Lawyers salute new position on bar law

KIGALI - Members of the Kigali Bar Association have welcomed the new position by the justice cluster to revise the law governing the body.

KIGALI - Members of the Kigali Bar Association have welcomed the new position by the justice cluster to revise the law governing the body.

This comes after Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama announced the government‘s move to return the much contested law to the debating table before being sent to parliament.

“This law had a lot of impediments to our routine work since the minister who was in place by the time (Edda Mukabagwiza) did not consider our position when this law was drafted,” said Gatera Gashabana, the chairman of the Bar.

In an interview with The New Times, Gashabana said one of the major reasons they contested the law is that it gave authority to civil society organizations to stand as lawyers in courts of law.

“This is not only prejudice to us but also to the international law. The organizations should remain at advocacy but when it comes to mitigation, the Bar should be consulted,” Gashabana added.

 “We also offer pro bono services to people who cannot afford legal fees, why don’t they refer those people seeking mitigation to us and we shall offer our services freely,” he added.

The law was tabled before the lower chamber of parliament in February last year by then Justice Minister Mukabagwiza but remained there since then.

“We have retrieved and we are going to work closely with the Bar to ensure that it suits us all without any prejudice,” Karugarama told lawyers on September 17 while opening an ICTR facilitated workshop by members of the Bar at Hotel Novotel .

He said the government recognizes the role played by the lawyers in ensuring an equitable judicial system.

The lawyers contested this move saying that it could lead to the abuse of the professional secrecy to which lawyers are constitutionally entitled.

“The fact that these legal officers will be appointed by these organizations to represent people in the courts would lead to abuse of the attorney-client secrecy because they (legal officers) may be required to report to their employers. A lawyer is supposed to be independent,” Gashabana had predicted in an interview last year.

The move to retrieve the law from parliament was discussed at the recent retreat of judicial practitioners held in Rubavu, Western Province in June this year.
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