Mizan Law Review

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Rethinking Plea Bargaining Policy: The Case of Ethiopia

Alemu Meheretu Negash


This article examines the desirability of plea bargaining in Ethiopia focusing on its policy justifications as encapsulated under the 2011 FRDE Criminal Justice Policy. Emphasizing upon the specific contexts of Ethiopia, the article analyzes policy documents, laws and comparative literature. The policy relies on the traditional rationales of plea bargaining. However, most of the elements in the rationales are under continuous criticism, and thus not compelling. The exception could be the efficiency rationale which presumably has a special force in attracting developing economies like Ethiopia. Yet in actuality, this is not as compelling as imagined at least on two fronts. First, the rationale is divorced from being principled in that lack of resources or the desire to spare resources cannot vindicate an encroachment of fundamental rights and freedoms. Second, the contextual investigation of the trial and case delay in Ethiopia lends no conclusive support for it. If trials are exceptions and simple, they will not be resource intensive, and thus are manageable with limited resources. To a limited extent, plea bargaining is acknowledged for efficiency, but this comes at the expense of the overarching values of criminal justice namely fairness and accuracy and probably with other unintended perverse consequences: violation of defendants’ rights, corruption and abuses, wrongful convictions, among others.

Key terms

Plea bargaining Ethiopian Criminal Justice Policy; Trial ; Policy justifications of plea bargaining;  Efficiency; Fairness; Remorse; Trauma of trials;  Ethiopia
AJOL African Journals Online