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Formation of Judge Vetting Commission Faces Opposition

The Commission will investigate judges who have complaints lodged against them

March 30 , 2019
By KALIKIDAN HAILU ( FORTUNE STAFF WRITER )


Meaza Ashenafi, chief justice

A proposal for the formation of a vetting commission for judges is facing strong opposition from some legal circles.

The vetting commission was proposed to check on the background of judges, investigate judges that have a history of complaints lodged against them and forward its recommendations to the Federal Judicial Administration Council for final action.

Proposed by the Office of the Chief Justice, Meaza Ashenafi, the commission is intended as a vehicle to restore public trust to the courts and justice system of the country and was presented at a stakeholder discussion on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at Capital Hotel on Haile G. Selassie Avenue.

Abeba Mulat, an outside consultant, hired by the Office of the President of the Supreme Court to advise on the reform process came up with the idea to solve issues related to human resource administration in the court system.


"Different complaints have been lodged accusing some judges of bias, corruption and for having affiliations with political parties," said Solomon Ejigu, communications director at the Federal Supreme Court.

The plan for the commission is to be temporary, with a life span of half a year, with the possibility of extension for two months.


It will have nine members of which two-thirds will be lawyers with at least 15 years of experience.

Chaired by Meaza and her deputy, Solomon Areda, the discussion was attended by lawyers, academics and judges who strongly opposed the formation of the commission.


The complaints against the formation of the commission ranged from accusations of contradiction with the law; overlapping of duty with the Judges Administration Council; being a tool for political purposes; a counterproductive process that erodes confidence among judges; and a means that will result in a high turnover of judges.

Tilahun Teshome (Prof.), a lecturer at Addis Abeba University School of Law, strongly opposed the formation of the commission.

"The recommendation doesn't look like a legal document," Tilahun said. "It looks more like a political document."

Tilahun said that the Dergueand the current ruling party have made similar attempts previously using the process as a tool to target some judges.


Attendants also argued that the drafting process has excluded certain stakeholders, such as the Law & Justice Advisory Council. The Council has 17 members and three subcommittees to recommend reforms in the legal system to the Prime Minister and is chaired by Webeshet Ayele.

During the same session, the Advisory Council presented a bill for the re-establishment of the Federal Judicial Administration Council for discussion. The amendment focuses on the powers of the Council, its membership composition and representation.

Making the courts independent, impartial, accountable and trustworthy are the major reasons for the amendment of the proclamation, according to Mandefrot Belay, chairperson of the subcommittee under the Advisory Council.



PUBLISHED ON Mar 30,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 987]


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