In countries where the law is supreme and political crises are resolved in courts…

In countries where the law is supreme and political crises are resolved in courts of the highest order, who gets appointed to serve at constitutional or supreme courts is a battleground for political parties, both incumbent and opposition.  Just watch how the fight between the two American parties will unfold in President Barack Obama’s decision to replace Justice Antonin G. Scalia, who died this month after serving the US Supreme Court for 30 years.

To the contrary, where the wishes of men prevail over the law, the public is kept in the dark when Supreme Court justices depart from their responsibilities, says gossip. Judging by its track record, Ethiopia’s place falls in the latter category, claims gossip.

That Tegene Getaneh (Justice), president of Ethiopia’s Supreme Court for seven years, has resigned and the administration remains quiet about it is nothing new. Ever since the living Constitution established this most powerful institution, the departure of justices both in retirement and resignation is what it chooses play down, gossip recalled.

Kemal Bedri, former president of the Supreme Court, had retired after more than a decade of service and had left the office unoccupied for over a year before Tegene was appointed. Both their deputies, Tadesse Kiros and Menbretsehay Tadesse, had to leave quietly, if not unceremoniously. The Parliament, which had appointed them all, was not told why and how they had departed the chamber on King George Street, while other judges of lower courts, but dismissed on ethical grounds had their cases brought before it. Should they leave on their own, no words of gratitude and acknowledgement of their contributions while in office have ever been pronounced in public.

Now Tegene has resigned, the administration remains mute while engaged in closed-door discussions to nominate the judge who will replace him, gossip says. Nonetheless, the reasons behind his resignation before his age of retirement remains a subject of speculation, claims gossip.

Tegene submitted his resignation on the grounds of poor health and his recognition of the demanding nature of the reform underway at the judicial community to restore good governance, gossip disclosed. Yet, it remains unclear if he was pressured to tender his resignation because he was perceived to be standing in the way of the reforms, claims gossip. The Prime Minister hesitated little to accept his resignation as soon as submitted, disclosed gossip.

There is the Judicial Administrative Council, under the stewardship of Asmelash W. Sellasie, also Government Whip of the House, which is currently examining five cases under litigations at the Supreme Court, gossip disclosed. These are cases selected for allegedly showing the extent of political meddling by powerful men of the ruling party, interfering in the works of the judiciary, claims gossip.

The findings from examination of these cases, on which a final report is expected to be submitted to the administration next week, reveal that the battle for good governance at the supreme organ of the judicial system is near lost, according to gossip. If and when made public, the report from the sampling of five cases – of which one has been widely reported on by the media – exposes in detail the meddling of individual politicians in favour of interests they defend, gossip reveals.
With that, the newly appointed President will have a mammoth task of going against the tide, claims gossip. Who that person will be is still on the table of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, gossip disclosed.


Published on Feb 22,2016 [ Vol 16 ,No 825]



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