Myanmar’s first national independent lawyers’ association meeting opened


Photo: NLD Chairperson 

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and David W Rivkin, President of the International Bar Association (IBA), last night opened the inaugural meetings of the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM), the first national, independent professional organisation of lawyers in Myanmar, the International Bar Association (IBA) said in a statement on 20 January.

The launch of ILAM is the conclusion of a three year capacity building programme by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) in Myanmar. Since 2013, the IBAHRI has worked with Myanmar lawyers to establish a consensus of the need for an independent body to represent the legal profession nationally, and brought together a national steering committee to design the ILAM. The inauguration ceremony was hosted by the IBAHRI and the Parliamentary Committee on Rule of Law and Tranquillity in Myanmar's capital city, Naypyitaw.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said: 'As we start to rebuild rule of law and the legal institutions in Burma, the Parliamentary Committee for Rule of Law and Tranquillity believes there is a pressing need for a unified and representative national bar association.  It is for this reason that the Parliamentary Committee supported and encouraged the ILAM initiative from the outset.  We hope that ILAM can take the lead in upholding professional standards and ethics among lawyers in Burma and ensure that they are able to make a major contribution to the country's progress.  On behalf of the Parliamentary Committee, I express gratitude to the IBAHRI for guiding and supporting this initiative and to the many others who have contributed to its success along the way.  I urge the members of ILAM to work with dedication and commitment and to welcome other lawyers into ILAM so as to ensure that it grows and flourishes.'

David W Rivkin, IBA President, said: 'The IBA wholeheartedly welcomes the establishment of the Independent Lawyers' Association of Myanmar and is fully committed to supporting the ILAM with our considerable global expertise in all matters pertaining to law. However, to ensure the longevity and sustainability of this new organisation, the international community has an important role to play by also providing continued support. The IBA wishes the ILAM great and sustained success.'

The newly-established ILAM, with a membership of more than 2,000 higher grade pleader and advocate members to date, will undertake activities to represent and promote the interests of the legal profession and improve public legal awareness and access to justice, also working to upgrade the professional standard of existing and future lawyers by feeding into legal education initiatives and developing codes of conduct and disciplinary systems. In addition, the ILAM will act as the official liaison point for the legal profession to contribute to justice sector reform, linking lawyers working in each of Myanmar's 15 administrative divisions with government, parliament, development partners and the public.

IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis added: 'As Myanmar signals to investors that it is open for business, it is essential that ILAM works to safeguard the independence of the legal profession and push for greater legal certainty. The Association has an essential role to play towards developing rule of law and access to justice as the country works towards democratisation, ending impunity and achieving greater protection of human rights. However, for ILAM to fulfil its mandate and discharge its functions effectively, it is of utmost importance that the government changes the laws governing the legal profession to reflect modern standards and remove the threat of arbitrary punishment of lawyers for discharging their duties.'

The first meetings of ILAM's governing bodies will take place from 20-23 January 2016.  The Central Committee, which consists of 120 members representing all of Myanmar's 14 states and regions and the Naypyitaw Union Territory, will adopt the Association's Constitution, conclude the election of Central Executive Committee members and define the priority activities for the first two years of ILAM's operation. The Central Executive Committee, to be made up of 30 members, will elect office bearers, appoint committees to undertake tasks agreed by the Central Committee, and define the administrative, financial and operational arrangements for ILAM.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, and former UN Legal Counsel, Ambassador (ret) Hans Corell commented: 'The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute has been working with lawyers from across Myanmar to facilitate the development of ILAM since 2014. We are delighted that the efforts of all have been realised, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our Myanmar peers in the years ahead.'

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