Lawyers in Ivory Coast demand judicial independence

The lawyers say ”threats, intimidation and interference” interrupt the pursuit of their duties.
A lawyer at the palais de justice in Abidjan passes a posteron October 22, 2014 pointing out that free legal consultations are available each Wednesday between 1-5pm A partnership between the justice ministry and the Ivory Coast bar, financed by the EU, allows people to benefit from free consultations and legal asssitance since October 8. AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU (Photo by SIA KAMBOU / AFP)

Lawyers in Ivory Coast on Monday warned against political interference in the legal system, demanding that judges execute their duties “in total independence”. 

“The Ivory Coast Bar Association formally asks Ivorian judges to carry out their missions with total independence and impartiality,” said Thomas Ze N’Dri, the body’s president. 

“The reality of the last few months has given Ivorians cause for real concern, with a blurring of the lines between the law and politics,” he said in a public announcement in the capital Abidjan.

“A judge should only take orders from the law,” the bar association said. 

The lawyers’ statement came two weeks after a similar protest by unions representing the country’s magistrates.

In a statement on January 17, they said there had been a “progressive deterioration in their moral and psychological working conditions due to… threats, intimidation and interference in the pursuit of carrying out their duties”.

The National Union of Ivory Coast Magistrates and the Magistrates’ Trade Union Syndicate Union denounced “in the strongest terms, the intolerable interference in the exercise of their duties”.

They urged “all magistrates to close ranks in order to face up to all these attacks, wherever they come from”.

They also demanded that President Alassane Ouattara, “as the constitutional guarantor of the independence of the judiciary”, to ensure the separation of powers and rule of law.


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