ADDIS ABABA – The Ministry of Justice has adopted a new national strategy aimed at coordinating the provision of free legal aid services in Ethiopia.
The National Legal Aid Strategy has been enacted as per the Council of Ministers’ direction for its approval and implementation.
On Monday, State Minister of Justice Alemante Agidew announced the approval of the strategy, saying it will have “a huge significance” in ensuring the constitutionally guaranteed rights.
The right to equality before the law and access to justice are recognized under the international and national legal instruments including the FDRE Constitution.
The Constitution also put an obligation on the government to ensure access to justice for those vulnerable groups and those unable to pay for legal services.
However, due to socio-economic, cultural and other reasons, certain sections of the society do not have access to legal services.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Regional Justice Bureaus, Public Defenders, private lawyers, law schools, and civic societies such as the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association have been providing free legal aid services.
This was, however, done without clear coordination and strategy, the MoJ says.
‘will help comply with intl rights obligations’
Under the Attorney General (Now Ministry of Justice) Establishment Proclamation No. 943/2016, the MoJ is mandated to design a strategy for the provision of free legal aid, follow up its implementation, and coordinate bodies engaged in the sector.
To this end, the ministry coordinated and collaborated with other stakeholders engaged in the provision of free legal aid and designed a National Legal Aid Strategy.
The Strategy was presented for approval and direction by the Council of Ministers and the latter gave a direction for its approval and implementation.
Accordingly, it is decided that the strategy is in force from October 24, 2023, the Ministry of Justice says.
The strategy offers a framework of coordination and collaboration among different institutions engaged in the provision of legal aid.
State minister Alemante said it will ensure access to justice for those unable to do so due to socio-economic, cultural, and other reasons.
“The strategy will also help our country in complying with international and regional human rights obligations,” State Minister Alemante said, calling for those stakeholders and actors responsible for implementing the Strategy to do so as per its terms and in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation.