4(2) Mizan Law Rev. OPERATION AND EFFECT OF PRESUMPTIONS IN CIVIL PROCEEDINGS 259
Since the re-amendment of the Federal Courts Proclamation2 (which
reintroduced the doctrine of precedent in Ethiopia3), the Cassation Division of
the Federal Supreme Court has exercised its (statutory and constitutional)
cassation and precedential powers.4 It has reviewed cases it considered to have
had fundamental errors of law5 and rendered binding precedents. As per Art 2
(1) of the Proclamation, an “interpretation of a law by the Federal Supreme
Court rendered by the Cassation Division with not less than five judges shall be
binding on federal as well as regional (courts) at all levels.” (Emphasis added).
It is, however, important to note that it is the interpretation of a given law (by
2 Federal Courts Proclamation No.25/1996, Fed. Neg Gaz. 2nd Year, No.13.
3 Since 1962 there had been, at least on paper, the principle of stare decisis (or doctrine
of precedent) with regard to interpretation in the Ethiopian legal system. According to
Art 15 of the Courts Proclamation of 1962, (Proclamation No. 195/1962, Neg. Gaz,
22nd year, No.7) decisions of superior courts on matters of law were binding on
subordinate courts. This Proclamation was however repealed thirteen years later by
the Administration of Justice Proclamation No. 52/1975, Neg. Gaz. 35th Year No. 2.
Ethiopia once again re-introduced the doctrine of precedent into her legal system in
2005 by the Federal Courts Proclamation Re-amendment Proclamation No. 454/ 2005,
hereinafter, the Proclamation. This Proclamation entered into force as of 14 June,
2005/ Sene 7, 1997 E.C.
4 By virtue of Art 80-(3) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of
Ethiopia, hereafter the Constitution, and Art 10(1), (2), and (3) of the Federal Courts
Proclamation, the Federal Supreme Court is empowered to review final court
decisions in cassation. It is clear that this court has statutory and constitutional power
of cassation today. Such practice of reviewing in cassation is believed to have been
introduced into Ethiopia for the first time during the era of Emperor Menilik II in
1908. (See Yohannes Heroui (2009), ‘Brief Notes about Cassation Power and its
Procedure’, (in Amharic), Ethiopian Bar Rev. Vol 3, No. 1, at 132. Since 1987,
Ethiopia adopted clear legal frameworks regarding cassation power of the last resort
court in the country. During the Dergue era, Arts 4 & 5 of the Supreme Court
Establishment Proclamation No. 9/1987 expressly gave cassation power to the
Supreme Court. Following the overthrow of the Dergue by the EPRDF (Ethiopian
Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front) in 1991, this was replaced by Art 12 of the
Central Government Courts Establishment Proclamation No. 40/1993 (Neg. Gaz. 52nd
Year.No.25) of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia. This was again followed by
the above cited provisions of the FDRE Constitution and the Federal Courts
Proclamation. At this juncture, it is essential to bear in mind the inherent differences
that exist between cassation power and precedential power of a court.
5 See the decisions of the Cassation Division of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia,
published in various volumes. According to the above-mentioned articles of the
Constitution and the Federal Courts Proclamation only cases that allegedly contain
fundamental or basic errors of law can be reviewed in cassation.