WASHINGTON, August 12, 2017 – The American Bar Association is deeply concerned by apparent threats to the independence of the legal profession in the United Republic of Tanzania. The Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs has put forward a proposal to abolish the bar association of mainland Tanzania (officially known as the Tanganyika Law Society) and transfer primary regulation and oversight of the legal profession to the executive branch of the government of Tanzania. It is troubling that at the same time these proposed changes have been put forth, the current president of the Tanganyika Law Society is facing criminal charges for having publicly criticized the government. His trial is scheduled to commence later this month.
The American Bar Association, which has worked to advance and support the legal profession in the United States and abroad, believes that the independence of the legal profession is a cornerstone of a strong rule of law, democracy and economic development. This is a principle enshrined in numerous international human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers makes clear that lawyers, like other citizens, are entitled to freedom of expression and association.
At the very least, the government of the United Republic of Tanzania's proposed reforms threaten the rule of law, judicial independence, independence of the legal profession, and access to justice, especially for those on the economic and political margins.
The ABA will be closely monitoring the situation and supporting efforts to preserve the independence of the legal profession in the United Republic of Tanzania.
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