According to current law, the High Court Lawyers Council, which is mainly formed with government prosecutors, cannot protect civilian lawyers (defence attorneys) and the council has become a suppression mechanism of the government, said defence attorneys.
Moreover, as it cannot protect them from the legal difficulties such as withdrawal of licenses that lawyers usually face, the council needs to be amended, they said.
The Bar Council Act, which was amended in 1989, stipulates that the council comprises 11 members - including the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, a judge from the Supreme Court, six high court lawyers nominated by the Supreme Court, the director general of the high court, and the Attorney General Office’s director general.
The proposed amendments include returning to the elected system wherein representatives of the councils are chosen by independent defence attorneys, as in the original Bar Council Act (1929).
The original law specified to form the Bar council with 15 members, including four people nominated by the attorney general of the state, high court or chief court and 10 high court lawyers elected by defence attorneys.
“We will amend the appointing system to include sections from the original act. It is first priority. I assume that it is more realistic to draw by a new Bar council elected by the whole country,” said U Aung Kyaw Min.
In March, the Bar Council Act amendment committee was formed to amend law, and consultations have been conducted in Yangon, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, Lashio and Pathein cities.
“We cannot hold talks in every region. The lawyers from Rakhine requested to hold them there. We can only take a list for this. We have no funds and are working with our own money. The participants in the meeting are also spending their own money,” he said.
The Lawyers Association from Dawei, Thandwe, Taunggok and Gwa townships invited them to discuss the amendment of the Bar Council Act, he said.
“We explain about the amendment of this act to the lawyers. There is no lawyer who oppose it. We expect that amending the law can solve the difficulties of lawyers,” said an advocate of the Lawyers Association in Lashio.
After the discussions, the draft law containing the amendments will be submitted to Hluttaw MPs. U Aung Kyaw Min expressed hope to be able to amend the law within six months.
The attorney-general’s office is not expected to make any objections because in the amended act, the election system of Bar council members is based on the original act.
The Independent Lawyers Association of Myanmar has been working on the draft Bar council law in cooperation with the Attorney-General’s Office since 2015.