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Two human rights organizations say they were turned down from Constitutional Inquiry Hearing

By Bernabas Shiferaw
June 4, 2020

Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and Democracy in Ethiopia (CAHRDE) and Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) have announced that they have been denied the chance to participate in the hearings hosted by the Council for Constitutional Affairs

In a press release yesterday, the two organizations explained that they had submitted a 13-pages application containing strategic litigations concerning the matter, they have received no response. However, they have not received any response from the Council to their application. 

The Council submitted its response to the House of Federation on the 29th of May, and the House will meet next week to make a decision based on the response. The organizations have expressed their hope that the House of Federation will hear their arguments before reaching a final decision. “Otherwise,” Mr. Befekadu Hailu, Director of CARD, told the Ethiopia Insider, “we will appeal to the next body in line as per the law.”

The two organizations have argued, in their application, that in the first place, the right to participate in the matter is granted to everyone by law and thus participation should not be limited to holders of a third degree in a specific field (Law) as was announced by the Council before the hearing. They have argued further that the Council must allow participation from all legal people. 

Secondly, the council does not have legal mandate to look into the matter unless it was asked by the House of Federation, in a case of constitutional dispute, whereas in the present situation, no such dispute was raised. The government raised the matter by itself and led the matter to the Council by itself. Thus, the matter in which the Council proceeded to come up with recommendations concerning the matter is not legal. As per the law, a constitutional dispute must be raised for such a proceeding to take place 

Thirdly, the Council’s neutrality in the matter is highly questionable due to its history and its current membership. The document recalls that the Council was a “Kangaroo court” executing the dictatorial needs of the government just two years ago. 

And although the law states that judicial bodies should be neutral and non-members of any political party, several members of the Council hold membership in the Prosperity party, which is in power. 

Moreover, some of them are known for backing notorious laws such as the infamous anti-terrorism law that was used by the regime to prosecute and imprison so many people. Thus, these members should either resign from the council or at least renounce their membership in the Prosperity Party. 

Lastly, the application argues that political matters must be taken into consideration in reaching a decision. The applicants have raised facts of huge political significance that relate to the matter at hand. 

The first of these is “the fact that the country had been in a state of constitutional crisis even before the ratification of the constitution owing to the undemocratic process from which the constitution was born. 

The second fact is that the current government and both houses are not democratically elected. The third is that the fragile state of the country and the impact the decision of the current matter could have in worsening the situation. 

Thus, the applicants recommended that the decision should contain a scheme forcing the government to open discussions with other political parties until the time of election. 

They have also asked that in the case of deciding to allow the government to extend its term, the Council imposes a check on the government forcing it to report to the Council on a monthly basis. 

They have also recommended that the Council ask the government and the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) to announce a mechanism that the election could be held without causing a spread of COVID-19 in case the pandemic lasts for a relatively long period of time. 

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