The Principle of the Presumption of Innocence and its Challenges in the Ethiopian Criminal Process
The administration of the criminal justice system tries to strike a balance
between the search for truth and the fairness of the process. To this end, the law should protect individual rights and impose various legal burdens on the state. One such tool is the principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. This is a constitutional principle under Ethiopian law and requires the public prosecutor to prove each element constituting the crime which, as argued in this article, should be proved beyond reasonable doubt. However, this principle is being violated by various subsidiary laws, procedures and practices. First, there are various provisions in the criminal law that limit (or arguably disregard) this constitutional principle. Such criminal law provisions assume as proved the existence of some of the elements of certain crimes without requiring the public prosecutor to submit evidence. Second, the Criminal Justice Administration Policy adopted in 2011 contemplates shifting the burden of proof to the defendant in selected serious crimes. Third, the courts also wrongly shift burden of proof to the accused regarding certain facts in various court decisions. These laws and judicial practices deprive the accused of the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This article, inter alia, examines the constitutionality of such shifting of the burden of proof and also analyzes the standards of proof that are required in criminal cases in the Ethiopian context.
Key words: Presumption of innocence, burden of proof, criminal process, criminal justice, confessions, Ethiopia