In a statement issued in May 2020, the International Bar Association Bar Issues Commission (IBA BIC) said its chair, Dr Péter Köves, had sent a report to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and new Attorney General, Adanech Abebe, backing reforms.
So far these include:
a revised anti-terrorism law;
a more liberal media law;
a law to guide future elections; and
a new law to strengthen freedom of association.
The IBA BIC report, Independence of the Lawyer Profession in Ethiopia, is a continuation of IBA support for the legal reform process.
Authored by IBA BIC regional consultant Dr Cord Bruegmann, the report sets out what the IBA BIC considers to be the minimum requirements for establishing a solid framework of self-determined and cooperative lawyers, including the:
independence of the individual lawyer;
independent regulation of lawyers via a stable mandatory bar;
independent supervision of decisions and measures of the regulatory institution(s);
establishment of rules and principles that form a regulated code of conduct; and
allowing the establishment of law firms.
The report includes references to legal instruments that establish and educate the work of independent lawyers, including the United Nations 1990 Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ 2003 Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Fair Trial and Legal Assistance in Africa.
Since 2018, at the request of the Ethiopian Lawyers’ Association (ELA), the IBA BIC has provided advice and recommendations to a working group of the government-appointed Advisory Council for Law and Justice Reform (AC), tasked with researching lawyers’ best practice examples from other jurisdictions and preparing a draft statute for reform of the Ethiopian justice system.
In April 2019, an IBA BIC delegation visited Ethiopia and conducted stakeholder workshops and meetings in Addis Ababa and further afield. The report’s author, Dr Bruegmann, also held discussions with academics, lawyers, federal and regional government representatives, members of the judiciary, the private sector and representatives of civil society organisations, on the challenges facing lawyers in Ethiopia. In August 2019, the AC’s draft statute was submitted to Ethiopia’s then Attorney General. However, in December 2019, the Attorney General unexpectedly presented an alternative draft proclamation. Both drafts are yet to be presented to the Council of Ministers.
Dr Köves, stated in the report: “The IBA wants to congratulate the persons and institutions involved in the process to strengthen the independence of lawyers in Ethiopia so far. The IBA also wishes to voice concern over setbacks to the process, but remains confident that with the changes necessary from an international legal and best standards perspective, significant steps towards the independence of the profession can be reached: thus access to justice, democratisation, economic stability and the rule of law can be improved.”
Ethiopia has undergone considerable reform to move towards democratisation and a more open society under the new leadership of Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, who entered office in April 2018. He has initiated an ambitious programme of reform to build a legislative framework for modernising, democratising and strengthening those institutions relevant for an open society. These reforms have included efforts to address corruption and discrimination in the justice sector.
“The IBA is willing to support the process and to provide assistance for the steps to come, be it in further assisting the ELA and the working group, or in discussions with the Ethiopian government,” Dr Köves said.
The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
In the ensuing 70 years since its creation, the organisation has evolved from an association comprised exclusively of bar associations and law societies to one that incorporates individual international lawyers and entire law firms. The present membership is comprised of more than 80,000 individual international lawyers from most of the world’s leading law firms and some 190 bar associations and law societies spanning more than 170 countries.
The IBA has considerable expertise in providing assistance to the global legal community, and through its global membership, it influences the development of international law reform and helps to shape the future of the legal profession throughout the world.
The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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