Source: (2011) Traditional justice: Practitioners' perspectives. Paper No. 3. Rome: International Development Law Organization.

The Eritrean communities have an age-long tradition of local dispute resolution in accordance with their respective customary laws, most of which are codified and date back to the 15th century. This tradition is considered part of the day-to-day life of the community and is a reflection of the desire to maintain peace among all of its members. On 22 September 2003, the Government of Eritrea enacted Proclamation 132/20032 to establish community courts3 and thereby accomplish two objectives.4 The first objective is to enable greater participation of the community in the judicial process and make the judicial process accessible to the larger community, the poor in particular. This objective is achieved by allowing the community to elect the judges of the community courts, at least one of whom must be a woman, and by establishing hundreds of community courts. The second objective is to integrate customary dispute resolution mechanisms in the national legal system and thus alleviate the burden of higher courts. To achieve this two-tier objective, community court judges are allowed to reconcile disputants based on customary laws and practices. If the parties fail to reach a compromise, the community court judges then pass judgments based on national laws. Any disputant who does not agree with the judgment can appeal to higher courts. Settlement at the community courts of those disputes that would have been previously brought to the higher courts has alleviated the burden of such courts. (excerpt)

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