Practice Relating to Rule 160. Statutes of Limitation
In 1992, the transitional government of Ethiopia adopted the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office Establishment Proclamation which has “the power to conduct investigation and institute proceedings in respect of any person having committed or responsible for the commission of an offence by abusing his position in the party, the government or mass organization under the Derg-WPE [Workers’ Party of Ethiopia] regime”.
The Proclamation states, inter alia: “The provisions concerning limitation of criminal action and the time limit concerning the submission of charges, evidence and pleading to charges shall not be applicable to proceedings instituted by the Office.”
Ethiopia’s Constitution (1994) provides:
There shall be no period of limitation on persons charged with crimes against humanity [i.e. “inhuman punishment, forcible disappearances, summary executions, acts of genocide”] as provided by international conventions ratified by Ethiopia and other laws of Ethiopia.
In the Mengistu and Others case
in 1995 concerning the prosecution and trial of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam and former members of the Derg for allegedly committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes during the former regime between 1974 and 1991, the Special Prosecutor of Ethiopia, in a reply submitted in response to the objection filed by counsels for defendants, stated: “The UN General Assembly, in article 1 of its Resolution on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitation to War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, has clearly stated that these offences are imprescriptible.”
In his conclusions, the Special Prosecutor noted: “It is … a well established custom and belief that war crimes and crimes against humanity are not … barred by limitation.”