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The Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

The 1957 Penal Code of Ethiopia, was on 9th May of 2005, and a new Criminal Code was  brought into enforcement. The factors that necessitated the revision of the Penal Law of Ethiopia are as follows:

  1. To Incorporate the Modern Legal Concepts: During, nearly half a century? Since the 1957 Penal Code came into enforcement, several radical political, economic and social changes have taken place in Ethiopia. Among the factors that brought the changes, recognition of modern legal concepts by the Constitution and the international agreements ratified by Ethiopia were the major. The important phenomena that have been recognized in the Country in the recent past are:
    1. The equality between religions, nations, nationalities and peoples,
    1. The democratic rights and freedoms of citizens and residents,
    1. The Human rights,
    1. The rights of social groups like women and Children.
  • To Fill in the Lacunae:  The 1957 Penal Code fails to properly address some of the criminal behavior arising out of advances in technology, the complexities of modern life as well as sufferings caused by reason of harmful traditional practices. Some such areas are:
    • The High Jacking of aircraft,
    • Money laundering,
    • Crimes related to corruption and drugs,
    • Grave injuries and sufferings caused to women and children by reason of harmful traditional practices.

It is true that the Constitution guarantees respect for the cultures of peoples, surely it does not intend to support those practices which are scientifically proved to be harmful. It is the responsibility of the legislature, by adopting progressive legislations, to educate and guide the public to discontinue such harmful traditional practices.

  • To Adopt a Comprehensive Criminal Code: It is desirable to adopt a comprehensive Criminal Code by putting together various Criminal provisions in the Negarit Gazeta in a disintegrated manner.  Similarly, since the parallel application of the regular Penal Code, 1957 and the Revised Special Penal Code of the Provisional Military Administration Council 1982 (Proclamation No. 214/1982), in respect of similar matters disregards equality among citizens. The

Comprehensive Criminal Code, 2005 is intended to put an end to such practice.   

  • Punishments for Certain Offences Increased: On the basis of public opinion taken during discussions on the draft Criminal Code, punishments in respect of crimes like rape and aggravated theft have been increased.
  • Matters Concerning the Determination of Sentence Revised: Since it is essential to facilitate the method by which the courts can pass similar punishments on similar cases, some major changes have been made in the provisions of the Code. Provisions of the Penal Code that used to make sentencing complicated and difficult have been amended. Provisions have been inserted which enables the courts to pass the appropriate penalty for each case by carefully examining from the lightest to the severe most punishment. A provision (Art. 88/4) has been introduced requiring the Federal Supreme Court to issue sentencing manual to ensure and control the correctness and uniformity of sentencing.
  • Purpose of Criminal Law and Objectives of Punishment Redefined:  Another important point in respect of the determination of sentence is that, the purpose of Criminal Law is to preserve the peace and security by preventing the commission of crimes and a major means of preventing the commission of crime is punishment. Punishment can deter wrongdoers from committing other crimes; it can also serve as a warning to prospective wrongdoers. Although imprisonment and death are enforced in respect to certain crimes the main objective is to prevent wrongdoers temporarily or permanently from committing further crimes against society. And in such cases with the exception of the death sentence even criminals sentenced to life imprisonment can be released on parole before serving the whole term. In certain instances, convicts can be released on probation without enforcement of the sentence pronounced. This helps wrongdoers to lead a peaceful life and it indicates the major place which the Criminal Law has allocated for their rehabilitation. The fact that wrongdoers, instead of being made to suffer while in prison, take vocational training and participate in academic education, which would benefit them upon their release, reaffirms the great concern  envisaged by the Criminal Code about the reform of criminals. These express provisions in the new Code are included with intention that the Courts should, on passing sentence, take into account the purpose of the CriminalLaw and the different aims of punishment.

      In order to introduce all the above mentioned revisions and to adopt a comprehensive Criminal Code, substantive activities have been undertaken throughout the country. Discussions have been held on the draft Criminal Code prepared by the Ministry of Justice and the Justice and Legal System Research Institute. Legal and medical professionals, psychiatrists, different institutions of higher education and professional associations have made significant contributions through the opinions they have to the enactment of the law.  Representatives of the people selected from different sectors and associations have forwarded important views in discussion forums on the draft laws conducted in Addis Ababa and the regions. Moreover, the opinions of legal scholars and the laws and exigencies of foreign countries have been consulted to enrich the content of the Criminal Code.      It is hoped that the new Code will ensure respect for order, peace and security of the state and its peoples as well as respect for the rights and freedoms of its citizens and inhabitants. The Code is also expected to accelerate the economic progress of the State, strengthen   a steady order of free market and above all contribute towards the promotion of a fair judicial system in the country.

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