The Judiciary and Its Interpretive Power in Ethiopia: A Case Study of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority

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Addis Ababa University


No doubt, the judiciary, if not the only, is the proper custodian of the rule of law and individual rights. This happens only if it has the power to review, at least, acts of the executive for its compliance with higher laws. In Ethiopia, it is evident that an independent judiciary with all judicial function regarding justiciable matters is constitutionally established. It is however constrained from reviewing the constitutionality of laws of any type. However, the border of its power vis-a-vis the House of Federation is beyond clarity and its independence is compromised by the acts of the 'supreme' legislature. The legislature seems to be busy of making laws that contain ouster clause which stripped judicial function contrary to the constitution. Judicial stripping is also made possible to the executive on the guise of delegation of power. The empowerment of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority by regulation to dismiss its employees for 'any reason unknown' yet irreversible by a decision of any judicial organ or other institutions with judicial power is an apparent fact in. this regard. Deprivation of court jurisdiction by the legislature and the executive have also got support from the Council of Constitutional Inquiry (CCI) which stated that the legislature is supreme, empowered to decide on issues of justiciability and limit judicial power. Ironically, the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Bench joined the game and contributed its part in further restricting judicial power. It firmly asserted that there is no inherent power for courts in Ethiopia but a power that emanates from legislations; a decision that makes the legislature as an organ that determines judicial power. Yet, ordinary courts have a share on eroding their constitutional mandate. They voluntarily relinquish their power for legally ungrounded reasons. The judiciary is left with no power, except when the other two branches will, thus no constitutional guarantee of judicial protection of rights. The effect is worst that rights entrenched in the constitution are made be deprived by ordinary legislations and subordinate laws. The confusion continues between constitutional supremacy and de facto supremacy o/the legislative and executive organs