In 1976, thousands of black school children took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa. In a march more than half a mile long, they protested against the poor quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot dead by security forces. In the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and a thousand more injured.
Making justice accessible to the poor in countries like Ethiopia could be a tricky exercise. When the law is what stands on the way, it becomes nearly impossible
For the second time in a row Ethiopia observed a week-long activities dedicated to create awareness in the justice system. The motto for this year’s justice week, held from April 18-24, 2012, reads: “We strive for Strengthening the Justice System”. On April 17, 2012, at a press conference attended by representatives from the Federal Supreme Court, officials from the Ministry of Justice and Federal Police asserted – rightly – that the people should actively participate to make sure strong judicial system is in place. The issue of access to justice was however what dominated the weeklong events.
The country’s constitution entitles people under custody to a dignified treatment. Recent stories from its prisons reveal otherwise.
Following the infamous mass detention by the police in June 2011 of more than two dozen individuals, unsettling news of physical abuses against the detainees, particularly members of opposition political parties, are widely surfacing.
News of physical abuse emerged after the arrest on June 19, 2011 of Wubshet Taye, deputy editor-in-chief of the Amharic weekly Awramba Times, a newspaper known for its critical view of the Ethiopian government. However, details were sketchy and Wubshet preferred to remain silent after he first indicated that he had been beaten by his interrogators. In the following