Scholars International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice (SIJLCJ) | Volume-2-Issue-02
Original Research Article
Feb. 22, 2019
Understanding the Constitutional Right to Defense and Trials in Absentia in Criminal Cases in Ethiopia: A Case Based Analysis
Leake Mekonen Tesfay
Page Numbers : Sch Int J Law Crime Justice, 2019: 2(2): 20-28
DOI : 10.21276/sijlcj.2019.2.2.1
As exception to the right of persons accused of crime to be tried in their presence, absentia trial is recognized in many jurisdictions. In Ethiopia, absentia trial is possible for crimes which are considered of sever gravity, but the accused has the right to retrial for justifiable reasons. Defining absentia trial has, however, become controversial. Typical to this, the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division (Cassation Bench) has given decisions in two cases - Fetiya’s case and Biniyam’s case - excluding cases where the accused absents after the prosecution witnesses are heard or at sentencing hearing from the domain of absentia trial. It reasoned that in cases where the accused absents after the prosecution witnesses are heard, s/he should be presumed to have waived the right to defense. This case comment examines the appropriateness of these decisions from the perspective of criminal trial process. It is mainly argued that absentia trial includes cases where the court continues trying the case in the absence of the person accused, including cases where the accused absents after the prosecution evidences were heard or even at sentencing hearing. Moreover, as persons accused may absent after the prosecution evidences are heard or even at sentencing hearing for reasons beyond their control, they shall not be denied the right to retrial without regard to the reasons of their absence.