Dar es Salaam. Three human rights organisations on Tuesday issued a joint statement condemning the decision by the Advocates Committee to suspend popular lawyer and advocate Mpale Mpoki, describing the decision as a violation of the litigator’s rights as an advocate.
Mpoki, enrolled into the Roll of Advocates on December 15, 1989, with Roll No 506, was suspended on Monday during the proceedings involving Advocate Boniface Mwabukusi, whom the Attorney General brought before the Advocates Committee over his language in criticising the intergovernmental agreement between Tanzania and Dubai.
The Attorney General is looking to have Mwabukusi disbarred, citing his unprofessional conduct, and the hearing started Monday with Advocate Mpoki among ten attorneys defending Mr Mwabukusi, himself an advocate, in the case that has attracted much attention from the public.
During the hearing before the Advocates Committee, Advocate Mpale, upon instructions from his client, raised points of preliminary objections on the jurisdiction of the Committee. The committee overruled three points of preliminary objection, and the rest was partly upheld.
In response to this ruling, Advocate Mpoki, again, upon instructions from his client, expressed his client’s intention to appeal against the ruling to the High Court under section 24A of the Advocates Act.
However, instead of granting the right to appeal the Committee’s decision, the Chairperson summarily suspended Advocate Mpoki’s practising certificate for six months from November 20, 2023.
In their statement on Tuesday, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) and the Pan African Lawyers’ Association said the suspension, taken in response to the expression of an intention to appeal, raises serious concerns about due process, fairness, and the right to seek legal redress.
“We assert that the suspension of Advocate Mpoki’s practising certificate is a violation of his rights as an advocate, an infringement on the principle of the right to a fair hearing,” the organisations observed.
“The act of summarily suspending an advocate for expressing his client’s intention to appeal undermines the integrity of the legal profession and sets a dangerous precedent. The suspension further violated Advocate Mpoki’s right to work,” they added.
They strongly condemned the “mistreatment” of Advocate Mpoki by the Advocates Committee, pointing out that it is fundamental to justice that advocates be allowed to perform their duties without fear of reprisal for the lawful exercise of their professional rights.
“We call upon the Advocates Committee to reconsider its decision and to respect the rights of advocates to express dissent and seek legal remedies without facing unwarranted disciplinary action,” the organisations demanded. “A commitment to the principles of justice and fairness is paramount in upholding the dignity of the legal profession.”
“We urge the Advocates Committee to review and rectify this situation promptly,” the organisation added. “Upholding the principles of justice, due process, and the rights of advocates is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the legal system in Tanzania.”
In another development, Tanganyika Lawyers’ Society (TLS) announced Tuesday that it had withdrawn its representation to the Advocates Committee, protesting the treatment of its member Advocate Mpoki.
TLS said it received the news on Mpoki’s suspension with “deep sorrow and unbelief,” adding that “discriminatory treatments of Advocates who are equally officers of the Court cannot be left unattended,” calling for TLS Governing Council to take “necessary actions to address this unacceptable treatment.”
“TLS has taken the said arbitrary suspension of its senior member and a representative of the Governing Council as an obvious an attack to the Bar Association as a whole,” the statement, signed by Mr Sungusia, explained.
“We strongly believe that if this practice is left unattended, it will seriously affect the independence of members of the Tanganyika Law Society.
“TLS believes that such mishandling of Senior Counsel Mpoki’s rights and ill-treatment of TLS members by the Advocates Committee should adequately be addressed by the Judiciary. We also call upon the Advocates Committee to review its decision instantaneously for the sake of justice.
“Meanwhile, we call upon the relevant authorities to heed to principles of natural justice, rule of law and constitutionalism in justice administration at all levels and treat Advocates with dignity and decorum as officers of the Court.”
Advocate Mpoki has been practising law for over 34 years on public interest litigation and human rights.
He served as the Vice President of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) for two terms: the first term was 2011-2012 under TLS President Advocate Francis Stola, and in 2019- 2021 under TLS President Advocate Rugemeleza Nshala.