On 21 July 2018 a workshop held at Jimma University’s Main Campus to discuss ‘international criminal justice and the Prosecution of atrocity Crimes Committed in Ethiopia’. The workshop was attended by representatives of several regional and federal offices including the Federal Attorney General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Supreme Court, Federal Legal Research Institute Oromia Justice Bureau, and Oromia Supreme Court, as well as over 70 judges, prosecutors, researchers, academicians, and graduate students.
The workshop featured an opening remark by Mr. Seyoum Adugna, Dean of the College of Law and Governance at Jimma University, as well as lectures by Mr. Tadesse Simie, PhD researcher at University of Groningen, Dr. Barbora Hola, Associate Professor at VU University of Amsterdam, and Dr. Thijs Bouwkgnet, a senior researcher at Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD).
In his opening remarks, Mr. Seyoum Adugna stated that it is the first time a discussion has been organized in Ethiopia in relation to international criminal justice and the prosecution in Ethiopia and a foreign country of core international crimes committed in Ethiopia. He added that this event marks an emergence in Ethiopia of a legal discourse about international crimes, although Ethiopian courts had started prosecuting these crimes some three decades ago.
The presentations and discussions were organized in a manner that provides comprehensive information regarding the prosecution of core international crimes in Ethiopia and the state of international criminal justice in general. As such, Mr. Tadesse Simie presented a brief outline of core international crimes prosecution in Ethiopia, in which he talked on about five instances of prosecution of genocide and war crimes between 1992 to 2010. He also touched upon the legal and practical challenges the Ethiopian courts and prosecutors have faced in prosecuting international crimes such as the absence of a legal framework proscribing crimes against humanity and torture, limited capacity in terms of experts with an international criminal law background, and the problem of fugitive offenders and unsuccessful extradition efforts.
Dr. Barbra Hola’s presentation provided a comprehensive overview of international criminal justice. In addition to explaining the evolution of the international judicial mechanisms put in place to prevent and repress international crimes, she has discussed the practices of ad-hoc tribunals established to prosecute international crimes committed in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She also explained in great depth the law and practice of the International Criminal Court.
The third speaker, Dr. Thijs Bouwkgnet , talked on issues of transitional justice and universal jurisdiction. He elaborated on the historical development of the concept of transitional justice and the various options and challenges a state may have to deal with during a transition to a new political/legal order. As a practical demonstration of the concept of universal jurisdiction, Dr. Bouwkgnet has provided a detailed account of the trial of Eshetu Alemu in the Netherlands. He expounded upon the pertinent substantive and procedural issues in the Dutch trial for crimes Eshetu Alemu committed in Ethiopia in the late 1970s.
Following the presentations, the workshop featured lively debates on subjects central to the global as well as Ethiopia’s effort to fight impunity for international crimes.