Proclamation for Attorney General tabled, amid speculations that Ministry of Justice may be redundant

By Muluken Yewondwossen
The government has tabled a draft proclamation for the formation of Federal Attorney General to the parliament. The draft proclamation was tabled for the parliament on Tuesday, March 22 to form a separate prosecutor’s office under a ministry portfolio.

The clarification document attached to the draft proclamation indicated that prosecutor’s assignment has been dispersed in different public institutions, and that the formation of an Attorney General shall harmonize prosecutors’ work, under a single entity.

Currently, the Ministry of Justice, the Federal Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission, the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority and Consumers’ Protection Authority have their own persecutors’ divisions. The draft proclamation suggests these divisions be included under a new federal office.

The Attorney General will be the main legal advisor to the government, and may also have executive responsibility for law enforcement, prosecutions or even responsibility for general legal affairs. The entity will take over most of the responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice and will also manage investigation and prosecutions within other public offices.

Article 8, sub article 2/b of the draft proclamation states that the Federal Attorney General would exercise criminal investigation and prosecution powers and duties given to the Commissioner of the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) under Proclamation No. 433/2005 (as amended by Proclamation No. 880/2015) and the revised Anti Corruption Special Procedure and Evidence Proclamation No.434/2005 amended in 2015. The Attorney General would also exercise powers of criminal investigation and prosecution given to the Director General of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) under Proclamation No. 587/2007, Customs Proclamation No. 859/2014.
Under the newly drafted proclamation, FEACC will focus on the implementation of ethics and preventing corruption rather than prosecution as currently practiced; ERCA will also focus efforts on tax collection rather than prevention of tax evasion.

If established the Attorney’s office would be accountable to the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, but experts suggest that the office has to be responsible for a legislative rather than executive powers.

In the previous government regime, there was a similar institution with similar powers – the Prosecutor General under Ministry of Justice. Bililign Mandefro was the last Prosecutor General until 1991. Sources stated that the current Minister of Justice (MoJ), Getachew Ambaye, on the job since 2013, would be the first Attorney General.

On March 22, the government has also tabled an amendment of the Prisons Commission Establishment Proclamation 365/2003, sub article of article 3 to the parliament. The new amendment is for the Prisons Commission to be accountable to the Federal Attorney General. Currentlyand since 2003, the commission is accountable to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Pastoralist Area Development.

An amendment to the Federal Police Commission Establishment Proclamation was also tabled for the accountability of the Federal Police Commission to be to the Prime Minister rather than the Ministry of Justice.

Experts in the law have speculated that the proclamation for a Federal Attorney General and two amendments tabled to the parliament indicate that the dissolution of the MoJ is due in the near future.