BURMA: Lawyers can get revoked licences back, govt says

(Hong Kong, May 25, 2012) Lawyers and other professionals who have lost their licences for prior involvement in politics can now apply to get them back, according to copies of documents obtained by the Asian Human Rights Commission this month.  

In a written reply dated April 24 to a question submitted by an MP in January, the government has indicated that lawyers, doctors and licenced educational tutors can now get their licences back if “no cause exists to deny them on grounds of codes of conduct or discipline under the relevant laws and rules”.

The AHRC, which has been campaigning for 32 lawyers who had their licences revoked for political reasons, many of whom also spent time in jail, welcomed the news.

Wong Kai Shing, the Hong Kong-based regional group’s Executive Director, said he hoped lawyers who had lost licences for political reasons or for working on human rights cases would soon get them back.

“None of these 32 lawyers, plus at least two others of which we are also aware, violated any laws or rules to warrant the revocation of their licences,” Wong said. 

“Furthermore, government authorities themselves violated the rules by unilaterally revoking the licences, and by failing to allow these lawyers to represent themselves in full and open inquiries into their alleged infractions,” he noted.

“Therefore, we expect that if these lawyers’ applications are assessed fairly and according to the terms of the two relevant laws on the licencing and practice of law, these professionals can again soon represent clients in court,” Wong added.

Wong also called for further unilateral revocations of licences to cease, and for no more lawyers to be investigated simply for representing the interests of their clients according to law. 

Recently, the AHRC reported that two lawyers representing Phyo Wai Aung, a young man tortured to confess to a bombing in 2010 who has been sentenced to death by a closed court at the central prison, were accused of insulting the court. The judge ordered that they and their client be investigated for possible legal action. To date, the matter is pending. 

The regional human rights group has also established a webpage in support of the lawyers who have lost their licences: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/burma/disbarred-lawyers/ 

The webpage contains letters of appeal and brief details of the professionals who have lost their licences and the reasons that the licences were revoked. It also contains letters of support from professional groups around the world. 

“We encourage lawyers and their associations everywhere to write letters in support of their peers in Burma, who for many years have struggled under very difficult conditions to represent not only their clients but also to stand up for fundamental human rights,” Wong said. 

“Now these lawyers have a chance to get their licences to practice back, the more letters sent the better,” he urged. 

Groups and individuals sending letters in support of the disbarred lawyers may choose to use the template of the letter available online, or write something from their own perspective. 

Copies of letters sent can be forwarded to the Burma Desk of the AHRC, which with permission of the author will post them on the campaign webpage. Send them to: burma@ahrc.asia.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PRL-017-2012
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Campaigns : Disbarred Lawyers
Issues : Administration of justice, Torture,