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The Role of University-Based Legal Aid Centers in Ensuring Access to Justice in Ethiopia

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DOI: 10.4236/blr.2018.93023    468 Downloads   1,244 Views

ABSTRACT

Access to justice is one of the fundamental rights that the citizens of a country are entitled to. In cementing this recognition, various international and national human instruments have included the principle as part of an endeavor to elevate the right to global importance. The FDRE Constitution has emphatically incorporated the right in a fashion that demonstrates the importance attached to it. Because, with the right to access to justice, members of the society not only are able to protect their rights and interests but also empower themselves and understand their human worth. However, the realization of this right has been the most challenging undertaking by many countries in the world. This challenge would be much compounded when it comes to countries like Ethiopia because of the various reasons. The main one, though, is the under-development of the legal infrastructure necessary for the achievement of the right. Ethiopian is among few countries in the world with the lowest municipal legal penetration. Setting aside the reasons behind the very low level of penetration, if we concentrate on the consequences of this poor penetration; the outcome is that the great bulk of the population is still outside the formal legal system. The government is doing very little to remedy this problem. The legal aid centers in the universities are among the alternatives that are suggested by some expert to alleviate the problem. The universities in Ethiopia have accepted this approach and started providing legal service to selected indigent people. The centers, despite multiple bottlenecks on their operation, are still contributing a lot. This article argues that the role of the legal aid centers cannot be underestimated. Therefore, the government and any other responsible organ should pay attention to the problems crippling the performance of the centers. Among those, special attention should be paid to staffing the center, financing the center by allocating necessary and regular fund from government treasury, and most importantly, establishing a center recognized by the Federal Civil Service to hire competent staff.

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Gurmessa, A. (2018) The Role of University-Based Legal Aid Centers in Ensuring Access to Justice in Ethiopia. Beijing Law Review, 9, 357-380. doi: 10.4236/blr.2018.93023.

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