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Crimes Against Honour


Article 607- Principle.

(1)    Crimes against honour or reputation, committed in one of the forms specified in the following Articles, are punishable no matter what the rank or social status of the criminal or of the injured party.
They may be committed against individuals, or juridical persons. In the case of individuals, they may be committed equally against living persons, deceased persons or against persons declared absent.
(2)    In determining the punishment for the different crimes, the Court shall take into account the gravity of the crime, the position of the injured party and the extent of the publicity or circulation involved in the crime.

Article 608- Means of Commission.

Injury to honour, direct or indirect, can be committed whether by word of mouth or by sound, in writing, by image, drawing, sign behaviour or gesture or by any other means or other way whatsoever.
Indirect means of crime or circulation by any process of recording reproduction, emission, communication or projection, graphical, isual or aural, rank with natural and direct means.

Article 609- Punishment to be imposed where the Crime is Committed by Juridical Persons.

(1)    The punishment to be imposed shall be a fine where the crime is committed by a juridical person.
(2)    The penalty to be inflicted upon the juridical person under sub-article (1) shall not prevent the punishment of its directors, managers, inspectors, agents, proxies or members who are proved to have committed a crime of the same kind personally.

Article 610- Compensation.

(1)    Damages for the material or moral injury done to the injured party, shall be fixed by the Court in accordance with the general provisions (Art. 101), having regard to the gravity and extent of the crime and to the positions of the criminal and the injured party.
(2)    The moral reparation ordered by the Court, especially in the form of publication of the judgment, of a part thereof or of its operative part (Art. 155), shall be determined in the light of the same considerations, and shall be adapted to the degree of protection called for in each specific case.

Article 611- Immunity.

Members of the constitutionally established legislature, executive or judiciary are not susceptible to legal proceedings on the ground of injury to honour done by information or statements, correct as to form, given or made by them in conformity with their duties and in the regular discharge of their duties.

Article 612- Non-Punishable Comment and Averments.

The following are not punishable as injury to honour:
a)    considered opinions and well-founded criticism, couched in proper and moderate terms, concerning personal aptitudes or artistic, literary, scientific, professional or social activities, creations or productions; or
b)    averments, statements or comments uttered or repeated by a public servant or by an advocate or attorney, by an expert or witness, by a journalist or by any other person acting in good faith in the discharge of his duties, especially by way of investigations, reports or depositions, in the defence before court or before the administrative authorities, or by way of authorized public information service, where the alleged facts are germane to and remain within the confines thereof and where they are not uttered with express intent to discredit.


Article 613- Defamation and Calumny.

(1)    Whoever, addressing a third party, imputes to another, with the intent to injure his honour or reputation, an act, a fact or a conduct, where the allegation accords with the truth,
Is punishable, upon complaint, with simple imprisonment not exceeding six months, or fine.
Statements made concerning a crime of which a person has been found guilty, has duly served the sentence or has been granted pardon or amnesty, with intent to injure his honour or reputation, shall be considered as defamation and are punishable under the preceding Article.
(2)    Where the defamatory imputations or allegations constituting the injury to honour or reputation are false and are uttered or spread with knowledge of their falsity, the criminal is punishable upon complaint, for calumny with simple imprisonment for not less than one month, and fine.
(3)    Where the criminal has acted with deliberate intent to ruin the victim’s reputation,
he shall be punished, upon complaint, with simple imprisonment for not less than three months, and fine.
(4)    Where the imputation or allegation is false and made negligently, it is punishable, upon complaint, with simple imprisonment not exceeding one year, or fine.
(5)    False accusation or denunciation to the authorities is punishable under the special provision (Art. 447), and is not liable to any concurrent penalty.

Article 614- Truthful Assertions and safeguarding or Higher Interest Excepted.

(1)    A person charged with defamation cannot in general plead in defence that he acted without intent to injure, or that he confined himself to repeating even though not believing them, allegations emanating from another, or that was a matter of common knowledge, or that he uttered suspicions or conjectures.
(2)    Where the criminal commits the act by uttering or expressing the truth, or having sufficient ground to believe that it is true, he shall not be liable to punishment if he can prove that:
a)    he did not have the intention to injure the honour or reputation of another; or
b)    he acted in the public interest or he was actuated by a higher interest or moral aim.
(3)    Where the criminal is convicted of calumny, he may in no case exculpate himself by invoking public or higher interest.

Article 615- Insulting Behaviour and Outrage.

Except in cases where it is punishable as a petty offence (Art. 844), anyone directly addressing the victim, or referring to him, offends him in his honour by insult or injury, or outrages him by gesture or in any other manner,
Is punishable, upon complaint, with simple imprisonment not exceeding three months, or fine not exceeding three hundred Birr.

Article 616- Provocation and Retaliation.

(1)    The Court may impose no punishment where a person charged with insulting behaviour or outrage has been provoked or carried away by an attitude, conduct or acts, even towards a third party, which are manifestly so shocking offensive or reprehensible as  to make his act excusable.
(2)    Where the injured party has at once replied to an insult or outrage in kind, the Court may, according to the circumstances, exempt from punishment both criminals or one of them.

Article 617- Withdrawal and Repentance.

(1)    Where, during proceedings, a person charged with an injury to honour withdraws his allegations and expresses his regrets, either in writing or orally before the Court, the Court may mitigate the penalty (Art. 179).
(2)    The Court shall in all cases deliver formal attestation of the withdrawal to the interested party, for all appropriate purposes.

Article 618- Special Cases Aggravating the Crime.

(1)    Where the defamation or calumny, insult or outrage, has been deliberately committed against a public servant in the discharge of his official duty, or in relation thereto, the criminal is punishable, upon complaint:
a)    with simple imprisonment not exceeding six months, and fine not exceeding one thousand Birr in cases of insult or outrage;
b)    with simple imprisonment from one month to one year, and fine in cases of defamation; or
c)    with simple imprisonment for not less than three months, and fine in cases of calumny; or
d)    with simple imprisonment for not less than six months, and fine, in cases of deliberate act to ruin the victim’s reputation.
(2)    Nothing in this Article shall affect the special provisions relating to injury to the honour of the State (Art. 244), to insults to foreign States and inter-State institutions (Art. 264 and 266), to insults to a military superior (Art. 297) and to contempt of Court (Art. 449).

Article 619- Proceedings in Respect of Injury to the Honour of Absent or Deceased Persons.

(1)    Where any of the injuries to honour punishable under this Chapter relates to a deceased person or to a person legally declared absent, the right to lodge a complaint lies exclusively with his descendants, natural or adopted, and with his spouse, or, in their default, with his ascendants, natural or legal, and with his brothers and sisters.
(2)    Limitation of the action, in respect of injury to private honour, is regulated by the general provisions.
Where the allegations constituting the injury to the memory of the person affected refer to a public activity of any kind which has passed into the historical, artistic, literary or scientific domain, the complaint shall not be admissible if, at the time when the incriminating act is committed, at least thirty years have passed since the death of the injured person or since he was legally declared absent.