Human Rights Council
Forum on Minority Issues
24-25 November 2015
Combatting the deep roots of discrimination in the administration of justice
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Somali minority living in the Ogaden province of Ethiopia faces countless problems with the justice
administration system. The deep roots of this discrimination go back to the way central authorities look
at the inhabitants of Ogaden.
Unlike in a State respecting the rule of law, in Ethiopia, and in particular in the Ogaden province, the
charges are brought, “possible proof” presented, the judgement passed, and the sentences carried out
by one and the same hand, namely the military or special police forces. Thus, a person arrested as an
“anti-peace element” or under the law against terrorism that is often used to undermine the most basic
rights of the population, will never see a judge, since there are none in this part of the world. Nearly all
prisoners get their prison sentence after having been tortured in various detention facilities to confess to a
crime they didn’t commit.
Women and teenage girls are the most vulnerable. They are systematically subjected to sexual abuse
from the beginning of their detention which sometimes last a decade. In Ogaden, one cause of
discrimination in the administration of justice has been the decade long marginalisation of the local
population by central authorities at all level, including in the judicial sphere. In order to break down these
barriers, and in accordance with regional autonomy, the State must put an end to the monopoly of
justice within the hands of the military, and grant meaningful participation in the exercise and
administration of justice to the indigenous population. These must be free from any fear and pressure and
have to be trained in the respect of the main international legal instruments and of human rights during
trials. Concepts such as the presumption of innocence, objective analysis of evidence, the right to be
listened to, to be represented by a lawyer, to appeal, to receive a reasoned decision, and to a fair trial,
must be ensured.
Last but not least, the State must allow the training of lawyers and the practice of this profession. The
State has to make sure that free and independent practicing lawyers will be assigned to female
defendants. Any third party interested in the trial, in particular human rights organisations, must have
access to the tribunal.