International Criminology World

World : Africa : Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. Herodotus, the Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings. The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem. According to legend, Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, founded the Ethiopian Empire. Missionaries from Egypt and Syria introduced Christianity in the fourth century A.D. Following the rise of Islam in the seventh century, Ethiopia was gradually cut off from European Christendom. The Portuguese established contact with Ethiopia in 1493, primarily to strengthen their hegemony over the Indian Ocean and to convert Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism. There followed a century of conflict between pro- and anti-Catholic factions, resulting in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries in the 1630s. This period of bitter religious conflict contributed to hostility toward foreign Christians and Europeans, which persisted into the 20th century and was a factor in Ethiopia's isolation until the mid-19th century.

Under the Emperors Theodore II (1855-68), Johannes IV (1872-89), and Menelik II (1889-1913), the kingdom began to emerge from its medieval isolation. When Menelik II died, his grandson, Lij Iyassu, succeeded to the throne but soon lost support because of his Muslim ties. He was deposed in 1916 by the Christian nobility, and Menelik's daughter, Zewditu, was made empress. Her cousin, Ras Tafari Makonnen (1892-1975), was made regent and successor to the throne.

In 1930, after the empress died, the regent, adopting the throne name Haile Selassie, was crowned emperor. His reign was interrupted in 1936 when Italian Fascist forces invaded and occupied Ethiopia. The emperor was forced into exile in England despite his plea to the League of Nations for intervention. Five years later, the Italians were defeated by British and Ethiopian forces, and the emperor returned to the throne.

After a period of civil unrest which began in February 1974, the aging Haile Selassie I was deposed on September 12, 1974, and a provisional administrative council of soldiers, known as the Derg ("committee") seized power from the emperor and installed a government which was socialist in name and military in style. The Derg summarily executed 59 members of the royal family and ministers and generals of the emperor's government; Emperor Haile Selassie was strangled in the basement of his palace on August 22, 1975.

Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam assumed power as head of state and Derg chairman, after having his two predecessors killed. Mengistu's years in office were marked by a totalitarian-style government and the country's massive militarization, financed by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and assisted by Cuba. From 1977 through early 1978 thousands of suspected enemies of the Derg were tortured and/or killed in a purge called the "red terror." Communism was officially adopted during the late 1970s and early 1980s with the promulgation of a Soviet-style constitution, Politburo, and the creation of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE).

In December 1976, an Ethiopian delegation in Moscow signed a military assistance agreement with the Soviet Union. The following April, Ethiopia abrogated its military assistance agreement with the United States and expelled the American military missions. In July 1977, sensing the disarray in Ethiopia, Somalia attacked across the Ogaden Desert in pursuit of its irredentist claims to the ethnic Somali areas of Ethiopia. Ethiopian forces were driven back far inside their own frontiers but, with the assistance of a massive Soviet airlift of arms and Cuban combat forces, they stemmed the attack. The major Somali regular units were forced out of the Ogaden in March 1978. Twenty years later, the Somali region of Ethiopia remains under-developed and insecure.

The Derg's collapse was hastened by droughts and famine, as well as by insurrections, particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea. In 1989, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) merged with other ethnically based opposition movements to form the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In May 1991, EPRDF forces advanced on Addis Ababa. Mengistu fled the country and was granted asylum in Zimbabwe, where he still resides.

In July 1991, the EPRDF, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and others established the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) which was comprised of an 87-member Council of Representatives and guided by a national charter that functioned as a transitional constitution. In June 1992 the OLF withdrew from the government; in March 1993, members of the Southern Ethiopia Peoples' Democratic Coalition left the government.

In May 1991, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), led by Isaias Afwerki, assumed control of Eritrea and established a provisional government. This provisional government independently administered Eritrea until April 23-25, 1993, when Eritreans voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN-monitored free and fair referendum. Eritrea was declared independent on April 27, and the U.S. recognized Eritrean independence on April 28.

In Ethiopia, President Meles Zenawi and members of the TGE pledged to oversee the formation of a multi-party democracy. The election for a 547-member constituent assembly was held in June 1994, and this assembly adopted the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in December 1994. The elections for Ethiopia's first popularly chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995. Most opposition parties chose to boycott these elections, ensuring a landslide victory for the EPRDF. International and non-governmental observers concluded that opposition parties would have been able to participate had they chosen to do so.

The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was installed in August 1995. The EPRDF-led government of Prime Minister Meles has promoted a policy of ethnic federalism, devolving significant powers to regional, ethnically based authorities. Ethiopia today has 10 semi-autonomous administrative regions which have the power to raise and spend their own revenues. Under the present government, Ethiopians enjoy greater political participation and freer debate than ever before in their history, although some fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press, are in practice somewhat circumscribed.

Ethiopia continued its transition from a unitary to a federal system of government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. In 2000 the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won general elections to the federal and regional parliaments. The elections were the second held based on an organizational concept of ethnic federalism under the 1994 Constitution. Most opposition political parties competed in the election; however, due to lack of funds and often weak political organization, opposition parties contested only 20 percent of the seats to the federal parliament, where EPRDF and affiliated parties hold 518 of 547 seats. EPRDF and affiliated parties also hold all regional parliaments by large majorities, although opposition parties hold approximately 30 percent in the Addis Ababa region council and 9.5 percent in the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples' Regional State (SNNPRS or Southern Region) council. According to international and local observers, the 2000 national elections generally were free and fair in most areas; however, serious election irregularities occurred in the Southern Region, particularly in Hadiya zone. Federal regions, largely organized along ethnic lines, increasingly are autonomous and have a large degree of local control over fiscal and most political issues. However, the relationship between the central Government and local officials and among various judiciaries lacks consistent coordination, and occasionally actions are taken at the local level that conflict with stated federal policy. Highly centralized authority, poverty, civil conflict, and unfamiliarity with democratic concepts combine to complicate the implementation of federalism. The federal Government's ability to protect constitutional rights at the local level is limited and uneven. Local administrative, police, and judicial systems remain weak throughout the country. During the year 2000, local elections were held, which were considered generally free and fair by observers; however, opposition parties claimed that the ruling party interfered in the process. The judiciary is weak and overburdened but continued to show signs of independence; progress was made in reducing the backlog of cases.


The Fetha Nagast and customary laws remained the basis of criminal judicial procedure until 1930, when Haile Selassie introduced a penal code, which, although primitive in its application, strove for modernity in its articulation. Unlike the old system, the 1930 penal code set down specific punishments for precisely defined offenses. It was a legal principle that a person who performed an act not prohibited by law committed no crime; nor were acts of omission punishable by law. The code made distinctions among preparatory acts, attempted crimes, and completed offenses. Preparation in itself was not considered criminal, nor were unsuccessful attempts, especially ones in which commission of the offense was judged to be "absolutely impossible." Courts did not inflict punishment if the accused acted out of superstition or "simplicity of mind."

The penal code was strong on retribution, but the courts determined penalties according to the degree of individual guilt. In addition, the courts took into consideration an offender's background, education, and motives, as well as the offense's gravity and the circumstances of its commission. In theory, the courts meted out the most severe punishments to persons of title and wealth on the premise that such offenders had less reasonable motives for criminal action than did persons of lower station. Among the complaints of ethnic dissidents, however, was the allegation that any offense against an Amhara resulted in more severe punishment than an Amhara's offense against a non-Amhara. The new code abolished mutilation but retained capital punishment and permitted flogging. Although more sophisticated than the Fetha Nagast, from which it ostensibly was derived, the 1930 penal code lacked a comprehensive approach to the disposition and treatment of offenders.

In 1958 a Swiss legal expert drafted a revised penal code to meet the needs of a developing nation. A 1961 criminal procedures code, drafted by a British jurist, augmented the 1930 penal code. The former was based on the Swiss penal code and many secondary sources; the latter reflected the influence of English common law.

For virtually every offense listed in the revised penal code, there were upper and lower limits of punishment. The effect was to stress acceptance of the concept of degrees of culpability, as well as the concept of extenuating and aggravating circumstances. Separate provisions existed for juveniles. Nevertheless, the commission appointed to approve the revision repeatedly expressed the traditional view that "punishment should remain the pillar of Ethiopian criminal law."

Following the 1974 revolution, a normal legal process theoretically was in effect for dealing with criminal offenses. Existing parallel to it was a "revolutionary" system of neighborhood justice. In practice, it was impossible to distinguish between criminal acts and political offenses according to the definitions adopted in post-1974 revisions of the penal code.

A November 1974 decree introduced martial law, which set up a system of military tribunals empowered to impose the death penalty or long prison terms for a wide range of political offenses. The decree applied the law retroactively to the old regime's officials who had been accused of responsibility for famine deaths, corruption, and maladministration and who had been held without formal charges since earlier in the year. Special three-member military tribunals sat in Addis Ababa and in each of the country's fourteen administrative regions.

In July 1976, the government amended the penal code to institute the death penalty for "antirevolutionary activities" and economic crimes. Investigation of political crimes came under the overall direction of the Revolutionary Operations Coordinating Committee in each awraja. In political cases, the courts waived search warrants required by the criminal procedures code. The government transferred jurisdiction from the military tribunals, which had been inactive for some time, to kebele and peasant association tribunals. Political trials constituted the main business of these tribunals well into 1978.

More generally, the 1976 revision of the penal code empowered association tribunals to deal with criminal offenses but limited their jurisdiction to their urban neighborhood or rural area. Elected magistrates, without formal legal training, conducted criminal trials. Procedures, precedents, and punishments varied widely from tribunal to tribunal, depending on the imperatives of the association involved. Peasant association tribunals accepted appeals at the wereda (district) level. Appellate decisions were final, but decisions disputed between associations could be brought before peasant association courts at the awraja level. In cities, kebele tribunals were similarly organized in a three-tier system. Change of venue was arranged if a defendant committed an offense in another jurisdiction.

The judicial system was designed to be flexible. Magistrates could decide not to hear a case if the defendant pleaded guilty to minor charges and made a public apology. Nonetheless, torture was sometimes used to compel suspects and witnesses to testify. Penalties imposed at the local association level included fines of up to 300 birr, compensation to victims in amounts determined by the tribunal, imprisonment for up to three months, and hard labor for up to fifteen days. Serious criminal cases were held over, depending on their gravity, for association tribunals sitting at the awraja or wereda level, which were qualified to hand down stiffer sentences. In theory, death sentences were reviewed by government officials, but little effort was made to interfere with the administration of local justice. Tribunal decisions were implemented through an association's public safety committee and were enforced by the local People's Protection Brigade. Without effective review of their actions, tribunals were known to order indefinite jailings, during which their suspects sometimes disappeared, as well as summary executions. On rare occasions, the government would condemn association officials for murder and torture committed in the course of dispensing "revolutionary justice."

The 1976 revision of the penal code also created new categories of so-called economic crimes. The list included hoarding, overcharging, and interfering with the distribution of consumer commodities. More serious offenses concerned engaging in sabotage at the work place or of agricultural production, conspiring to confuse work force members, and destroying vehicles and public property. Security sections of the Revolutionary Operations Coordinating Committee investigated economic crimes at the awraja level and enforced land reform provisions through the peasant associations. These committees were empowered to indict suspects and hold them for trial before local tribunals. Penalties could entail confiscation of property, a long prison term, or a death sentence.

In 1981 the Amended Special Penal Code replaced the Special Penal Code. This amended code included offenses against the government and the head of state, such as crimes against the state's independence and territorial integrity, armed uprising, and commission of "counterrevolutionary" acts (these provisions also were in the earlier Special Penal Code); breach of trust by public officials and economic offenses, including grain hoarding, illegal currency transactions, and corruption; and abuse of authority, including "improper or brutal" treatment of a prisoner, unlawful detention of a prisoner, and creating or failing to control famine.

The Amended Special Penal Code also abolished the Special Military Courts and created new Special Courts to try offenses under the Amended Special Penal Code. Special Courts consisted of three civilian judges and applied the existing criminal and civil procedure codes. Defendants had the right to legal representation and to appeal to a Special Appeal Court.


The crime rate in Ethiopia is low compared to industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Ethiopia. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Ethiopia will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 5.48 for Ethiopia, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 1.12 for Ethiopia, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 5.01 for Ethiopia, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 71.61 for Ethiopia, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 1.79 for Ethiopia, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 28.92 for Ethiopia, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 2.06 for Ethiopia, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was only 115.99 per 100,000 population, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.


Between 1995 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 14.65 to 5.48 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 63.6%. The rate for rape increased from .76 to 1.12, an increase of 47.4%. The rate of robbery decreased from 9.11 to 5.01, a decrease of 45.0%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 49.76 to 71.61 per 100,000, an increase of 43.9%. The rate for burglary decreased from 2.61 to 1.79, a decrease of 1.79. The rate of larceny decreased from 44.83 to 28.92, a decrease of 35.5%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 1.69 to 2.06, an increase of 21.9%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 123.41 to 115.99, a decrease of 6%.


The legal system of Ethiopia is currently transitional mix of national and regional courts. Briefly occupied by Italy from 1936 to 1941, although Eritrea under Italian rule from 1886 to 1941. During WWII, British defeated Italians and established protectorate over Eritrea. 1950 UN Resolution to unify Eritrea and Ethiopia implemented in 1952. Civil Code passed in 1960 governs civil, religious and customary law marriages. Armed movement for Eritrean independence began in 1961. 1974 military coup ended Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule and newly installed rulers oriented towards Marxism. All religions, including Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, officially placed on equal footing under new regime. Eritrean People’s Liberation declared Provisional Government of Eritrea in May 1991 and same year military rule in Ethiopia brought to an end with coalition government. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia established in August 1995. Although Ethiopians have long depended on written laws, the criminal legal system observed at the time of the 1974 revolution was of relatively recent origin. The first integrated legal code, the Fetha Nagast (Law of Kings), was translated from Arabic in the mid-fifteenth century. Attributed to a thirteenth-century Egyptian Coptic scholar, it was inspired by the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), the New Testament, canons of the Christians' early church councils, Roman civil law, and tenets of Quranic law. However, the Fetha Nagast applied only to Christians. Muslims who became subject to Ethiopian rule through conquest continued to be judged in their own courts according to sharia law. Also, outside the ordinary judicial system, clan and tribal courts exercised unofficial but effective coercive powers, and people rarely appealed their decisions to regular courts.


As a result of insurgencies affecting a large part of the country in the 1970s and after, questions of internal security and public order became inseparable from the general problem of national security. Revisions made to the penal code in 1976 helped blur the distinction between political opposition to the government (defined as criminal activity) and categories of crime against persons and property. Army security services and counterinsurgency units assumed many functions formerly assigned to the national police's paramilitary and constabulary units, and local law enforcement was delegated largely to the civilian paramilitary People's Protection Brigades, drawn from peasant association and kebele defense squads. Although criminal investigation remained an important part of the mission of the national police, units of its heavily armed Mobile Emergency Police Force were employed in pursuing insurgents and rooting out political dissidents. The gradual isolation of the Mengistu regime during the 1980s meant that these and other measures designed to suppress internal dissent remained in force until the military government collapsed.

In traditional Ethiopian society, customary law resolved conflicts, and families usually avenged wrongs committed against their members. The private armies of the nobility enforced law in the countryside according to the will of their leaders. In 1916 the imperial government formed a civilian municipal guard in Addis Ababa to ensure obedience to legal proclamations. The general public despised the municipal guard, nearly all of whose members were inefficient at preserving public order or investigating criminal activities.

In 1935 the emperor authorized the establishment of formal, British-trained police forces in Addis Ababa and four other cities. Seven years later, he organized the Imperial Ethiopian Police under British tutelage as a centralized national force with paramilitary and constabulary units. In 1946 the authorities opened the Ethiopian Police College at Sendafa. In 1956 the imperial government amalgamated the separate city police forces with the national police force. Initially administered as a department of the Ministry of Interior, the national police had evolved, by the early 1970s, into an independent agency commanded by a police commissioner responsible to the emperor.

Local control over police was minimal, despite imperial proclamations that granted police authority to governors general of the provinces. Assistant police commissioners in each of the fourteen provinces worked in conjunction with the governors general, but for the most part Addis Ababa directed administration. The Territorial Army's provincial units, commanded by the governor general and by an unpaid civilian auxiliary in areas where police were scarce, assisted the national police force. Police posts were found in all cities and larger towns and at strategic points along the main roads in the countryside. The police usually recruited local men who were familiar with the social values of the areas in which they served; however, the populace rarely looked upon such individuals with affection. Police operations generally emphasized punishment rather than prevention.

In 1974 the national police numbered approximately 28,000 in all branches, including 6,000 in the Mobile Emergency Police Force; 1,200 frontier guards; and a 3,200-member commando unit with rapid reaction capability. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) supplied the paramilitary police with weapons and vehicles and installed a nationwide teleprinter system, while Israeli counterinsurgency specialists trained commandos and frontier guards. About 5,000 constabulary police, mostly recruited locally, served in Eritrea, as did 2,500 commandos.

After the 1974 overthrow of Haile Selassie, the new Marxist government severely circumscribed the authority of the national police, which had been identified with the old regime and regional interests. The authorities accused constables of protecting landowners against peasants in the countryside, of arresting supporters of the military regime in Addis Ababa, and of being members of the "rightist opposition." In Eritrea, however, the army already had taken over police functions in January 1975 from local police units suspected of being sympathetic to the secessionists. The Asmera police voluntarily stayed at their posts for some time after their dismissal to protect civilians from attack by unruly soldiers.

In 1977 the Mengistu regime reorganized the national police, placing a politically reliable commissioner in command. A security committee formulated policy, which then was implemented by the Ministry of Interior. The army assumed a larger role in criminal investigation and in maintaining public order. People's Protection Brigades took over local law enforcement duties previously assigned to the constabulary. As a result of these changes, by 1982 the strength of the national police had declined to about 17,000. Mengistu also created the army's new Eighth Division from police commando units. Other special units joined the augmented 9,000-member paramilitary Mobile Emergency Police Force for employment in counterinsurgency operations.

The Directorate of Police, which reported to the commissioner, included the special Criminal Investigation Branch, which had the role in directing police counterinsurgency activities through regional branch offices. Another branch of the directorate investigated economic crimes, particularly smuggling and other forms of illicit commerce. The Revolutionary Operations Coordinating Committee, organized at the subregion level, cooperated with the police in battling smuggling and economic sabotage.

The Marxist regime stressed that the mission of the national police was essentially political--more involved with suppressing political dissent as the local law enforcement role shifted to People's Protection Brigades. Mengistu described the police mission as contributing to the "intensification of the class struggle."

The government adopted a policy whereby police constables were recruited at an early age and trained in their native regions. Training was designed to allow police stationed in remote areas to be self-sufficient in building and maintaining their posts. Training standards were not uniform, and, unless it took place in Addis Ababa, inservice or specialized training was limited. In politically stable rural areas where duty requirements and supervision were less exacting, the police were less efficient than their urban counterparts. A high percentage of rural constables could neither read nor write and therefore did not keep records of their activities. Many crimes were considered to be matters concerning only the persons involved and were often ignored by the police unless one of the interested parties filed a complaint.

The Addis Ababa police, by contrast, were organized into uniformed, detective, and traffic units; a riot squad, or "flying column"; and a police laboratory--organizational refinements not found in regional police units. A small number of women served in police units in large cities. Generally, they were employed in administrative positions or as guards for female prisoners. National police officers were paid according to the same standardized wage scale that applied to members of the armed forces.

As a rule, police in constabulary units were armed only with batons. Small arms usually were kept in designated armories and were issued for specific duties. Matériel used by paramilitary units included heavy machine guns, submachine guns, automatic rifles, side arms, mortars, grenades, tear gas, light armored vehicles, and other equipment adaptable to riot control and counterinsurgency operations. Larger police units, such as the one in Addis Ababa, were also equipped with modern military vehicles, which were used as patrol cars and police vans. In many rural areas, however, horses and mules were often the sole means of transportation for constables.

Officers usually were commissioned after completion of a cadet course at the Ethiopian Police College at Sendafa, near Addis Ababa. Staffed by Swedish instructors, the school opened in 1946, but since 1960 the faculty had consisted entirely of Ethiopians who were police college graduates. Candidates for the two-year course had to have a secondary school education or its equivalent. After the Derg took power, the government increased enrollment to bring new blood into the national police; from 1974 to 1979, about 800 graduates received commissions as second lieutenants.

Instruction at the college included general courses in police science, criminal law, tactics, traffic control, sociology, criminology, physical education, and first aid, as well as political indoctrination. Practical training was offered midway in the program and sometimes entailed field service in troubled areas. Those few cadets who had passed their final examinations with distinction were selected for further specialized training. The police college also offered short-term courses and refresher training for service officers. It cooperated with the army in training military police in traffic control and criminal investigation techniques. By the end of 1990, the police college had graduated a total of 3,951 officer cadets in the years since its establishment in 1946.

Presently, the security forces consist of the military and the police, both of which are responsible for internal security. The police in previous years were subordinate to the Ministry of Justice and reported to the Security, Immigration, and Refugees Affairs Authority (SIRAA); however, after the October reorganization of the federal Government, the Federal Police Commission and the Federal Prisons Administration became subordinate to the new Ministry of Federal Affairs. The military consists of both air and ground forces and reports to the Ministry of National Defense. Following the end of fighting between Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces in 2000, some Ethiopian troops were demobilized, and others were redeployed from the border area in Tigray to other regions throughout the country, which increased the internal military presence in some parts of the Somali, Oromiya, and the Southern Regions. Military forces continued to conduct an increased number of low-level operations against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Somalia-based Al'Ittihad Al' Islami terrorist organization, and elements of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) both in the country and in southern Somalia and northern Kenya. Some local officials and members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.

Human rights violations by the police have been reported for the year 2001. The security forces committed a number of extrajudicial killings, including some alleged political killings during the year. There were no confirmed reports of disappearances perpetrated by the Government, and unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. The Constitution prohibits the use of torture and mistreatment; however, there were credible reports that security officials sometimes beat or mistreated detainees. Government media published occasional reports of officials who were detained or dismissed for abuse of authority and violations of human rights. There were credible reports that the military harassed SEPDC supporters.


The Constitution and both the criminal and civil codes prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention; however, the Government does not always respect these rights in practice. Under the criminal procedure code, any person detained must be charged and informed of the charges within 48 hours and, in most cases, be offered release on bail. The Constitution provides that arrested persons have the right to be released on bail; however, some offenses, such as murder, treason, and corruption, are not bailable. In most cases, bail is set between approximately $120 (1,000 birr) and approximately $1,200 (10,000 birr). Those persons believed to have committed serious offenses may be detained for 14 days while police conduct an investigation, if a panel of judges orders it, and for additional 14-day periods while the investigation continues. In practice and especially in the outlying regions, authorities regularly detain persons without a warrant, do not charge them within 48 hours, and--if persons are released on bail--never recall them to court. There were reports that in small towns, persons were detained in police stations for long periods without access to a judge and that sometimes these persons' whereabouts were unknown for several months. Thousands of criminal suspects remained in detention without charge; many of the detainees were accused of involvement in OLF terrorist activities or arrested after the April student demonstrations. Often these lengthy detentions are due to the severe shortage and limited training of judges, prosecutors, and attorneys; however, detainees often remain in custody without charge or without bail for long periods of time in high profile cases that are considered to be somewhat political, including those detained for corruption or detainees who are opposition members. Such cases have been remanded at least 10 to 15 times, for 2 weeks each time, and courts allow police to conduct investigations that continue for months. In addition judges have been shifted among cases, judges fail to show up for hearings, or new judges are not reassigned upon the death or incapacity of assigned judges in time for hearing dates. Detention conditions were poor. Federal and regional authorities arrested and detained persons without charge or trial for activities allegedly in support of armed opposition groups. The law requires judicial search warrants; however, they seldom are obtained outside of Addis Ababa in practice.


Regular courts exist at four levels: the Supreme Court in Addis Ababa; the High Court sits in all provincial capitals; awraja courts at next administrative subdivision; and woreda courts at district level. Under 1944 legislation, shari’a courts are organized into three levels: Naiba Councils serve as courts of first instance, Kadis’ Councils as intermediate courts and Court of Shari’at as highest court. Shari’a courts have jurisdiction in two kinds of cases. First are: marriage, divorce, maintenance, guardianship of minors, and family relationships; provided that marriage to which case pertains was concluded under Islamic law or parties are all Muslims. Second are: cases concerning wages, gifts, succession, or wills, provided that donor is a Muslim or deceased was a Muslim at time of death.

The constitution provided for Ethiopia's first independent judiciary. Traditionally, the Supreme Court and various lower courts were the responsibility of the Ministry of Law and Justice. After Haile Selassie's overthrow, much of the formal structure of the existing judicial structure remained intact. Over the years, regional and district level courts were reformed somewhat. However, the new constitutional provisions had the potential to change Ethiopia's national judicial system significantly. The constitution stipulated that judicial authority was vested in "one Supreme Court, courts of administrative and autonomous regions, and other courts established by law." Supreme Court judges were elected by the National Shengo; those who served at the regional level were elected by regional shengos (assemblies). In each case, the judges served terms concurrent with that of the shengo that elected them. The Supreme Court and higher courts at the regional level were independent of the Ministry of Law and Justice, but judges could be recalled by the relevant shengo. The Supreme Court was responsible for administering the national judicial system. The court's powers were expanded to oversee all judicial aspects of lesser courts, not just cases appealed to it. At the request of the prosecutor general or the president of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court could review any case from another court. Noteworthy is the fact that, in addition to separate civil and criminal sections, the court had a military section. In the late 1980s, it was thought that this development might bring the military justice system, which had been independent, into the normal judicial system. However, it became evident that it would be some time before the Supreme Court could begin to serve this function adequately. Between 1987 and 1989, the government undertook a restructuring of the Supreme Court with the intent of improving the supervision of judges and of making the administration of justice fairer and more efficient. The Supreme Court Council was responsible for overseeing the court's work relating to the registration and training of judges and lawyers. The Supreme Court Council's first annual meeting was held in August 1988, at which time it passed rules of procedure and rules and regulations for judges. Although the government reported that the courts were becoming more efficient, it admitted that there was much to be done before the heavy case burden of the courts could be relieved. Chapter 15 of the constitution established the Office of the Prosecutor General, which was responsible for ensuring the uniform application and enforcement of law by all state organs, mass organizations, and other bodies. The prosecutor general was elected by the National Shengo for a five-year term and was responsible for appointing and supervising prosecutors at all levels. In carrying out their responsibilities, these officials were independent of local government offices. Local tribunals, such as kebele tribunals and peasant association tribunals, were not affected by the 1987 constitution. People's courts were originally established under the jurisdiction of peasant associations and kebeles. All matters relating to land redistribution and expropriation were removed from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Law and Justice and placed under the jurisdiction of the peasant association tribunals, whose members were elected by association members. In addition, such tribunals had jurisdiction over a number of minor criminal offenses, including intimidation, violation of the privacy of domicile, and infractions of peasant association regulations. The tribunals also had jurisdiction in disputes involving small sums of money and in conflicts between peasant associations, their members, and other associations. Appeals from people's tribunals could be filed with regional courts. Kebele tribunals had powers similar to those of their counterparts in peasant associations.

A notable feature of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is that it accords a dignified and crucial position to the Judiciary. Ethiopia's judicial machinery is well ordered and well regulated, with the Supreme Court at the apex. The Ethiopian Government is federal in nature. Ethiopia has a dual system of courts - a Federal Judiciary with the Supreme Court at the top along with a separate and parallel judicial system in each Regional State. The Federal Supreme Court, the Federal High Court and the Federal First Instance Court constitute a single Federal Judiciary, having jurisdiction over all cases pertaining to federal matters. Likewise, there is a similar court structure in each Regional State that has jurisdiction over all regional matters. The Judiciary in Ethiopia has been assigned a significant role. It has to dispense justice not only between individuals, but also between the state and the citizens. It interprets and applies all the laws of the land. To enable the courts to discharge their functions impartially, without fear or favor, the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia contains provisions which guarantee and safeguard independence. Thus, independence of the Judiciary is enshrined in the Constitution for the first time, which is rightly considered a historic landmark. The judges of the Federal Courts are appointed by the House of Peoples' Representatives and the Regional State judges are appointed by the Regional State Council, after consultation with those most competent to advise on the subject - the Federal Judicial Administration Commission and the State Judicial Administration Commission.

Once appointed, the judges hold office until they reach pension age, which is sixty (60) years according to the law, and thus their tenure is independent of the will of the executive. A special procedure has been laid down for removal of judges on the grounds of incompetence, inefficiency or misbehavior. The legal provisions concerning the Judiciary go a long way in establishing within Ethiopia a government according to law. In the past several years, the courts have been allowed to work in an atmosphere of independence of action and judgment and are insulated from all kinds of pressure, political or otherwise. Judges are supposed to exercise their function in full independence and shall be directed solely by the law. The Federal Supreme Court draws up and submits the Federal Court budget to the House of Peoples' Representatives for approval and, upon approval, administers the budget. The transfer, salary, allowance and other benefits of federal judges are decided by the Federal Judicial Administration Commission. Employment and appointment of the Federal Court Personnel are to be made by the President of the Supreme Court in Consultation with the Presidents of the High Court and the Federal Supreme Courts.

Hence, the Judiciary in Ethiopia constitutes a constitutional organ which acts as a countervailing power to the Executive and the Legislature. The court is playing an important role in keeping a responsible system of government in proper working order and protecting the rights of the people.

Presently, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the judiciary remained weak and overburdened. Although the federal and regional courts continued to show signs of judicial independence, in practice severe shortages of adequately trained personnel in many regions, as well as serious financial constraints, combined to deny many citizens the full protections provided for in the Constitution.

Consistent with the Constitution, the Government continued to decentralize and restructure the judiciary along federal lines with the establishment of courts at the district, zonal, and regional levels. The federal High Court and federal Supreme Court hear and adjudicate original and appeal cases involving federal law, transregional issues, and national security. The regional judiciary is increasingly autonomous, with district (woreda), zonal, high, and supreme courts mirroring the structure of the federal judiciary. In 2000 the president of the federal High Court created two new three-judge benches at the High Court level to handle criminal cases. The Special Prosecutor's Office has delegated some of the war crimes trials to the supreme courts in the regions where the crimes allegedly were committed, which has increased the efficiency of the process.

The Constitution provides legal standing to some preexisting religious and customary courts and gives federal and regional legislatures the authority to recognize other courts. By law all parties to a dispute must agree before a customary or religious court may hear a case. Shari'a (Islamic) courts may hear religious and family cases involving Muslims. In addition other traditional courts still function. Although not sanctioned by law, these courts resolve disputes for the majority of citizens who live in rural areas and who generally have little access to formal judicial systems.

The outbreak of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea adversely impacted the military justice system. Most foreign assistance to train officers and noncommissioned officers was suspended at the same time that the rapid expansion of the military greatly increased the need for trained military lawyers and judges; this suspension in assistance continued during the year.

Regional offices of the federal Ministry of Justice monitor local judicial developments, and the regional courts have jurisdiction over both local and federal matters, but the federal judicial presence in the regions is limited nevertheless. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some local officials believe they will no longer be held accountable to a higher authority. However, unlike in the previous year, local government officials in some areas did not ignore instructions from the NEB on the acceptance of candidate endorsement signatures from opposition party candidates.

To remedy the severe lack of experienced staff in the judicial system, the Government continued to identify and train lower court judges and prosecutors, although officials acknowledge that the pay scale offered does not attract the required numbers of competent professionals. Senior government officials charged with judicial oversight estimate that the creation of a truly independent and skilled judicial apparatus would take decades. The Government has welcomed foreign financial and technical assistance to accelerate this process. Pending the passage by regional legislatures of laws particular to their region, all judges are guided by the federal procedural and substantive codes.

According to the Constitution, accused persons have the right to a public trial by an ordinary court of law within a reasonable time after having been charged. Accused persons have the right to be represented by legal counsel of their choice. However, in practice, lengthy pretrial detention was common, closed proceedings occurred, and at times, detainees were allowed little or no contact with their legal counsel. The public defender's office provides legal counsel to indigent defendants, although its scope remains severely limited, especially with respect to SPO trials. The law does not allow the defense access to prosecutorial evidence before the trial.

The Constitution provides that persons arrested have the right to be released on bail. Certain offenses such as capital crimes and corruption are not bailable.

Authorities detained hundreds of persons without charge for supposed involvement with the OLF and the ONLF. Such cases often reflect arbitrary actions on the part of local officials but also result from an overburdened and cumbersome judicial system marked by a shortage of trained and competent prosecutors and judges.

The SPO was established in 1992 to create an historical record of the abuses committed during the Mengistu Government and to bring to justice those criminally responsible for human rights violations. The SPO has the authority to arrest and interrogate anyone suspected of involvement in the Red Terror Campaign under Mengistu. The federal High Court has considered the cases of 2,658 defendants accused of genocide, war crimes, and aggravated homicide. Trials began in 1994 and continued during the year; however, the process is subject to frequent and lengthy adjournments. Court appointed attorneys, sometimes with inadequate skills and experience, represent many of the defendants, following claims that they could not afford an adequate defense. Of the 5,198 defendants, the Government is trying 2,952 in absentia, including former dictator Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, who remained in exile in Zimbabwe. Cases continued to be handled more quickly than in previous years; however, most cases still were in progress at year's end. Between July 2000 and July, several SPO defendants were released on bail, and 328 were acquitted. During the same period, 478 defendants were convicted, with sentences ranging from death to release for time already served. During the year, the SPO opened a new case against persons accused of participating in the 1987 Hawzein Massacre; the majority of those named in the file have been charged already with other offenses. There was no further action taken on the case by year's end.


Detailed information on Ethiopia's prison system was limited. Only generalized data were available on prison installations.

Although the imperial regime achieved some progress in the field of prison reform, most prisons failed to adopt modern penological methods. Government-published figures on prison populations since 1974 were considered incomplete and misleading. Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organization, and a few individuals who survived detention and escaped from the country have described prison conditions in a critical light.

The administrator of prisons managed the national penal system. Each administrative unit--including kifle hager (region), awraja (subregion), and wereda (district)--had at least one prison. Addis Ababa's Akaki (or Central) Prison, considered Ethiopia's most modern penal facility in 1974, was the central prison for Shewa. Akaki had separate facilities for female political prisoners. The largest number of political prisoners, approximately 1,500 in 1989, was housed in Akaki's maximum security section. Reportedly, the government had jailed political dissidents at numerous other prisons in Addis Ababa, including Fourth Division headquarters; the Third Police Station, which also served as national police headquarters and an interrogation center; and the Grand (Menelik's) Palace. Asmera, another center for political prisoners, had penal facilities at three locations. Most police stations and army garrisons also had jails. Each kebele and peasant association operated a jail in its jurisdiction. Association headquarters in each wereda and awraja also had prisons.

A prison farm at Robi in Arsi provided facilities for about 850 prisoners. In 1978 the government proposed a plan for deploying large numbers of inmates imprisoned for minor offenses to work on minimum-security state farms as part of the agricultural development plan. A single institution oversaw the rehabilitation of male juvenile criminal offenders. There was no comparable facility for female juvenile offenders, who usually were placed in the custody of their parents or guardians. In exceptional pre-1974 cases, the authorities jailed juveniles in larger prisons. After the emergence of the Marxist regime, a large but unspecified number of youthful political detainees of both genders were held in prisons and association jails. Many were released after a period of "political rehabilitation."

Historically, prison life in Ethiopia was gloomy and for political prisoners extremely brutal. The so-called process of rehabilitation often consisted of severe beatings, exhausting work and calisthenics, and political indoctrination. A public confession normally was proof of rehabilitation; in some cases, a political detainee's willingness to torture fellow prisoners was regarded as an indication of his penitence. Recreational facilities were rare, and no program existed to assist prisoners after their release. Punishment was the major concern of prison officials. Conditions in smaller, more remote prisons were worse than in the prisons of Addis Ababa, and peasant association jails were worse yet. As part of a program in the late 1970s to expand and improve the Ethiopian prison system, the Cuban government reportedly constructed new prisons that included facilities for solitary confinement.

In its 1978 report on human rights violations in Ethiopia, Amnesty International stated that Ethiopian prisons had failed to abide by UN regulations for the treatment of prisoners. A large number of prisoners might share a common cell. In the Central Prison's maximum security section, for example, Amnesty International reported that as many as fifty prisoners shared cells measuring four meters by four meters. Ad hoc committees--organized in each cell for selfimposed discipline, food distribution, care of the sick and aged, and orientation of new inmates--often communalized food and luxuries, such as tea and tobacco, donated by relatives. Complaints reached Amnesty International that cells were infested with pests and were unventilated and lacking the most basic sanitary facilities. Medical attention was generally inadequate and not even available at all facilities. Even seriously ill prisoners rarely received hospital treatment, and many died of natural causes aggravated by their imprisonment. Cell mates viewed death as a means of relieving the gross overcrowding typical of facilities housing political prisoners during the late 1970s. The authorities usually informed families of the death of their relatives by telling them "food is no longer necessary."

Although conditions in Addis Ababa's Central Prison improved somewhat by the late 1980s, most prison facilities remained substandard. In 1989 Amnesty International reported that individuals incarcerated in government-operated prisons were held in poor and sometimes harsh conditions. However, the report noted that prisons were subject to formal regulations, and there were few reports of torture.

The human rights organization also indicated that conditions in the Central Prison, which Menelik II had built in the nineteenth century, had improved in the 1980s. The prison's 4,500 inmates were allowed regular family visits, and relatives were permitted to send food, laundry, books, medicine, and other "comfort" items to jailed family members. Although the Central Prison provided basic medical treatment, the authorities authorized prisoners to see an independent physician or to seek treatment at local hospitals. During daylight hours, prisoners were free to associate with each other. The Central Prison opened a shop where small items were sold; a nursery and a primary school were established for children who stayed with their imprisoned mothers; and a secondary school was created where prisoners taught or studied. Additionally, prisoners were free to open their own recreational and educational facilities. Despite these findings, however, Amnesty International concluded that the Central Prison suffered from "inadequate medical care, poor hygiene, delays in obtaining professional medical or hospital treatment, overcrowding of cells . . . [and] . . . epidemics of cholera and meningitis." In addition, conditions at other special detention centers were substandard.

In regional prisons, Amnesty International found prison conditions to be much worse than those in Addis Ababa because of greater overcrowding and poorer hygiene and medical facilities. Prison authorities in Asmera, Mekele, and Harer subjected inmates to harsher restrictions than did authorities in the capital. In Harer and other unstable areas, civilian political prisoners often were held in military custody at military facilities under more severe conditions than were found in other prisons.

Emphasis in larger prisons was placed on work during confinement for criminal offenders, but these activities generally were limited to individuals serving long sentences. Priority was given to production, and there was little effort to provide vocational training. The largest prison industry was weaving, which was usually done on primitive looms. The prison weavers produced cotton material used for making clothes and rugs. Carpentry was a highly developed prison industry, and inmates produced articles of relatively good quality. Other prison industries included blacksmithing, metalworking, jewelry making, basket weaving, flour milling, and baking. Those short-term prisoners not absorbed into established prison industries worked in gardens that provided food for some of the penal institutions.

Income from materials produced by prison labor was applied to the upkeep of penal facilities. Prisoners received about 10 percent of the proceeds derived from the sale of items, but typically most of these funds were dedicated to communal projects intended to improve prison amenities. Although prison industries were not geared to rehabilitation, some inmates acquired useful skills. In certain cases, the government permitted work furloughs for some classes of political prisoners.

Most prison guards were military veterans who had received small plots of land in exchange for temporary duty at a prison. Under this system, the guards changed frequently as the duty rotated among a number of such persons living in the vicinity of a penal institution.

Presently, prison conditions are poor, and overcrowding remains a serious problem. Prisoners often are allocated fewer than 21.5 square feet of sleeping space in a room that may contain up to 200 persons. Prison food is inadequate, and many prisoners have food delivered to them every day by family members or use their own funds to purchase food from local vendors. Prison conditions are unsanitary, and access to medical care is not reliable. There were some deaths in prison during the year due to illness and disease. Prisoners typically are permitted daily access to prison yards, which often include working farms, mechanical shops, and rudimentary libraries. Visitors generally are permitted; however, some family members were not permitted to visit relatives detained at Zeway prison following the April AAU demonstrations. Prison letters all must be written in Amharic, making outside contact difficult for non-Amharic speakers; however, this restriction generally is not enforced. Female prisoners are housed separately from men; however, juveniles sometimes are incarcerated with adults. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports that prison guards raped female prisoners. In September 2000, the prison guard arrested for raping a female prisoner in 2000 was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison during the year. Pretrial detainees often are detained separately from convicted prisoners at local police stations or in the limited Central Investigation Division (CID) detention facility in Addis Ababa, until they are charged. By year's end, there were 75 detainees at CID. The law requires that prisoners be transferred to federal prisons upon conviction; however, it was believed that this requirement sometimes was not complied with in practice.


Domestic violence, including wife beating and marital rape, is a pervasive social problem. While women have recourse to the police and the courts, societal norms and limited infrastructure inhibit many women from seeking legal redress, especially in rural areas. Social practices obstruct investigations into rape and the prosecution of the rapist, and many women are not aware of their rights under the law. It is estimated that there are more than 1,000 rapes a year in Addis Ababa alone; however, only 168 rape convictions were handed down nationwide from September 1999 to September 2000. The number of reports by rape victims to police and the amount of press reporting of rape cases have increased. For example, there were several articles in the government press about violence against women during the year. The major exception is in cases of marriage by abduction where the perpetrator is not punished if the victim agrees to marry him (unless the marriage is annulled); even after a perpetrator is convicted, the sentence is commuted if the victim marries him. Rape sentences have increased incrementally from 10 to 13 years, in line with the 10 to 15 years prescribed by law; however, rapists generally remain in prison for a period of between 7 and 10 years. A prison guard arrested for raping a female prisoner in 2000 was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison. There were credible reports that members of the military who were redeployed from border areas to other regions sexually harassed and raped some young women.

Although illegal, the abduction of women and girls as a form of marriage still is practiced widely in the Oromiya region and the SNNPRS. Forced sexual relationships often accompany most marriages by abduction, and women often are abused physically during the abduction. Abductions have led to conflicts between families, communities, and ethnic groups.

The majority of girls undergo some form of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is condemned widely by international health experts as damaging to both physical and psychological health. The National Committee on Traditional Practices of Ethiopia (NCTPE) conducted a survey that was published in 1998, which indicated that 72.7 percent of the female population had undergone FGM, down from an estimated 90 percent of the female population in 1990. Clitoridectomies typically are performed 7 days after birth and consist of an excision of the labia. Infibulation--the most extreme and dangerous form of FGM--is performed at any time between the age of 8 and the onset of puberty. The law does not specifically prohibit FGM, although it is discouraged officially, and the Government has been very supportive of the NCTPE. The Government also is working to discourage the practice of FGM through education in public schools.

Thousands of women traveled to the Middle East as industrial and domestic workers. There were credible reports that some female workers were abused in these positions.


Societal abuse of young girls continues to be a problem. FGM is performed on the majority of girls.

Other harmful traditional practices surveyed by the NCTPE included uvulectomy, milk-teeth extraction, early marriage, marriage by abduction, and food and work prohibitions. A new family law adopted in 2000 defines the age of consent as 18 for both females and males; however, early childhood marriage is common in rural areas where girls as young as age 9 are subjected to arranged marriages. In the Afar region of the east, young girls continue to be married to much older men, but this traditional practice is coming under greater scrutiny and criticism. The Tigray Women's Association also has had an impact in changing societal attitudes toward early marriage. Pregnancy at an early age often leads to obstetric fistulae and permanent incontinence. Treatment is available at only 1 hospital in Addis Ababa that performs over 1,000 fistula operations a year. It estimates that for every successful operation performed, 10 other young women need the treatment. The maternal mortality rate is extremely high due, in part, to food taboos for pregnant women, poverty, early marriage, and birth complications related to FGM, especially infibulation.

There are approximately 200,000 street children in urban areas, of which 150,000 reside in Addis Ababa; however, the figures are difficult to estimate, and observers believe the problem is growing. These children beg, sometimes as part of a gang, or work in the informal sector. Government and privately run orphanages are unable to handle the number of street children, and older children often abuse younger children. Due to severe resource constraints, abandoned infants often are overlooked or neglected at hospitals and orphanages. There are a few credible reports that children are maimed or blinded by their "handlers" in order to raise their earnings from begging. Following the April riots, there were reports that authorities rounded up street children; some children reportedly were as young as 7 years old.

Child prostitution continues to be a problem and is perceived widely to be growing. There are no laws that criminalize child prostitution or prostitution in general. The National Steering Committee Against Sexual Exploitation of Children is chaired by the Children, Youth, and Family Affairs Department of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. In 1999 the committee reported that child prostitution is on the increase especially in major urban centers; however, there are no statistics available. NGO's report that girls as young as age 11 are recruited to work in houses of prostitution where they are kept ignorant of the risks of HIV/AIDS infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. There have been many press reports of the large-scale employment of children, especially underage girls, as hotel workers, barmaids, and prostitutes in resort towns and rural truck stops. Unlike in the previous year, there were no reported cases that poor rural families sold their young teenage daughters to hotel and bar owners on the main truck routes; however, the practice is believed to exist. Social workers note that young girls are prized because their clients believe that they are free of sexually transmitted diseases. The unwanted infants of these young girls usually are abandoned at hospitals, police stations, welfare clinics, and adoption agencies. There were numerous anecdotal accounts of young girls going to the Middle East to work as domestic workers and nannies, some of whom were abused, including sexually. Factors aggravating the problem of child prostitution are pervasive poverty, migration to urban centers, early marriage, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and limited educational and job opportunities. There are several NGO's that work with child prostitutes, including the Forum on Street Children-Ethiopia, which provides shelter and protection for child prostitutes trying to get off the streets.


The law and the Constitution prohibit trafficking in persons; however, Ethiopia is a country of origin for trafficked women, and there are reports of internal trafficking. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that rural families sold their daughters to hotel and bar owners on the main truck routes; however, the practice is believed to exist. In 2000 there was a report that a girl was sold by her father to a local man in exchange for cattle; the girl's mother brought the case to the EWLA. The case was prosecuted in the courts, and the father was convicted and sentenced to 2 years in prison; this was the first case of this kind. Although illegal, the abduction of women and girls as a form of marriage still is practiced widely in Oromiya regions and the SNNPRS.

The Government no longer acts as an employment agency for workers going abroad. Private entities now arrange for overseas work and, as a result, the number of women being sent to Middle Eastern countries, particularly Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, as domestic or industrial workers increased significantly. There reportedly is a network of persons based in the tourism and import-export sectors who are involved heavily in soliciting potential clients, recruiting young girls, arranging travel, and fabricating counterfeit work permits, travel documents, and birth certificates. There continued to be credible reports that some domestic workers abroad were subjected to abusive conditions, including sexual exploitation. In addition the employers of the domestics sometimes seize passports, fail to pay salaries, and overwork the domestics, and some domestics were forced to work for their employers' relatives without additional pay. Domestics have been forced to pay a monetary penalty for leaving their employment early. There are reports of confinement and obstruction of contacting family. Reports of abuse decreased after the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs began reviewing the contracts of prospective domestic workers and denying exit visas if the contracts did not appear satisfactory.

Training programs have been implemented for police officers on the criminal aspects of trafficking. These institutions have limited resources and jurisdiction to protect or intervene in cases of prosecution of offending employers. Various laws prohibit trafficking and provide for fines and prison sentences of up to 20 years; however, there have been no reported prosecutions or investigations, due in part to limited resources.

In 1999 the Government formed a committee to study trafficking in persons and develop anti-trafficking programs. The federal police's Women's Affairs Bureau, in collaboration with the media, created a public awareness program on the dangers of migrating to Middle Eastern countries. In 2000 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened a consulate in Beirut to assist women who were trafficked to Lebanon.


Ethiopia is not an important country in money laundering, precursor chemicals production associated with the drug trade, or in the production of narcotic drugs, although the traditional stimulant, khat, is widely produced and exported throughout the region. Ethiopia is strategically located along a major narcotics transit route between Southwest Asian producer countries and Europe. Ethiopia is a party to the 1988 United Nations Drug Convention.

During 1998, Ethiopia hosted a research team sponsored by the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) whose findings were that while heroin, cocaine and other "hard" drugs were not widely used, the consumption of cannabis, khat, and other mind altering substances, such as solvents, paint and glue, was increasing. Another finding was that the trafficking of illegal drugs through Ethiopia would likely increase because of the lack of effective drug control measures. The Ethiopian Counternarcotics Unit (ECNU) maintains an interdiction team at Bole International Airport, which is where its two drug sniffer dogs are primarily employed. The interdiction unit routinely screens passengers, luggage, and cargo on flights arriving from "high risk" origins, i.e. Bangkok, New Delhi, Mumbai, and Islamabad. The sniffer dogs are employed examining cargo, checked luggage, and the arriving aircraft. These searches are conducted routinely with a degree of randomness. Overall, the ECNU needs more training, better facilities, and improved access to resources if it is to prove effective in meeting the growing challenge.

The drug of choice in Ethiopia is cannabis, especially among street children, prostitutes, students, and youths, because it is inexpensive and easily available. Another problem is the increasing cultivation and consumption of khat, which is legal in Ethiopia. Historically, khat was primarily limited to a small portion of the populace, principally Muslim males. The UNDCP researchers discovered that khat use is increasingly common outside this traditional group, especially among women and children.

The use of heroin and other hard drugs is currently quite low but increasing. Much of the increase in the availability and consumption of these hard drugs is caused by the "spillover" effect from the transiting of drug couriers through Bole International Airport. Bole is a major air hub for flight connections between Asia and Africa, and much of the heroin entering and/or transiting Ethiopia comes from Asia. Many of the flights require up to a two day layover in Addis Ababa which permits the introduction of these drugs to the local populace. A major challenge for Ethiopia will be to effectively address and balance domestic and international drug issues. Policy makers need to establish rules and regulations that will strengthen the legal framework for drug control. Currently the maximum sentence for trafficking is two to three years, which does not serve as an effective deterrent to using Ethiopia as a transit country. Additionally, Ethiopia lacks a central coordinating body to coordinate anti-drug activities systematically.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest African countries. Faced with other competing demands, the government lacks sufficient resources to combat the narcotics trade. Domestically, while drug consumption is increasing, it is not yet viewed as a major problem. Internationally, the drugs transiting Ethiopia are not for domestic consumption. and are primarily destined for Europe and, to a lesser extent, the United States, and therefore are not viewed as a priority issue.

The various Ethiopian ministries and agencies involved in counternarcotics are dedicated and committed, but hampered by insufficient resources, both human and material. Lacking their own resources, Ethiopia relies quite heavily on external assistance to combat narcotrafficking, primarily the United States, Germany, and the United Nations.

Criminology Links
Criminal Codes
Incidence of Crime
Drug Trafficking
Legal System
Juvenile Delinquency
Crime Prevention

Other Links
Online literature
Travel tips
International criminal justice agencies
Ethiopian Embassy
News and media
Correspondent email addresses
Distance learning courses
Comparative criminology-related sites

A Comparative Criminology Tour of the World
Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University