15.1.1 The hierarchy of laws
The highest law in Ethiopia is the Constitution (Proclamation No.1/1995) which was adopted by the highest legislative body (parliament) and signed by the head of state in 1995. It states (FDRE, 1995):
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official that contravenes this Constitution shall be of no effect.
The Constitution declares that Ethiopia is a federal and democratic state, and that religion and the state are separate. It describes the parliamentary structure of government and the human rights that are protected in the country. The Constitution states that the power to make national laws lies with the House of People’s Representatives (HPR) although some of their law-making powers are delegated to the Council of Ministers, which is the highest executive body in the government structure (Degol and Kedir, 2013).
The Constitution is at the top of a hierarchy of laws with different levels of importance, as shown in Figure 15.1.
Proclamations come below the Constitution in the hierarchy. They are acts of parliament, discussed and voted on in the HPR and signed by the president of Ethiopia. International treaties that have been ratified by Ethiopia (such as those you read about in Study Session 14) have similar status to proclamations because they are also enacted by the HPR.
Regulations are the next level. They are issued by the Council of Ministers to supplement a proclamation. Regulations have detailed descriptions of the provisions of the respective proclamation.
Directives are the lowest level in the Ethiopian legislation hierarchy. They describe how regulations should be implemented and are usually developed by a ministry or a department within a ministry.
At regional level, there is a similar hierarchy of state laws that includes proclamations, regulations and directives.