"The Ethiopian Constitution, in a 'creative stroke', provides the power to "interpret" the Constitution to the House of Federation (the House), which is referred to by some writers as the "Upper House" or "Second Chamber" of the bicameral parliament. The Constitution also establishes the Council of Constitutional Inquiry (the Council), a body composed of members of the judiciary, legal experts appointed by the House of Peoples' Representatives and three persons designated by the House from among its members, to examine constitutional issues and submit its recommendations to the House for a final decision. This is, of course, very different from a number of other more well-known legal systems which vest the power of constitutional review either in general courts or in constitutional courts set up exclusively for constitutional matters. The formal way through which issues of constitutional interpretation take place is via the Council. Issues of constitutional interpretation are referred to the Council by a court or "the interested party" to a dispute. The Council, after examining the constituitonal issue, can either remand the case to the competent court after it has found no need for constitutional interpretation, or submit its findings on constitutional interpretation to the House. The House, after deliberating on the suggestions of the Council, can either accept or reject the recommendations of the Council. It should be noted that a party not satisfied with the order of the Council to remand the case to the competent cout for lack of grounds of constitutional interpretation, may appeal against the order to the House. As indicated above, the House has the final and ultimate power to interpret the Constitution. However, the role of the courts in the interpretation of the Constitution is still far from settled. The function, relation and co-existence of the courts and other organs of state need to be spelled out clearly. The extent to which, and the circumstances under which, the judiciary should defer to other institutions, and especially to the House, need to be ascertained. The difficulty lies in determining where the role of the court ends and that of the other institutions (especially the Council and House) begins. The problem has a normative component as well. The Ethiopian approach to constitutional review, one may argue, is a response to the ocunter-majoritarian dilemma. By excluding the involvement of ordinary or special courts from the business of constiutional review ,the government has made it impossible for the court to "usurp legislative power". A question, however, remains whether this really represents an adequate response to the counter-majoritarian dilemma. This research paper investigates both the descriptive and normative component of the problem. As the title of the study and the discussion in the preceding paragraphs suggest, it asks who interprets the Constitution and who should do so. While the first part sets out to investigate the structure and institutions of constitutional review in Ethiopia, the second part evaluates the legitimacy of the system." -- Introduction.
Prepared under the supervision of Professor J.R. de Ville at the Faculty of Law, the University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Thesis (LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa)) -- University of Pretoria, 2004.
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