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Rwanda: Why the Bar has suspended nearly 100 lawyers

The Rwanda Bar Association (RBA) has suspended 96 lawyers for various professional offences, including failure to pay annual dues on time.

The suspensions, according to the President of the Bar, Moïse Nkundabarashi, range from one month to one year, depending on the seriousness of the offence.

The new times has since learned that 20 lawyers have been suspended for one month, 1 has been suspended for two months, 12 have been suspended for three months and 8 have been suspended for four months.

Among the others, 30 lawyers were suspended for six months, 1 was suspended for eight months, 3 were suspended for nine months, while 21 were suspended for one year.

“There is a procedure that is followed before a lawyer is suspended. It starts with the President filing a case before the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee, then the lawyer is summoned and allowed to enter with his lawyer. to respect the right to defence,” Nkundabarashi said.

“This is followed by a decision of the committee which is communicated to the lawyer and relevant bodies as the suspended person is not allowed to practice anywhere during the suspension period,” he added.

The suspended lawyers have the right to go to court and challenge the bar association’s decision and according to Nkundabarashi, although none of the 96 challenged the decision, the association also reserves the right to defend itself.

Asked about the implications of the bar association’s decision and whether it leads to more punitive measures if a lawyer decides to ignore it and continue practicing, Nkundabarashi said: “It’s a very dangerous situation for everyone. lawyer suspended from continuing to practise. This would amount to a criminal offence, and there is a provision in the commission’s code that provides for prosecution in this regard. »

Every year, a lawyer is supposed to pay Rwf750,000 to the Bar Association and paid in two installments. Of this, 500,000 Frw covers their medical insurance and their families.

However, there are lawyers who paid right after the deadline expired and these were suspended for a month. There are those who have not paid and who have not appeared before the Discipline and Ethics Committee either, those who have had six months, while those who have had one year are repeat offenders who have refused over the years to pay their dues.

“There are offenses like lawyers breaking the agreements they make with their clients. We have warned these lawyers time and time again. We encourage the public to always document in writing every undertaking and agreement they have with their clients. lawyers,” Nkundabarashi said.

There are currently more than 1,500 barristers and more are expected to join this year, although Nkundabarashi said the suspension of the 96 will not affect ongoing court cases as there are enough lawyers who would support them.

If a lawyer is continually sanctioned or commits a serious offense, he risks being banned from practicing law.

This is not the first time that lawyers have been suspended, in fact, according to Nkundabarashi, it is a common practice. From 2019 to 2021, four lawyers were removed from their posts while 207 were suspended.

In 2019 there were 109 suspended lawyers, in 2020 the number fell to 79 people while in 2021 there were only 18 suspended.