The Irish Government Provides Financial Support to Advance Free Legal Aid Service Programme
The Irish Government signeda Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on October 9, 2014 with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to provide financial support to assist free legal aid service programme for indigent women and other vulnerable groups.The agreement was signed by Ambassador Teruneh Zenna, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, and Ambassador Aidan O’Hara, Ambassador of Irish Government to Ethiopia, at the Commission’s head office of Addis Ababa.
On the occasion, Ambassador O’Hara said that the two-years programme which had targeted to improve access to justice to the poor women and other vulnerable groups of the society which in turn would contribute to the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) in terms of the group transformation of the plan. Ambassador O’Hara also added, previously he has visited the performance of the already established legal aid centers under the Bahr Dar University and observed that the services being provided by those centers were encouraging. “Supporting free legal aid service programme is assisting 3,500 people a year”, said Ambassador O’Hara referring to previous experience.
Ambassador Terune on his part noted, his Commission had been engaged in free legal aid project for the last few years which has recently been obstructed by financial constraints. The present support is the most important assistance of its kind among the various aids provided by the Irish Government as it would rescue the project from interruption, said Ambassador Teruneh.
According to the signed agreement, the Irish Government would contribute some € 403, 281upon the signing of financial agreement. This financial aid is meant for supporting a two-year long programme of “Advancing Access to Justice through Free Legal Aid and Awareness Creation” in two city administrations and six regional states. The programme is said to be carried out by the Ethiopian Women Layers Association (EWLA)and 8 State-run universities.During the signing ceremony of the agreement, Ambassador Teruneh noted that the Commission has preferred to work with EWLA to other CSOs for the fact that the former outreaches wider remote areas than any other institution.
According to the signed MoU, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission would be responsible to for the overall coordination, management, reporting and monitoring of the programme while the EWLA and the universities were said to be responsible to provide free legal services on various areas for women and other vulnerable groups of the society.
It must be noted that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission initiated the free legal aid service programme in 2010 and started working with universities and relevant CSOs including EWLA. Accordingly, the Commission has established some 111 Free Legal Aid Centers by signing MoUs with 17 State-run universities hosting law schools.
Two Additional Branch Offices of
the Commission Went Operational
In addition to the previously opened six branch offices of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, two more branch offices have been opened during the second-half of the 2013/14 Ethiopian fiscal year. The two branches of the Commission were opened in Assosa and Semera, capitals of the Benshangul/Gumuz Regional State and Afar National Regional State respectively.
The opening ceremonies of the new branches, which were aimed at inaugurating the new offices, were attended by representatives of Legal and Administrative Standing Committees of the House of Peoples Representatives, Heads of regional bureaus, officials of local CSOs, religious leaders and other relevant bodies of the respective regions. On the occasion, papers on powers and duties of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission were presented by experts of the Head office with a view to introduce the mode of operation of the Commission.
During the inaugural ceremony of the Assosa branch that was held on 15th of May, 2014, the Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Teruneh Zenna underlined that opening of the Branch Office would further accessibility of the Commission in the western corner of the Country along with the formerly established Gambela Branch in the capital of the Gambela Regional State in 2011. According to the Chief Commissioner, the Assosa Branch Office could serve peoples of the neighboring regions, particularly residents from western Oromia National Regional State and north-western parts of Amhara National Regional State in addition to beneficiaries from Benshangul/Gumuz Regional State.
Responding to questions raised by attendees of the opening ceremony of the Assosa Branch as to the scope of the powers and responsibilities of the branch office, the Chief Commissioner noted that the Branch Office would carry out most of the functions performed by the Head Office except a few activities including representing the Commission in international fora, and producing human rights reports for national and international purposes.
Similarly, the Semera Branch has been also officially opened on 17 August, 2014, by the Chief Commissioner with the attendance of representatives from relevant agencies. This Branch Office was also said to serve residents of the Afar National Regional State and those from the neighboring regions in the north-eastern parts of Ethiopia.
Prior to the inauguration of the branch offices, the newly recruited staff of the two branches were given induction training from 22-23 April, 2014 at Addis Ababa by the Head Office.
It is to be recalled that previously in 2011, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission opened 6 (six) branch offices in different towns: in Bahr Dar, Hawassa, Gambella, Jimma, Jigjiga, and Mekelle following the unanimous approval by the House of Peoples Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopa.
UN Delegation Held Talks with the Commission
A delegation from the UN Electoral Assistance discussed with officials of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on the upcoming Ethiopian general elections. The meeting was held on 2nd June inside the women and children affairs commissioner’s office.
Brihane W/Kiros ; Deputy Chief Commissioner of the Commission, told the delegation how closely the commission has been working with governmental and non-governmental organization in a bid to create human rights a culture in the country.
He also told the delegation how the commission was working grassroots’ levels; by organizing human rights forums from all the way down to the lowest administrative organs and as a result, how the commission has increasingly become all the more accessible to the public.
Wizero Asmaru berihun, Commissioner for women’s and Children Affairs, on her part informed the delegation on the establishment of the Commission and mandates in terms of promoting and protecting human rights. She also informed the delegation on the hitherto activities of the Commission including its activities undertaken in awareness creation, investigations into human rights violations, monitoring and research works.
Following the briefings, in response to the delegation’s interest to know how the 2010 General Elections had been conducted and the prospects of the up-coming 2015 General Elections; Ato Abrham, legal advisor of the commission, recalling that the commission was a member of the monitoring team during the 2010 elections and had carefully monitored the elections in three phases: pre-election, during election and post-election he told the delegation that in the eyes of the Commission the elections had been conducted in fair and free manner.
He further explained that the commission has forwarded a recommendation to the government focusing on the need to enhance the capacity of political parties. He went on saying that the political were also recommended to increase the participation of women in the elections. He further explained that the participation of the women should be part of the law, not the willingness of political parties.
Ato Abrham has also informed the delegation regarding problems surfaced during the elections including the 9% invalid votes as result of lack of awareness on the part of the voters.
In the discussion; the delegation was also informed that based on the lesson the commission learned in the previous elections; the commission is working and will continue to work with all concerned governmental and non-environmental organization so that the 2015 elections will have become much more free and fair.
Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Receives Literatures in Donation
28 April 2014
Network of African National Human Rights Institutions and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law have donated books to the commission. The books are written on different thematic areas of Human rights and were delivered at the head office of the commission on 3rd April 2014.
In its cover letter, the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions states that this aid is one of the capacity building strategies for the network members. It went on stating that the literatures will be used resourcefully to expand knowledge of staff in the commission on the various human rights thematic areas in line with its strategic priority one: ‘Strengthening of NHRIs”
Ambassador Tiruneh Zena, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, on his part acknowledges that the books are very important that they will be an addition to the library and useful to the staff members to build and update their knowledge. According to the chief commissioner, this aid is an ongoing process and is not limited to the donation of books only; the network always assists the commission in many ways in its effort to build its capacity.