Message from the President

Federal Courts are the third branch of the state which has been in operation since the formation of Modern Ethiopia. Though institutional existence is to be equated with the coming into existence of modern Ethiopia, its presence as a separate judicial organ is of a recent phenomenon. For decades, it had been a branch of the Ministry of Justice before it assumed independent existence. It can be observed that it has been a long process for the judiciary to be at this state though the journey is not complete. On top of the steps taken so far in the direction of independence, currently, a regulation is in the pipeline to ensure that the judiciary administers its own administrative staff independent of the civil service regime of the executive branch of government.

This long process and quest for independence is not sought from without merely, but it is also a by-product of the conviction of individual judges to accept and implement the independence promised under the Supreme law of the land. Fear, real or perceived, they harbor, pressure from friends and relatives, or threats and rewards from parties or authorities should not be heeded to if the judiciary is to be independent. Both personal and institutional independence be present so that the country can have the kind of judiciary it aspires. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to work in unison to realize this ideal and complete the process of independence of the judiciary all can rely on. 

The fact that the judiciary is in deficit of public trust compels people to question whatever comes out of the judiciary. In this regard, it can be noted that predictability and quality of judgments is an area which require attention. Accordingly, a series of trainings on areas identified by study will be conducted to build capacity of judges in addition to the aid to be provided by a research unit to be dedicated for this purpose. Apart from the effort to build capacity of judges, ensuring accountability is an essential element of public trust. Even though the extent of the shortfall can be disputed, generally a lot has been done to fully regain public trust. Judges should be independent and be allowed to dispense justice without interference of any sort. It should, however, be underscored that they are believed to carry out their duties guided solely by law. They should be held to account for any transgression and be held to explain culpable acts. Maintaining the balance between accountability and independence should be the focus of the judiciary if it is to realize its mandate. The court is taking and will continue to take a series of measures to increase public trust and maintain the same.

The challenges courts encounter have been in the making for a long time defying efforts made to alleviate them. It requires to revisit the process cases go through by revising both the procedural laws as well as the court process. While the criminal procedure code is in its final stage of enactment, the civil process has not been started, yet. The revision process of the latter will be soon commenced which is believed to revitalize the administration of civil justice. By the same token, courts embarked on re-examining the process in the judiciary to identify bottlenecks and resolve them. In this regard, ICT plays a pivotal role and the court envisions digitization of the whole judicial process in the near future. Connectivity of its courts and branches will be followed by the deployment of case management application to realize digital judicial service. 

Courts are not equipped with the required devices and infrastructure. It is known to visitors and parties that courts do not have the infrastructure needed to accommodate the diversity of visitors in terms of age, health or physical condition, etc. Generally, courts do not have the facility that may enable them to discharge their constitutional duty.  Many of the court rooms are built several years ago, or converted to courtroom though built for other purposes and thus cannot be responsive to the needs of judicial administration. Even those which were built for the purpose are either in miserable condition or are not meant for contemporary needs. Further, considering the number of visitors coming to courts every day, it is essential to equip courts with amenities which cater for the diversity of needs of such visitors. For it is obvious that courts do not have such facilities, it should be a priority to be addressed by courts.

Unlike any organization, the judiciary highly relies on human resource. Laws cannot be given life if someone versed in the law relates them to the facts of the case before it. It is not high caliber, but also high moral standing that is expected of personnel of the judiciary whether, be it in the dispensation of justice or supporting it. The judiciary must be able to attract not only the brightest but also the virtuous. So too, it must be able to retain them providing decent working condition particularly for judges. The judiciary has a long way to go in this regard.

The aspiration to have a judiciary which is independent, impartial and credible calls for successive measures over a period of time. Some of the wrong decisions rendered in the administration of justice cannot be erased overnight, the problems accumulated for years cannot be undone in a blink of an eye, the hope to be realized cannot happen immediately. All stakeholders must discharge their responsibilities in no less vigor than the energy the leadership puts into the making the dreams of the people come true.