Does the New Media Law of Ethiopia condone keeping accused journalists behind bars for the duration of a trial? A reflection on the recent ruling of the Federal Supreme Court

Zelalem-Shiferaw-WoldemichaelAuthor: Zelalem Shiferaw Woldemichael
PhD candidate, Melbourne Law School

The decision of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia, rendered on July 28, 2022, to deny bail to Temesgen Desalegn, an editor of Feteh, a privately owned magazine, has put the potential of the New Media Law to end the repressive environment of the prior regime of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which subjected journalists and media personnel to multiple forms of human rights violations, including torture, arrest, and detention, into question. Perhaps, the case does not represent the only instance of the upholding of the continued detention of journalists by the judiciary after the expulsion of the previous regime and the coming into force of the New Media Law. On several occasions, courts have considered issues of bail of journalists and ordered the continuation of pre-trial detention. Apparently, the present case attracted huge public concern as the journalist was made to remain in custody by the decision of a judicial organ placed at the apex of the federal judicial structure, which renders final decisions on federal matters. The Supreme Court denied bail, accepting the objection of the public prosecutor, who argued that “keeping the accused behind bars was necessary so he could not continue spreading false rumours and leaking secrets through his writing.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Sentencing ‘at the president’s pleasure’ and what it means to persons with mental disabilities in Kenya

felicia_mburuAuthor: Felicia Mburu
Advocate of the High Court of Kenya

On 8 May 2013, the High Court of Kenya in Case Number 14 of 2010 passes a sentence on the accused who had pleaded guilty on a murder charge. Nawya Mawjoya, a person with mental disability, was sentenced to detention ‘at the president’s pleasure’ under section 167(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) instead of being given a probationary sentence. The Court relied on the probation officer’s recommendation that he be institutionalised as the family believes he was bewitched and will be subjected to rituals. Such cases are common in Kenya for two reasons: lack of awareness by the criminal justice system on mental disability and cultural perception associated with mental disabilities. Thus the criminal justice system operates as a conduit to institutionalise persons with mental disabilities.

Kenya is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Article 14 (1) (b) of the CRPD provides for the rights of persons with disabilities not to be deprived of their liberty on the basis of their disability. Article 19 further provides that persons with disability have a right to live in the community on an equal basis with others. Article 50 of the Constitution of Kenya provides for the right to a fair trial for all persons. Article 29 further supports the rights of person not to be arbitrarily denied their freedom without just cause. Article 54 of the Constitution states the rights of persons with disabilities to be treated with dignity and respect.

Read the rest of this entry »