Justice

Bujumbura Court of Appeal disbars four lawyers

Bujumbura Court of Appeal decided on 16 January to disbar three lawyers from the Bujumbura Bar Association while another one is suspended for one year and excluded from the Council of Bujumbura Bar for five years. The chairman of Bujumbura Bar says the trial is characterized by many irregularities.

Kiyuku Salvator, chairman of Burundi Bar Association “We deplore the fact that the Court of Appeal refused the defense lawyers to represent their clients…..”

Kiyuku Salvator, chairman of Burundi Bar Association “We deplore the fact that the Court of Appeal refused the defense lawyers to represent their clients…..”

Lawyers Vital Nshimirimana, Armel Niyongere, Dieudonnee Bashirahishize were disbarred from the Bujumbura Bar Association while Lambert Nigarura was suspended for one year and excluded from the Council of Bujumbura Bar for five years . They were all accused of non-compliance with professional ethics.

“We were not surprised by this decision of the Court of Appeal of Bujumbura to ban us from the list of Bujumbura Bar lawyers. Given how the trial took place, there were many procedural violations and even the violation of the Basic Law in its Article 38 to refuse our defense lawyers to represent us in the trial, “says Armel Niyongere, one of the four lawyers disbarred.

He accuses the Government of taking harsh measures against them because of their involvement in the denunciation of human rights violations and in defending the victims of crimes committed in Burundi before international courts, in particular the International Criminal Court -ICC.

For Niyongere, this measure is a non-event. He says they will continue their struggle against impunity in Burundi and these reprisals strengthen them in their struggle.

“Even though we do not expect much from Burundi justice because it is not independent, we are going to respect all the appeal process internally, if need be, externally so that the international justice handles our case, “says Niyongere.

He accuses the Government of muzzling all dissenting voices. “Any person staying in Burundi who dares to denounce the crimes and violations of human rights committed in the country is murdered,” says Niyongere.

“We observe irregularities”

On 29 July, Bujumbura Court of Appeal Public Prosecutor addressed a correspondence to the Burundi Bar Association about disbarring those four lawyers.

Vital Nshimirimana and Armel Niyongere were specifically charged with involvement in some criminal cases in relation to the participation in insurrectionary movements, the coup attempt and the traffic of image broadcast on France 3 TV channel in connection with a so-called genocide in Karuzi eastern province of Burundi.

Kiyuku Salvator, chairman of Burundi Bar Association says that the Council of Bujumbura Bar has already expressed on this case. “We found the Attorney General’s decision unfounded. We deplore the fact that the Court of Appeal refused the defense lawyers to represent their clients. We also consider that the principle of the presumption of innocence has been violated. Kiyuku believes that these lawyers will file complaints to the international court.

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