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Council Holds Hearing On Constitutional Interpretation


FDRE Council of Constitutional Inquiry held the first hearing session in which several legal experts forwarded amicus curiae brief on the process of constitutional interpretation related to the postponement of the national elections.

The hearing is led by the chairperson of the Council of Constitutional Inquiry Meaza Ashenafi involving the participation of members of the council.

On the opening session of the hearing brief held at Sheraton hotel a written amicus curiae brief prepared by four legal experts; Dr. Solomon Ayele (Human Rights Expert), Dr. Yontan Tesfaye Fiseha (Constitutional expert from South Africa), Dr. Adem Kassie (constitutional expert from the Netherlands), and Dr. Zemelak Aytenew (Law lecturer at AAU) has been presented.

In his presentations on behalf of his colleagues, Dr. Solomon underlined that constitution is unique for it is superior to all laws which impact a political, social and economic spheres of a certain country.

The interpretation process is historic constitutional phenomenon that created an opportunity to put cornerstone for the democratization process of the country.

He lauded the council of enquiry for involving comments of legal experts and live streaming the hearing so that the platform creates clarity to the general public.

Other segments of the community should be given a chance to comment the interpretation of the constitution to make the process more fair and transparent, Dr. Solomon commented.

He urged the council to conduct the inquiry free of any pressure from the government and any concerned body so as to fairly address interest of the public.

International conventions and agreements Ethiopia has signed and adopted so far oblige government to protect human rights of its citizens though legal instruments like the current COVID 19 state of emergency, Dr. Solomon noted.

Measures to taken during the state of emergency should be in accordance with constitutional provisions of the country most the experts agree.

Dr. Solomon listed countries such as Bolivia, North Macedonia, Brazil, Germeny, Kenya, Australia Chilli raussia india, which postponed election, referendum and other legal procedures due to COVID 19 pandemic.

He stressed a need for a clear legislative decree complies with the constitutional legitimacy so as to make the interpretation fair and balanced.

He said the final decision will be made by the house of federation following resolution passed by the council of constitutional inquiry.

Dr. Getachew Assefa, a law lecture at Addis Ababa University, noted that Comments which have been raised against the need for the constitutional interpretation do not consider the current situation in the country.

Considering the fact situation, the state of emergency is acceptable, and the postponement of the election is legal since the country has not made enough preparations for voting due to COVID 19, Dr. Getachew said.

He said constitutional provisions (article 54(1) and 58(3) that terminate the tenure of the house of peoples representatives shall be treated harmonized with article 93(1) which envisages the decree of state of emergency while the country is in crisis like natural hazards and epidemic.

Responding to the questions raised by members of the council of inquiry through virtual technology, Professor Yonathan and Dr. Adem Kassie stressed the need for postponement of national elections due to lack of preparedness amid COVID 19.

The power of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia will not be affected since it is a neutral body, Dr. Adem said.

Professor Yonathan and Dr. Adem shared a view that the Ethiopian constitution does not allow power vacuum so that that the incumbent government is legitimate to stay in power so as to address current circumstances faced by the country and the public at large.

Dr. Zemelak Ayele, to his part, said the interpretation should be done in balanced manner taking all significant perspectives like intents of drafters, provisions set in the constitution.

Chairperson of the Council of Constitutional Inquiry Meaza Ashenafi thanked the experts for their brief on the constitutional interpretation process.