National prosecution and transitional justice : the case of Ethiopia
Reta, Demelash Shiferaw
This dissertation is concerned with how societies in transition respond to past violation by focusing on how Ethiopia has dealt with gross violations committed during the repressive regime of a military junta called the Dergue – meaning Committee. It is widely believed that transitional justice processes play a significant transformative role in societies in transition.\ud \ud Based on a case study of the process and impact of prosecution of Dergue officials and their affiliates, this dissertation demonstrates that transitional criminal justice processes may not necessarily transform a society to a new social and political identity that essentially departs from a repressive past. The study discusses and analyzes the theory of transitional justice emphasizing the discourses on the meaning and significance of the main components of transitional justice – justice, truth, reparation and reconciliation – and relates these discourses to the Ethiopian experience. The study is qualitative, employing both primary data (primarily in-depth interview), and secondary data including literature (on Ethiopian history, law and politics), laws both national and international, court cases, and various reports including those of courts and the prosecution office. In the Ethiopian context, the arguments in support of prosecution resonate with the general theoretical arguments that it is necessary to render justice, establish rule of law, ensure accountability, serve as deterrence, and generally serve as a foundation for a new political and social identity. However, whether prosecution or prosecution alone was an appropriate response in the Ethiopian context is a contested issue.\ud \ud Secondly, the legal framework for prosecution and its implementation are also problematic. Thus, this study shows the problematic nature of transitional justice processes as carried out in Ethiopian social and political context in terms of both bringing closure to the past and playing a transformative role, and thereby showing the complex and contested nature of transitional justice itself.
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