Joint statement: suspension of Fatma Karume
16 maart 2020

Joint statement: suspension of Fatma Karume

Tanzania

Lawyers for Lawyers, together with the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales,  AIJA – International Association of Young Lawyers, SADCLA and SALC have issued a joint statement of concern regarding the suspension of Ms Fatma Karume, Tanzanian lawyer and former President of the Tanganyika Law Society.

On September 20, 2019, Ms Karume was indefinitely suspended from practicing law within the jurisdiction of mainland Tanzania by the High Court of Tanzania. Ms Karume’s suspension was in response to allegations of misconduct following her written submissions in a constitutional challenge to the President’s appointment of Professor Adelardus Kilangi as the Attorney General of Tanzania.

While the High Court acknowledged that the complaint made against Ms Karume was made in the State’s rejoinder submissions and as such she was not afforded an opportunity to respond on record, the court nonetheless proceeded to immediately suspend Ms Karume. Further to this, the suspension was made despite an acknowledgement by the court that it was “unjustified to adjudicate the complainant,” explaining that, in its view, Ms Karume’s response to the complaint should instead be dealt with by a “proper and unfettered forum.”

We are deeply concerned that, while the High Court acknowledged that the complaint made against Ms Karume was made in the State’s rejoinder submissions and as such she was not afforded an opportunity to respond on record, the court nonetheless proceeded to immediately suspend Ms Karume. Further to this, the suspension was made despite an acknowledgement by the court that it was “unjustified to adjudicate the complainant,” explaining that, in its view, Ms Karume’s response to the complaint should instead be dealt with by a “proper and unfettered forum.”

The Advocate’s Disciplinary Committee has failed to expeditiously convene to hear the matter. We are advised that on December 5, 2019, Ms Karume’s hearing was postponed indefinitely after the three-member disciplinary panel failed to sit due to the non-attendance of a representative from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Meanwhile, Ms Karume is unable to practice law, potentially prejudicing her clients and affecting her ability to earn a livelihood. In essence, the court’s actions and her continued suspension infringes on Ms Karume’s rights and obligations without affording her the fundamental right to be heard, as recognized under regional and international standards.

In light of the above, we urge that Ms Karume’s suspension be immediately lifted pending the hearing of the case before the Advocates’ Disciplinary Committee. We also recommend that should the matter proceed before the Committee, it should be conducted as expeditiously as possible to ensure that Ms Karume is afforded full due process guarantees.

Read the full statement here.