Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

Chapter Three Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

Part Zero Scope of Application and Interpretation

Article 13: Scope of Application and Interpretation

1. All Federal and State legislative, executive and judicial organs at all levels shall have the responsibility and duty to respect and enforce the provisions of this Chapter.

2. The fundamental rights and freedoms specified in this Chapter shall be interpreted in a manner conforming to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenants on Human Rights and International instruments adopted by Ethiopia.
Part One Human Rights

Article 14: Rights to life, the Security of Person and Liberty

Every person has the inviolable and inalienable right to life the security of person and liberty.

Article 15: Right to Life

Every person has the right to life. No person may be deprived of his life except as a punishment for a serious criminal offense determined by law.

Article 16: The Right of the Security of Person

Every one has the right to protection against bodily harm.

Article 17: Right to Liberty

1. No one shall be deprived of his or her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.

2. No person may be subjected to arbitrary arrest, and no person may be detained without a charge or conviction against him.

Article 18: Prohibition against Inhuman Treatment

1. Everyone has the right to protection against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

2. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude. Trafficking in human beings for whatever purpose is prohibited.

3. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labor.

4. For the purpose of sub-article 3 of this article the phrase "forced or compulsory labor" shall not include:
  1. Any work or service normally required of a person who is under detention in consequence of a lawful order, or of a person during conditional release from such detention;
  2. In the case of conscientious objectors, any service exacted in lieu of compulsory military service;
  3. Any service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;
  4. Any economic and social development activity voluntarily performed by a community within its locality.
Article 19: Right of Persons Arrested

1. Persons arrested have the right to be informed promptly, in a language they understand, of the reasons for their arrest and of any charge against them.

2. Persons arrested have the right to remain silent. Upon arrest, they have the right to be informed promptly, in a language they understand, that any statement they make may be used as evidence against them in court.

3. Persons arrested have the right to be brought before a court within 48 hours of their arrest. Such time shall not include the time reasonably required for the journey from the place of arrest to the court. On appearing before a court, they have the right to be given prompt and specific explanation of the reasons for their arrest due to the alleged crime committed.

4. All persons have an inalienable right to petition the court to order their physical release where the arresting police officer or the law enforcer fails to bring them before a court within the prescribed time and to provide reasons for their arrest. Where the interest of justice requires, the court may order the arrested person to remain in custody or, when requested remand him for a time strictly required to carry out the necessary investigation. In determining the additional time necessary for investigation, the court shall ensure that the responsible law enforcement authorities carry out the investigation respecting the arrested person's right to a speedy trial.

5. Persons arrested shall not be compelled to make confessions or admissions which could be used in evidence against them. Any evidence obtained under coercion shall not be admissible.

6. Persons arrested have the right to be released on bail. In exceptional circumstances prescribed by law, the court may deny bail or demand adequate guarantee for the conditional release of the arrested person.

Article 20: Rights of Persons Accused

1. Accused persons have the right to a public trial by an ordinary court of law within a reasonable time after having been charged. The court may hear cases in a closed session only with a view to protecting the right to privacy of the parties concerned, public morals and national security.

2. Accused persons have the right to be informed with sufficient particulars of the charge brought against them and to be given the charge in writing.

3. During proceedings accused persons have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law and not to be compelled to testify against themselves.

4. Accused persons have the right to full access to any evidence presented against them, to examine witnesses testifying against them, to adduce or to have evidence produced in their own defense, and to obtain the attendance of and examination of witnesses on their behalf before the court.

5. Accused persons have the right to be represented by legal counsel of their choice, and, if they do not have sufficient means to pay for it and miscarriage of justice would result, to be provided with legal representation at state expense.

6. All persons have the right of appeal to the competent court against an order or a judgment of the court which first heard the case.

7. They have the right to request for the assistance of an interpreter at state expense where the court proceedings are conducted in a language they do not understand.

Article 21: The Rights of Persons Held in Custody and Convicted Prisoners

1. All persons held in custody and persons imprisoned upon conviction and sentencing have the right to treatments respecting their human dignity.

2. All persons shall have the opportunity to communicate with, and to be visited by, their spouses or partners, close relatives, friends, religious councilors, medical doctors and their legal counsel.

Article 22: Non-retro activity of Criminal Law

1. No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offense on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offense at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed on any person than the one that was applicable at the time when the criminal offense was committed.

2. Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-article 1 of this article, a law promulgated subsequent to the commission of the offense shall apply if it is advantageous to the accused or convicted person.

Article 23: Prohibition of Double Jeopardy

No person shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offense for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the criminal law and procedure.

Article 24: Right to Honor and Reputation

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his human dignity, reputation and honor.

2. Everyone has the right to the free development of his personality in a manner compatible with the rights of other citizens.

3. Everyone has the right to recognition every where as a person.

Article 25: Right to Equality

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection without discrimination on grounds of race, nation, nationality, or other social origin, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status.

Article 26: Right to Privacy

1. Everyone has the right to privacy. This right shall include the right not to be subjected to searches of his home, person or property, or the seizure of any property under his personal possession.

2. Everyone has the right to the inviolability of his notes and correspondence including postal letters, and communications made by means of telephone, telecommunications and electronic devices.

3. Public officials shall respect and protect these rights. No restrictions may be placed on the enjoyment of such rights except in compelling circumstances and in accordance with specific laws whose purposes shall be the safeguarding of national security or public peace, the prevention of crimes or the protection of health, public morality or the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 27: Freedom of Religion, Belief and Opinion

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include the freedom to hold or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and the freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-article 2 of Article 90, believers may establish institutions of religious education and administration in order to propagate and organize their religion.

3. No one shall be subject to coercion or other means which would restrict or prevent his freedom to hold a belief of his choice.

4. Parents and legal guardians have the right to bring up their children ensuring their religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions.

5. Freedom to express or manifest one's religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, peace, health, education, public morality or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, and to ensure the independence of the state from religion.

Article 28: Crimes Against Humanity

1. Criminal liability of persons who commit crimes against humanity, so defined by international agreements ratified by Ethiopia and by other laws of Ethiopia, such as genocide, summary executions, forcible disappearances or torture shall not be barred by statute of limitation. Such offenses may not be commuted by amnesty or pardon of the legislature or any other state organ.

2. In the case of persons convicted of any crime stated in sub-article 1 of this article and sentenced with the death penalty, the Head of State may, without prejudice to the provisions here in above, commute the punishment to life imprisonment.

Part Two Democratic Rights

Article 29: Right of Thought, Opinion and Expression

1. Everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression without any interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice.

3. Freedom of the press and other mass media and freedom of artistic creativity is guaranteed. Freedom of the press shall specifically include the following elements:
  1. Prohibition of any form of censorship.
  2. Access to information of public interest.
4. In the interest of the free flow of information, ideas and opinions which are essential to the functioning of a democratic order, the press shall, as an institution, enjoy legal protection to ensure its operational independence and its capacity to entertain diverse opinions.

5. Any media financed by or under the control of the State shall be operated in a manner ensuring its capacity to entertain diversity in the expression of opinion.

6. These rights can be limited only through laws which are guided by the principle that freedom of expression and information cannot be limited on account of the content or effect of the point of view expressed. Legal limitations can be laid down in order to protect the well-being of the youth, and the honor and reputation of individuals. Any propaganda for war as well as the public expression of opinion intended to injure human dignity shall be prohibited by law.

7. Any citizen who violates any legal limitations on the exercise of these rights may be held liable under the law.

Article 30: The Right of Assembly, Demonstration and Petition

1. Everyone has the right to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peaceably and unarmed, and to petition. Appropriate regulations may be made in the interest of public convenience relating to the location of open-air meetings and the route of movement of demonstrators or, for the protection of democratic rights, public morality and peace during such a meeting or demonstration.

2. This right does not exempt from liability under laws enacted to protect the well-being of the youth or the honor and reputation of individuals, and laws prohibiting any propaganda for war and any public expression of opinions intended to injure human dignity.

Article 31: Freedom of Association

Every person has the right to freedom of association for any cause or purpose. Organizations formed, in violation of appropriate laws, or to illegally subvert the constitutional order, or which promote such activities are prohibited.

Article 32: Freedom of Movement

1. Any Ethiopian or foreign national lawfully in Ethiopia has, within the national territory, the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence, as well as the freedom to leave the country at any time he wishes to.

2. Any Ethiopian national has the right to return to his country.

Article 33: Rights of Nationality

1. No Ethiopian national shall be deprived of his or her Ethiopian nationality against his or her will. Marriage of an Ethiopian national of either sex to a foreign national shall not annul his or her Ethiopian nationality.

2. Every Ethiopian national has the right to the enjoyment of all rights, protection and benefits derived from Ethiopian nationality as prescribed by law.

3. Any national has the right to change his Ethiopian nationality.

4. Ethiopian nationality may be conferred upon foreigners in accordance with law enacted and procedures established consistent with international agreements ratified by Ethiopia.

Article 34: Marital, Personal and Family Rights

1. Men and women, without any distinction as to race, nation, nationality or religion, who have attained marriageable age as defined by law, have the right to marry and found a family. They have equal rights while entering into, during marriage and at the time of divorce. Laws shall be enacted to ensure the protection of rights and interests of children at the time of divorce.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

4. In accordance with provisions to be specified by law, a law giving recognition to marriage concluded under systems of religious or customary laws may be enacted.

5. This Constitution shall not preclude the adjudication of disputes relating to personal and family laws in accordance with religious or customary laws, with the consent of the parties to the dispute. Particulars shall be determined by law.

Article 35: Rights of Women

1. Women shall, in the enjoyment of rights and protections provided for by this Constitution, have equal right with men.

2. Women have equal rights with men in marriage as prescribed by this Constitution.

3. The historical legacy of inequality and discrimination suffered by women in Ethiopia taken into account, women, in order to remedy this legacy, are entitled to affirmative measures. The purpose of such measures shall be to provide special attention to women so as to enable them to compete and participate on the basis of equality with men in political, social and economic life as well as in public and private institutions.

4. The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited.

  1. Women have the right to maternity leave with full pay. The duration of maternity leave shall be determined by law taking into account the nature of the work, the health of the mother and the well-being of the child and family.
  2. Maternity leave may, in accordance with the provisions of law, include prenatal leave with full pay.
6. Women have the right to full consultation in the formulation of national development policies, the designing and execution of projects, and particularly in the case of projects affecting the interests of women.

7. Women have the right to acquire, administer, control, use and transfer property. In particular, they have equal rights with men with respect to use, transfer, administration and control of land. They shall also enjoy equal treatment in the inheritance of property.

8. Women shall have a right to equality in employment, promotion, pay, and the transfer of pension entitlements.

9. To prevent harm arising from pregnancy and childbirth and in order to safeguard their health, women have the right of access to family planning education, information and capacity.

Article 36: Rights of Children

1. Every child has the right:
  1. To life;
  2. To a name and nationality;
  3. To know and be cared for by his or her parents or legal guardians;
  4. Not to be subject to exploitative practices, neither to be required nor permitted to perform work which may be hazardous or harmful to his or her education, health or well-being;
  5. To be free of corporal punishment or cruel and inhumane treatment in schools and other institutions responsible for the care of children.
2. In all actions concerning children undertaken by public and private welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the primary consideration shall be the best interest of the child.

3. Juvenile offenders admitted to corrective or rehabilitative institutions, and juveniles who become wards of the State or who are placed in public or private orphanages, shall be kept separately from adults.

4. Children born out of wedlock shall have the same rights as children born of wedlock.

5. The State shall accord special protection to orphans and shall encourage the establishment of institutions which ensure and promote their adoption and advance their welfare, and education.

Article 37: Right of Access to Justice

1. Everyone has the right to bring a justifiable (sic.) matter to, and to obtain a decision or judgment by, a court of law or any other competent body with judicial power.

2. The decision or judgment referred to under sub-article 1 of this article may also be sought by:
  1. Any association representing the Collective or individual interest of its members; or
  2. Any group or person who is a member of, or represents a group with similar interests.

Article 38: The Right to Vote and to be Elected

1. Every Ethiopian national, without any discrimination based on color, race, nation, nationality, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion or other status, has the following rights:
  1. To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly and through freely chosen representatives;
  2. On the attainment of 18 years of age, to vote in accordance with law;
  3. To vote and to be elected at periodic elections to any office at any level of government; elections shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors.
2. The right of everyone to be a member of his own will in a political organization, labor union, trade organization, or employers' or professional association shall be respected if he or she meets the special and general requirements stipulated by such organization.

3. Elections to positions of responsibility with any of the organizations referred to under sub-article 2 of this article shall be conducted in a free and democratic manner.

4. The provisions of sub-articles 2 and 3 of this article shall apply to civic organizations which significantly affect the public interest.

Article 39: Rights of Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples

1. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession.

2. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to speak, to write and to develop its own language; to express, to develop and to promote its culture; and to preserve its history.

3. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to a full measure of self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government in the territory that it inhabits and to equitable representation in state and Federal governments.

4. The right to self-determination, including secession, of every Nation, Nationality and People shall come into effect:
  1. When a demand for secession has been approved by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Legislative Council of the Nation, Nationality or People concerned;
  2. When the Federal Government has organized a referendum which must take place within three years from the time it received the concerned council's decision for secession;
  3. When the demand for secession is supported by majority vote in the referendum;
  4. When the Federal Government will have transferred its powers to the council of the Nation, Nationality or People who has voted to secede; and
  5. When the division of assets is effected in a manner prescribed by law.
5. A "Nation, Nationality or People" for the purpose of this Constitution, is a group of people who have or share large measure of a common culture or similar customs, mutual intelligibility of language, belief in a common or related identities, a common psychological make-up, and who inhabit an identifiable, predominantly contiguous territory.

Article 40: The Right to Property

1. Every Ethiopian citizen has the right to the ownership of private property. Unless prescribed otherwise by law on account of public interest, this right shall include the right to acquire, to use and, in a manner compatible with the rights of other citizens, to dispose of such property by sale or bequest or to transfer it otherwise.

2. "Private property", for the purpose of this article, shall mean any tangible or intangible product which has value and is produced by the labor, creativity, enterprise or capital of an individual citizen, associations which enjoy juridical personality under the law, or in appropriate circumstances, by communities specifically empowered by law to own property in common.

3. The right to ownership of rural and urban land, as well as of all natural resources, is exclusively vested in the State and in the peoples of Ethiopia. Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange.

4. Ethiopian peasants have right to obtain land without payment and the protection against eviction from their possession. The implementation of this provision shall be specified by law.

5. Ethiopian pastoralism have the right to free land for grazing and cultivation as well as the right not to be displaced from their own lands. The implementation shall be specified by law.

6. Without prejudice to the right of Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples to the ownership of land, government shall ensure the right of private investors to the use of land on the basis of payment arrangements established by law. Particulars shall be determined by law.

7. Every Ethiopian shall have the full right to the immovable property he builds and to the permanent improvements he brings about on the land by his labor or capital. This right shall include the right to alienate, to bequeath, and, where the right of use expires, to remove his property, transfer his title, or claim compensation for it. Particulars shall be determined by law.

8. Without prejudice to the right to private property, the government may expropriate private property for public purposes subject to payment in advance of compensation commensurate to the value of the property.

Article 41: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

1. Every Ethiopian has the right to engage freely in economic activity and to pursue a livelihood of his choice anywhere within the national territory.

2. Every Ethiopian has the right to choose his or her means of livelihood, occupation and profession.

3. Every Ethiopian national has the right to equal access to publicly funded social services.

4. The State has the obligation to allocate an ever increasing resources to provide to the public health, education and other social services.

5. The State shall, within available means, allocate resources to provide rehabilitation and assistance to the physically and mentally disabled, the aged and to children who are left without parents or guardian.

6. The State shall pursue policies which aim to expand job opportunities for the unemployed and the poor and shall accordingly undertake programmers and public works projects.

7. The State shall undertake all measures necessary to increase opportunities for citizens to find gainful employment.

8. Ethiopian farmers and pastorates have the right to receive fair price for their products, that would lead to improvement in their conditions of life and to enable them to obtain an equitable share of the national wealth commensurate with their contribution. This objective shall guide the State in the formulation of economic, social and development policies.

9. The State has the responsibility to protect and preserve historical and cultural legacies, and to contribute to the promotion of the arts and sports.

Article 42: Rights of Labor
  1. Factory and service workers, farmers, farm laborers, other rural workers and government employees whose work compatibility allows for it and who are below a certain level of responsibility, have the right to form associations to improve their conditions of employment and economic well-being. This right includes the right to form trade unions and other associations to bargain collectively with employers or other organizations that affect their interests.
  2. Categories of persons referred to in paragraph (a) of this sub-article has the right to express grievances, including the right to strike.
  3. Government employees who enjoy the rights provided under paragraphs (a) and (b) of this sub-article shall be determined by law.
  4. Women workers have the right to equal pay for equal work.
2. Workers have the right to reasonable limitation of working hours, to rest, to leisure, to periodic leaves with pay, to remuneration for public holidays as well as healthy and safe work environment.

3. Without prejudice to the rights recognized under sub-article 1 of this article, laws enacted for the implementation of such rights shall establish procedures for the formation of trade unions and for the regulation of the collective bargaining process.

Article 43: The Right to Development

1. The Peoples of Ethiopia as a whole, and each Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia in particular have the right to improved living standards and to sustainable development.

2. Nationals have the right to participate in national development and, in particular, to be consulted with respect to policies and projects affecting their community.

3. All international agreements and relations concluded, established or conducted by the State shall protect and ensure Ethiopia's right to sustainable development.

4. The basic aim of development activities shall be to enhance the capacity of citizens for development and to meet their basic needs.

Article 44: Environmental Rights

1. All persons have the right to a clean and healthy environment.

2. All persons who have been displaced or whose livelihoods have been adversely affected as a result of State program mes have the right to commensurate monetary or alternative means of compensation, including relocation with adequate State assistance.