November 15, 2011

Ethiopia: Women Lawyers Denied Access to Foreign Funds Eden Sahle

Filed under: Ethiopia — ethiopiantimes @ 8:50 pm
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High Court follows precedent in case against Charities Agency

The Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association’s (EWLA) request to the Federal High Court Eleventh Civil Bench to release 8.6 million Br that is being blocked by the Ethiopian Charities & Societies Agency (ECSA) Board was denied on October 28, 2011.

The case was brought to court on April 18, 2011, by Zenaye Tadesse, director of the association and a lawyer, appealing the decision of the board, which was established in 2009 to license, register, and supervise charities and societies.

The appeal came following the confiscation of monies that the association had raised during the grace period given for societies and charities to reregister according to the Charities and Societies Proclamation of 2009. The law dictates that those registered as local nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), after the one-year grace period given since the passing of the law, must raise 90pc of their capital from local sources. Only those who are registered as such can work in rights advocacy.

It was the money raised during the grace period, before the EWLA was registered as a local NGO that had led the board to block its account in December 2010. The association had raised 12 million Br during that time from international sources. Out of the money blocked, only 1.5 million Br was released to EWLA to be used for its yearly budget.

The remaining 8.6 million Br in the blocked account was to be used to purchase a house to be used as an office, argued the association established by a group of female lawyers in 1995. The board blocked the account due to the amount being larger than the 10pc limit, Bezuayeneh G. Egziabehare, lawyer of the agency, claimed in response to the appeal.

The association’s request to have the money returned to the donors if it was not to be released was rejected by the board. However, some amount of the money will be released to constitute 10pc of their budget, based on what EWLA raises from local sources, the board stated.

However, the appeal should not be heard at the court, as the 15-day period of limitation to do so after the board had made its decision has passed, the agency argued.

The presiding judge at the High Court, Aseffa Aberah, discounted this. The appeal was filed on the 11th day of the decision within the appropriate limitations, he said. The blocking of the account was legal, according to the proclamation, the judge also ruled.

This decision came three days after a similar decision against another local NGO. The same court gave a similar ruling against the Human Rights Council (HRC) upholding the ruling of the board, which has blocked eight million Birr of the council.


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