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Indigent’s Right to State Funded Legal Aid in Ethiopia

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image of International Human Rights Law Review

This article examines the extent to which state-funded legal aid in criminal cases is recognized and implemented in Ethiopia. The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) Constitution and human rights treaties to which Ethiopia is a party recognize an indigent’s right to defense counsel at state expense where the interests of justice so require. However, on the basis of available data collected from the courts, the police stations and prisons, this article finds that the implementing institutions, such as the Office of Public Defenders, are not operating effectively and moreover the public generally lacks legal awareness. These impediments have in turn contributed to a number of indigent accused being tried and convicted without the benefit of legal advice and representation at different stages of proceedings. It has also been found that almost all unrepresented accused have committed serious errors in said proceedings. In addition, lack of legal aid affects the overall justice system since the indigent cannot defend themselves against trained prosecutors armed with state power. In this article it is argued that in order for Ethiopia to implement an indigent’s right to state-funded legal aid, an independent legal aid agency must be established, which should be responsible for the administration of legal aid.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Law, Wolaita Sodo University, School of Law, Ethiopia,


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