to "restore public confidence" in the judiciary. This is a commendable goal, although Ethiopian courts have never really liked the public confidence that should be redeemed, and its challenge will therefore be to create and promote new confidence in the judiciary. This is an extraordinary challenge and this article proposes one possible measure that could help Mease make progress. But before I get to the main focus of this contribution – judicial scrutiny, I would like to share my thoughts in the wider context of reforms to emphasize the importance of adding goodwill that has so far been the source of the majority of celebrated moves in Ethiopian policy with institutional guarantees.
Prime Minister Abi Ahmed led and inspired the process of renewal and democratic opening in the history of Ethiopia unprecedented. Not everyone is happy and most are cautiously optimistic; and security and relative violation of law and order, although it is often inevitable in the conditions of revolution, what breaks down is more than a slow evolution, it must be dealt with with foresight, skills, and time. Prudence is understandable in a country that is uncomfortable with the brief moments of relief and joy that have surpassed the exhausting period of darkness. Caution is not necessarily bad or disturbing. A little dissatisfaction is the need for oil that will continue to power and burn the reformer engine. Prime Minister Abiy and his main team must be constantly challenged if they are constantly growing and refining their political agenda and approaches. Encouraging signals to democratic dispensation hopefully satisfy dissatisfaction with an organized and rigorous but peaceful competition for thoughts.
From individual reputation to institutional reform
So far, reforms have been carried out primarily by appointing new people to critical positions. The new wave of women's appointment especially admired the Ethiopian public and continental and international observers of Ethiopian politics. Ethiopia now has a balanced cabin, where women hold 50% of positions, including major ministries in the defense and security sectors. We also saw new and younger faces. This basis for incorporating women and young people into leadership positions is likely to have structural effects in the way society evolves. However, all these positions remain political appointments, based on assumptions of political loyalty.
A better test of the goodwill of a new administration should instead be measured by appointment to institutions that require independence from political machinations. In this respect, the appointment of the President of the State and President of the Supreme Court is a remarkable beginning. In addition to the fact that they remain in significant positions during the upgrading of qualified women, these two appointments are different in that they include people who are clearly politically unconnected. The Presidency, if it is to be relevant and unifying, must remain above the policy. And the appointment of Sahle-Work Zewde, the leading diplomat, as president of the country stands a test position. She was also named Meaza Ashenafi, a prominent lawyer and founder of the Ethiopian Women's Advocates Association, as chairman of the Supreme Court for the first time in a true independent position occupied by a position. The reform train was approaching home before I waited. Good friend and competent scholar, Dr. Gedion Timothewos, was appointed as one of the three deputies of the Prosecutor General. Like two above, he is one of the new cohorts of a politically neffiliated appointment. While I believe that the position of the Prosecutor General should be separated and given to an independent institution, the appointment of a young expert is still welcome.
Even better and more sustainable test of the commitment of the reform towards democratic upheaval is the adoption of institutional reforms. All good names that climb the ladders of power are the result of individual goodwill. Political goodwill, if necessary, is blatant. Institutions and practices must be based on the assumption that the people who occupy them are not necessarily angels, and they are always mistaken. We should therefore work to introduce procedures that would often lead to the appointment of qualified candidates with the necessary integrity. This is extremely indispensable to independent institutions, including the presidency, the judiciary, the election commission, the human rights commission, the ombudsman, etc. The recently appointed Advisory Council for Justice and Justice Reform works on some of these questions, and I hope that with time, individual goodwill will be supplemented by procedural and institutional guarantees.
Creating Confidence in the Judiciary: Performing Court Verification
While many have expressed concern that Meaza lacks the necessary judicial experience, it is likely to have an advantage for the judiciary. As an outsider, he will not discourage any unsophisticated assumptions and sticky working habits that affect any lethargic institution such as the Ethiopian judiciary. The problems that lie ahead are enormous. He will preside over a judicial body that has lost the hope of the nation over time; the judiciary, which caused more tears than drying. It is simply a judiciary that has been in excess of the last decade by a relationship, if not an active and willing participant. Even in cases where independence from political institutions was not a problem, the judiciary was often affected by allegations of uncontrolled corruption, extreme incompetence and lack of expertise. Courts are often considered to be more powerful representatives than executive power itself. I hope Meaza has integrity, competence, effort and vision to get on this occasion. But to be able, it will have to face this problem. One of the possible ideas is judicial review.
In essence, judicial review includes a process whereby court hearings must be subjected to eligibility and integrity tests to verify the legitimacy of their positions. At the core of the idea of judicial scrutiny is that the judiciary, which has unfortunately failed to protect freedom from the fear and lack of an ordinary person, can not be trusted to promote ideals that favor Ethiopian constitutional, continental and international obligations. A unique aspect of reconnaissance processes is the opportunity for the general public to express their views and experiences about individual judges.
Given that judicial independence requires judges to be protected from undue influence and threats, verifi- cation may be carried out through ordinary court discipline. However, circumvention of existing legal protection could continue to be a dangerous precedent and send the wrong signal that new power holders are trying to get straight and replace the "old" guard of judges with their own helpers. However, judicial independence must be balanced by judicial responsibility. As such, if independence, integrity and integrity are ensured, it is well founded. In order to ensure such independence and integrity, the relevant procedures should be established in advance, after consultation with judicial officials, including any constitutional amendments to protect the lawfulness of the process. Whilst the reputation and status of individual judges may suffer as the investigation process becomes apparent, the long-term institutional interest of the courts is likely to flourish. Following the adoption of the new constitution in 2010, the Republic of Kenya has been involved in a similar review process. Combined with other measures to improve access to justice, the process has been very successful and public approval has been approved by the judiciary. Nevertheless, maintaining judicial credibility requires more than a one-off review. It must be accompanied by deliberate and tireless efforts to increase the availability, speed and quality of justice delivery as well as communication strategies that will constantly involve the public and other critical actors.
The new President of the Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to move the process of clearing the judiciary and building and strengthening its relative credibility. Popular support is the surest path to a sustainable independence of the judiciary. There is, of course, the danger that the control process could be captured by new energy holders. This is why the independence of the process is critical. In Kenya, one strategy had to ensure that three of the nine members of the investigative body were foreigners. Ethiopia does not necessarily have to replicate the Kenyan process, but it could draw on the successes and failures of the Kenyan and other comparable experiences in creating a process that is independent of perception and reality. The crucial thing is that most Ethiopian judges are serving at the state level and Meaza will have limited power to take the scrutiny process down. Problems at federal level are equally uncompromising and perhaps worse than at state level. However, any attempt at federal scrutiny is likely to trigger similar processes at the state level.
Editor's note: Dr. Adem Kassie Abebe works for the Institute for Constitution Program of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA International). You will be at [email protected] / [email protected] The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the official status of IDEA.