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Pritzker Legal Research Center

Ethiopia: Center for International Human Rights

Legal System

Ethiopia has a mixed civil law and customary law system.

Countries with civil law systems have comprehensive, continuously updated written legal codes designed to address an entire area of activity, such as criminal law, civil procedure, or commerce. Judicial decisions do not have precedential value.

Customary law is usually unwritten and dispensed by persons with elected or hereditary roles within a small community. Customary law tends to govern areas such as personal conduct, inheritance, and marriage.

Research Guides

These research guides are useful starting points for understanding Ethiopia's legal system and well as the sources of law in Ethiopia. These guides include links to recommended online resources that provide access to Ethiopian legal materials. 


The Constitution came into force in August 1995. The Amharic version of the Constitution has final legal authority, but English translations are available through the resources below. 

Laws and Cases

Online access to laws and cases is very limited. If you conduct a Google search to retrieve a copy of a law or case, make sure to evaluate the website's authoritativeness and reputability (i.e., did it come from a government's website or an international organization's website?). Laws and cases from Ethiopia are not available on Westlaw or Lexis. 

Older laws and cases may be found in print. If you are looking for older legal materials, the Ethiopia research guides linked above contain lists of law reports that you can search for on NUsearch by publication name. 

In addition to checking country-specific databases and websites to find the foreign legal materials you need, subject-specific collections of laws, which collect laws from various countries pertaining to a particular subject, can be useful resources to incorporate into your research process. These resources often have better search capabilities than foreign government websites. For additional suggestions for subject law collections beyond the selected databases listed below, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law - Subject Law Collections on the Web research guide