Vulnerable people get free legal aid in Ethiopia
Abebe Ayalew, who is blind, couldn’t afford a lawyer to represent him when a dispute arose over inheritance of his father’s house in September 2011, so he turned to a UNDP-supported Free Legal Aid Centre for help.
“I came to this Legal Aid Centre and Andualem, a lawyer and instructor in Hawassa University, was assigned to represent me in the trial court and the higher court,” he said. “I won the case and the house was awarded to me” in November 2011.
- The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has established 111 Free Legal Centres country-wide to provide legal aid to the most vulnerable groups at no charge
- The EHRC has invested US$266,513 in the Free Legal Centers
- More than 12,000 people, mostly from the vulnerable groups within the society, have so far received free legal aid service from legal aid centers since 2010
“As a disabled person, I could have been a homeless person living in the streets if I hadn’t gotten free legal aid from this Center,” Abebe, who is married with one child, said.
He is now able to support himself and his family by renting out smaller rooms in the compound he was awarded.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has established some 111 Free Legal Aid Centers across the country, with support from UNDP and other international donors. These centres have provided legal assistance to more than 12,000 people since 2010.
The Free Legal Aid Centres provide services such as legal counsel and court representation at no charge.
Ethiopia faces major challenges in providing equal access to justice for all citizens, with vulnerable groups often priced out of the market.
The EHRC has signed agreements with 16 universities and NGOs to manage the centres, which also provide education and experience to law students. Some are strategically located at courts and prison compounds.
UNDP Ethiopia is managing funds for the project, provided by the multi-donor Democratic Institutions Programme, and has invested some US$267,000 in the legal aid centres.
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This study seeks to identify how engagement with informal justice systems can build greater respect and protection for human rights.