The Eritrean Judiciary: Struggling for Independence
Eritrean Law Society Occasional Paper No. 7
14 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2010
Date Written: May 1, 2001
In this paper which was also presented to scholars and professionals in a seminar organized by the Eritrean Studies Association in Asmara, on 23 July 2001 the President of the High Court of Eritrea, Mr. Teame Beyene, criticized the transitional Government of Eritrea for interfering in the affairs of the judicial branch. As a result the President, often addressed as the Chief Justice of Eritrea, was fired on 10 August 2001. His immediate supervisor, Justice Minister Fozia Hashim, delivered the communication verbally. Subsequently, the government, through the sole and ruling party’s Political Director, Mr. Yemane Gebreab, explained at the Eritrean Festival in Washington, D.C. held in the same year that the reason for the termination was due to the Chief Justice’s involvement in politics which, according to Gebreab, endangered the impartiality of the Court. Echoing these sentiments, the Justice Minister, in an interview posted on the ruling party’s website stated that at the conference of the Eritrean Studies Association, the Chief Justice presented accusations, in lieu of academic paper. The Justice Minister further claimed that all those who were present at the seminar noticed that through his paper and presentation the Chief Justice tried to use the stage as a political launching pad. To engage in this kind of activity, she claimed, is inconsistent with his responsibilities. The Minister also asserted that such kind of false information is spread with deliberate intent to diminish the people’s trust in the independence of the courts and it was an act of political bias which precluded his continued service as the Chief Justice of the country. Almost for ten years the Chief Justice has been without employment although he has continued receiving his salary. This form of extra-judicial punishment called “freezing” is common with the ruling government whose legal legitimacy expired in 1997. The Chief Justice’s address came as part of a reform movement sparked by an historic letter thirteen Eritrean heavyweight academics wrote to the President of Eritrea reminding him the wrong path his leadership had embarked upon and calling for comprehensive political reforms. Source from the country reveal that the Chief Justice is not only prohibited from leaving the country for whatever reason but he is also closely watched. His paper has been difficult to get for researchers; thus, the need for reprinting it here.
Keywords: Eritrea, Judiciary, Independence, Interference, President, Teame, Beyene, Chief, Justice, Special, Court
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