Swazi judicial crisis escalates

Law society fights illegal probe by parliament

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

July 25th, 2012

Whle the Swazi government and public sector workers seem no closer to a solution to their bitter industrial dispute, the long-running crisis engulfing the country's judiciary is about to escalate.

The Swaziland Law Society is trying to counter renewed assaults on the independence of the legal profession by seeking an order from the Swazi High Court to stop the country’s parliament from launching a probe into the affairs of its members and a study of self-regulation in the legal profession.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) is concerned that the proposed probe illustrates that the authorities are prepared to escalate the judicial crisis by trying to delegitimise the Law Society - a non-partisan body that has been outspoken in its demands for a free and fair legal system.

Nicole Fritz, SALC director, commented: “Given the recent role performed by the Law Society in protesting violations of the rule of law – for instance in seeking to hold the Chief Justice to account when he sought to make the executive untouchable – it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this probe, launched at this time, is intended to tarnish the Law Society in the eyes of the general public and to distract them from their continuing efforts to rebuild the rule of law.”

Legal papers filed by the Law Society insist that parliament has no legal powers to launch such a probe, that parliament improperly interferes with functions the Law Society itself must perform and that it violates the dignity of members of the legal profession and their right to free and fair practice of the profession.

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