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Ensuring access to justice through community courts in Eritrea

Andemariam, Senai W
June 4, 2015

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)


AbstractAfricaCourtsIndigenous JusticePolicePost-Conflict ReconciliationRJ in SchoolsStatutes and LegislationVictim Support
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