The Judicial Duty to Protect and Enforce Constitutional Rights of Accused Persons Unrepresented by Counsel

Ethiopian Law Review, Vol. 1, 2002

35 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2008

See all articles by Dolores A. Donovan

Dolores A. Donovan

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2002


This article asserts that judges in Ethiopia (as in other nations governed by a constitution which is the supreme law of the land) have a duty to enforce individual rights provisions of the constitution in the course of adjudicating disputes, and that this duty falls especially heavily on judges sitting in criminal cases where the accused has no lawyer - as is the case in the majority of criminal cases in Ethiopia. The article proceeds from two premises. The first is that the human rights provisions of the Ethiopian Constitution of 1994 that apply to criminal defendants are intended to be enforced (and are not merely aspirational). The second is that, although in Ethiopia the formal power of constitutional interpretation may be lodged elsewhere, the Ethiopian judiciary has the power to enforce constitutional provisions relating to the human rights of persons caught up in the criminal justice system. The article concludes that, at critical stages in Ethiopian criminal procedure - especially in the absence of lawyers for the accused - heightened judicial vigilance and, when appropriate, judicial intervention to assert and protect the constitutional rights of the accused are necessary to protect and enforce the Ethiopian constitution and the rights of Ethiopian citizens under that constitution.

Keywords: Ethiopia, comparative law, criminal procedure, criminal justice, human rights, constitutional law, constitutionalism, constitutional enforcement, constitutional interpretation, judiciary, unrepresented defendants, right to counsel, pretrial incarceration, confessions, self-incrimination

Suggested Citation

Donovan, Dolores A., The Judicial Duty to Protect and Enforce Constitutional Rights of Accused Persons Unrepresented by Counsel (August 1, 2002). Ethiopian Law Review, Vol. 1, 2002, Available at SSRN:

Dolores A. Donovan (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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