Lawyers request for the opening of courts 

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Ethiopian Lawyers Association has challenged the partial closure of federal courts in the country. The association has submitted a letter of its grievance to the supreme court on the partial function of the courts as they are operating below they are expected and should be.

According to DebebeHaylegebreal President of the association, since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country the government has ordered courts to operate partially to control the spread of the virus.

“This option was taken because the pandemic was sudden and unpredictable, but it has been almost three months without resolving the situation” said Debebe.

On March 18, 2020, the federal Supreme Court announced the first phase of partial closure of courts as a means of control to the spread of the virus. On April 1, the closure was extended by another 23 working days, and also on May 10 an additional 27 days was added to the partial closure.

The extension was based on the information and guidelines from the Ministry of Health on the spread of the Corona virus (COVID-19) and in order to maintain the safety of its judges, court employees, their families and the community at large, according to MeazaAshenafi President of the Federal Supreme Court.

As stated in their letter, even if this decision is correct, it will lead to the stacks of cases and files at courts which can in return abuse the rights of citizens to get justice.

However, the Federal Courts continue their functions for urgent cases, cases pertaining to human rights and the safety and security of the country, as well as the implementation of laws concerning COVID-19. The courts will also continue passing rulings on ongoing cases and cases that are close to a decision and the rulings made on civil court cases will be publicized with reference to their specific case number on the Federal Supreme Court’s website.

As Debebe stated current operations of the courts are performing below 25 percent of their usual operation.

“We should come up with some kind of guideline the government should set, we don’t know how long this will continue so there should be options,” suggests Debebe.

The letter suggested that though the spread of the pandemic cause tension there are lots of experiences we have to see to continue operation. “As a way out the association has set certain points, including making the consistent guideline on the partial closures, case flow management, and seeing standard cases by minimizing the number of attendants,” the letter states.

Also according to Debebe there are lots of businesses and lawyers affected by the partial closing.

Courts are not accepting new cases rather running urgent cases. Although considering the possibilities of an increase in domestic violence during the stay home period the Supreme Court orders federal courts to entertain charges of domestic violence as urgent cases.