A MOVE TOWARDS RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IN ETHIOPIA: ACCOMMODATING CUSTOMARY DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISMS WITH THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
AuthorEnyew, Endalew Lijalem
Restorative justice is an alternative way of thinking about crime and justice which views crime as a violation of a relationship among victims, offenders and community instead of putting a state as a sole victim, and has the objective of “putting right” or “healing” the wrong and to restore the broken relationship in the community. Unlike the restorative justice perspective, the Ethiopian criminal justice system views crime primarily as an offense against the state and a violation of its criminal laws, either in the form of commission or omission. Under the Ethiopian criminal justice system, neither the victims are given an opportunity to fully participate in the process nor is there a legal procedure which enables the public prosecutor to adequately protect the victim`s interest. The focus of the public prosecutor is to convict the accused\offender and get him\her punished, instead of encouraging him\her to take responsibility to undo the wrong he\she has committed. The Ethiopian criminal justice system also excludes the community from participation; and if the community is said to be participating in the process, it is only in the form of providing information about the commission of the crime and appearing as a witness in the criminal proceedings. On the other hand, the customary dispute resolution mechanisms of Ethiopia are playing an important role in resolving crimes of any kind and maintaining peace and stability in the community, though they are not recognized by law. The customary dispute resolution mechanisms are run by elders; involve reconciliation of the conflicting parties and their respective families using different customary rituals; emphasizing on the restitution of victims and reintegration of offenders, and aims at restoring the previous peaceful relationship within the community as well as maintaining their future peaceful relationships by avoiding the culturally accepted practices of revenge. However, despite the fact that Ethiopia`s indigenous knowledge base of customary justice practice is an enormous advantage to implement the ideals of restorative justice in the Ethiopian criminal justice system, restorative justice has not yet taken root in the criminal justice system of Ethiopia. This thesis, therefore, examines whether there is a place for restorative justice in the Ethiopian criminal justice system; examines the compatibility of the Ethiopian customary dispute resolution mechanisms with the core values and principles of the modern restorative justice systems; and assesses the potentials to implement restorative justice ideals by accommodating the customary dispute resolution mechanisms with the formal criminal justice system in the future. The study is conducted based on interviews, legislative analysis, and analysis of other relevant literature. The findings of the study show that the notion of restorative justice is almost non-existent in the current Ethiopian criminal justice system though it manifests some elements of restorativeness. It also shows that the Ethiopian customary dispute resolution mechanisms are compatible with the values and principles of restorative justice though they are not legally recognized and well organized programs; and that a consensus has recently been reached regarding the importance of using customary dispute resolution mechanisms as a basis to implement restorative justice in the Ethiopian criminal justice system.
PublisherUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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Copyright 2013 The Author(s)
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