Deprivation of Liberty of Children in the Ethiopian Child Justice System: A Legal Analysis and Evidence from Practice


  • Belayneh Berhanu Lecturer of Law at Arba Minch University, School of Law



deprivation of liberty, child justice, last resort, Ethiopia


The international child rights standards provide that deprivation of liberty of children shall be a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time. This article, thus, aims to examine the legal and practical framework of deprivation of liberty of children in the Ethiopian child justice system in light of these standards. The study found out that the principles of ‘deprivation of liberty as a measure of last resort’ and ‘for the shortest appropriate period’ are not provided in the Ethiopian justice system. On the contrary, the Criminal Code makes deprivation of liberty of children after conviction a measure of first resort. This is the case for home arrest and corrective detention. Further, although imprisonment can be imposed after the failure of the measures, courts impose it on children who committed a crime for the first time. The duration of corrective detention and imprisonment in Ethiopia can normatively be considered ‘shortest’. In practice, however, courts sentence children to corrective detention for a period exceeding the maximum provided in the law. There is also a risk of prolonged curative detention. Hence, the Ethiopian child justice system needs normative revision and practical reconsideration to enforce the rights of children as enshrined in the international child rights standards.