Advancing access to justice for the poor and vulnerable through legal clinics in Ethiopia: constraints and opportunities

Author:Mizanie Abate - Alebachew Birhanu, Mihret Alemayehu
Position:Mizanie Abate: LL.B (Addis Ababa University), LL.M (University of Pretoria), PhD (the University of Alabama), Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University, School of Law. Email: <mizanie.abate@aau.edu.et> - Alebachew Birhanu: LL.B (Addis Ababa University), LL.M and M.Phil (University of Oslo), Assistant Professor at Bahir Dar University, ...
Pages:1-31
SUMMARY

The right of access to justice, inter alia, enjoins states to provide legal aid services and employ legal literacy programs. It also ensures access to legal and justice institutions or legal remedies to the indigent and the vulnerable. Although the right of access to justice is guaranteed in Ethiopian laws, it continues to be unavailable to most citizens particularly to the indigent and the... (see full summary)

 
FREE EXCERPT
1
Advancing Access to Justice for the Poor and
Vulnerable through Legal Clinics in Ethiopia:
Constraints and Opportunities
Mizanie Abate,* Alebachew Birhanu,** and Mihret Alemayehu***
Abstract
The right of access to justice, inter alia, enjoins states to provide legal aid
services and employ legal literacy programs. It also ensures access to legal and
justice institutions or legal remedies to the indigent and the vulnerable.
Although the right of access to justice is guaranteed in Ethiopian laws, it
continues to be unavailable to most citizens particularly to the indigent and the
vulnerable because the different mechanisms (designed to ensure access to
justice to these groups) have not been accorded sufficient legal recognition and
are poorly implemented. We argue that law school legal clinics could be among
the viable pursuits in addressing the gap. However, this study reveals that legal
clinics per se are non-existent. In many law schools, the establishment of legal
clinics has been hindered by lack of expertise, commitment of law schools to
run clinical programs and financial problems. Law schools can meaningfully
contribute to fill the gaps of access to justice in Ethiopia, if their legal aid
centers are consolidated and used as legal clinics, and if clinical legal education
is provided in accordance with the curricula designed in 2006 and 2013.
Key terms
Legal clinics, legal aid, access to justice, law schools, Ethiopia
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v11i1.1
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
* Mizanie Abate: LL.B (Addis Ababa University), LL.M (University of Pretoria), PhD (the
University of Alabama), Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University, School of Law.
Email: <mizanie.abate@aau.edu.et>
** Alebachew Birhanu: LL.B (Addis Ababa University), LL.M and M.Phil (University of
Oslo), Assistant Professor at Bahir Dar University, School of Law.
Email: <Alebe2007@gmail.com>
*** Mihret Alemayehu: LL.B (Addis Ababa University), LL.M and M.Phil (University of
Oslo), Lecturer at Bahir Dar University, School of Law. Email: <mhret06@yahoo.com>
2 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 11, No.1 September 2017
Introduction
Regardless of the normative imperatives that necessitate its emergence, the term
access to justice has remained a subject of ongoing debate since its inception.
Different commentators have described the term differently. There has been little
agreement about the meaning of access to justice, and the term “has over time
become politically loaded and thus necessarily problematic”.1 This article does not
deal with various conceptions of access to justice. It rather focuses on the current
concern toward promoting and achieving the social inclusion of the poor and
vulnerable in accessing justice. In view of this, the term access to justice refers to
the ability of individuals or groups to institute cases for alleged infringement of
rights before judicial and quasi-judicial bodies and the possibility for the
adjudicating body to deliver judgment on the “claim in a fair and impartial fashion
on the basis of the evidence and according to the applicable rules of law”.2
The right of access to justice is guaranteed in a number of global and regional
human rights instruments which Ethiopia has adopted.3 In addition to the human
rights instruments, the right of access to justice is also expressly recognized in the
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) Constitution.4
Vulnerable members of the society, such as children, women, people living
with HIV/AIDS and persons with disabilities face difficulties to seek remedies for
the infringement of their rights owing to lack of money, ignorance of the law and
lack of awareness of litigation procedures. Cognizant of this fact, various
jurisdictions, including Ethiopia, have designed a myriad of strategies to ensure
access to justice. These, inter alia, include pro bono service by practicing lawyers,
legal aid services, legal literacy and public interest litigation by law school legal
aid centers and civil society organizations. As a matter of reality, however, access
The authors would like to thank Bahir Dar University for covering the fund needed for
data collection for this research and Mekelle University for giving us the opportunity to
present the earlier version of this work at a National Workshop on the Role of Higher
Education-based Legal Advocacy & Research Centers in Enhancing Access to Justice and
Effective Legal Education, organized by Mekelle University School of Law (Legal Aid
Center and Human Rights Center), Mekelle, Ethiopia (13 June 2015).
1 Estelle Hurter (2011), ‘Access to Justice: to Dream the Impossible Dream?’ 44(3) CILSA,
p. 413.
2 Samuel P. Baumgartner (2011), ‘Does Access to Justice Improve Countries’ Compliance
with Human Rights Norms?: An Empirical Study,’ 44 Cornell International Law Journal,
p. 457. For similar definition, see also M. Elvira Méndez Pinedo (2011), ‘Access to Justice
as Hope in the Dark in Search for a New Concept in European Law’, 1(19) International
Journal of Humanities and Social Science, p. 9.
3 See, for example, article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 2, 3(a),
7(1(a)(c) and (d), 9(4), 14 (1), 14(3)(c) of the ICCPR.
4 The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 1995, Federal Negarit
Gazzeta, Proc. No. 1/1995, No.1, 1st year 1995, arts. 37, 19, 20, 21 and 25.

To continue reading

REQUEST YOUR TRIAL