HUMAN RIGHTS IN ERITREA

AuthorJ. A. Clarence Smith
Publication Date01 Sep 1955
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1955.tb00316.x
HUMAN RIGHTS IN ERITREA
THE Constitution of Eritrea, drafted by a United Nations Com-
missioner, adopted by the Eritrean Constituent Assembly in July,
1952,
and ratified in August by His Imperial Majesty the Emperor
of Ethiopia as Sovereign of the Federation, became effective with
the withdrawal of the British administration in September of that
year. Its basis is the separation of powers, subject to a limited
power in the executive to control the legislature and appoint
to the judiciary, and to a power in the judiciary to declare uncon-
stitutional an executive order
or
a legislative act. The Constitution
contains a list of fundamental human rights prescribed by the
United Nations in its resolution of December,
1950,
on the disposal
of Eritrea, some of which (for instance the
right to exercise any
profession
”)
are
subject to the requirements of the law.” The
list prescribed by the United Nations ends with the general
provision that
:
“The respect for the rights and freedoms of others
and
the requirements of public order and the general welfare alone
will justify any limitations to the above rights”;
and the Constitution adds:
‘‘
The enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
may be regulated by law provided that such regulation does
not impede their normal enjoyment.”
All existing laws were continued in force by the Constitution, but
‘‘
in the event of a conflict between such laws and regulations and
this Constitution, the Constitution shall prevail.”
The idea of the citizen having any rights against the authorities
being a startling innovation in Eritrea, resort to the Supreme Court
in
defence of constitutional rights has been rare, but five cases
have arisen in the first two and a half years of self-government.
The earliest case, decided in August,
1953,
concerned the “right
to freedom of opinion and expression,” a newspaper having been
suppressed by the withdrawal of its licence to print just before the
persons concerned had been acquitted of a criminal charge of
seditious libel. Under an Italian law no one could print without
a
licence, and the court held that this provision was constitutional
as a means of raising revenue and of keeping the authorities
informed of the existence and locality of printing presses; but
that
it
was unconstitutional as a means of controlling the press,
and that the withdrawal of the licence for this purpose was therefore
unlawful.
The next case arose
in
October,
1958,
out of the “right to
life, liberty and security of person
”:
certain persons detained
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