IBA President and Aung San Suu Kyi open inaugural meeting of Myanmar’s first national independent lawyers’ association

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and David W Rivkin, President of the International Bar Association (IBA), last night opened the inaugural meetings of the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM), the first national, independent professional organisation of lawyers in Myanmar.

Left to Right: IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and IBA President, David W Rivkin

The launch of ILAM is the conclusion of a three year capacity building programme by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) in Myanmar. Since 2013, the IBAHRI has worked with Myanmar lawyers to establish a consensus of the need for an independent body to represent the legal profession nationally, and brought together a national steering committee to design the ILAM. The inauguration ceremony was hosted by the IBAHRI and the Parliamentary Committee on Rule of Law and Tranquility in Myanmar’s capital city, Naypyitaw.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said: As we start to rebuild rule of law and the legal institutions in Burma, the Parliamentary Committee for Rule of Law and Tranquility believes there is a pressing need for a unified and representative national bar association.  It is for this reason that the Parliamentary Committee supported and encouraged the ILAM initiative from the outset.  We hope that ILAM can take the lead in upholding professional standards and ethics among lawyers in Burma and ensure that they are able to make a major contribution to the country’s progress.  On behalf of the Parliamentary Committee, I express gratitude to the IBAHRI for guiding and supporting this initiative and to the many others who have contributed to its success along the way.  I urge the members of ILAM to work with dedication and commitment and to welcome other lawyers into ILAM so as to ensure that it grows and flourishes.’

David W Rivkin, IBA President, said:‘The IBA wholeheartedly welcomes the establishment of the Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar and is fully committed to supporting the ILAM with our considerable global expertise in all matters pertaining to law. However, to ensure the longevity and sustainability of this new organisation, the international community has an important role to play by also providing continued support. The IBA wishes the ILAM great and sustained success.’

The newly-established ILAM, with a membership of more than 2,000 higher grade pleader and advocate members to date, will undertake activities to represent and promote the interests of the legal profession and improve public legal awareness and access to justice, also working to upgrade the professional standard of existing and future lawyers by feeding into legal education initiatives and developing codes of conduct and disciplinary systems. In addition, the ILAM will act as the official liaison point for the legal profession to contribute to justice sector reform, linking lawyers working in each of Myanmar’s 15 administrative divisions with government, parliament, development partners and the public.

IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis added: ‘As Myanmar signals to investors that it is open for business, it is essential that ILAM works to safeguard the independence of the legal profession and push for greater legal certainty. The Association has an essential role to play towards developing rule of law and access to justice as the country works towards democratisation, ending impunity and achieving greater protection of human rights. However, for ILAM to fulfil its mandate and discharge its functions effectively, it is of utmost importance that the government changes the laws governing the legal profession to reflect modern standards and remove the threat of arbitrary punishment of lawyers for discharging their duties.’

The first meetings of ILAM’s governing bodies will take place from 20–23 January 2016.  The Central Committee, which consists of 120 members representing all of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions and the Naypyitaw Union Territory, will adopt the Association’s Constitution, conclude the election of Central Executive Committee members and define the priority activities for the first two years of ILAM’s operation. The Central Executive Committee, to be made up of 30 members, will elect office bearers, appoint committees to undertake tasks agreed by the Central Committee, and define the administrative, financial and operational arrangements for ILAM.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, and former UN Legal Counsel, Ambassador (ret) Hans Corell commented: ‘The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute has been working with lawyers from across Myanmar to facilitate the development of ILAM since 2014. We are delighted that the efforts of all have been realised, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our Myanmar peers in the years ahead.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to read the transcript of the speech given at the inauguration ceremony by IBA President, David W Rivkin.
  2. The inauguration ceremony is sponsored by the British Council, European Union and LexisNexis. The ILAM’s first meetings are being sponsored by USAID together with the three aforementioned organisations.

    In 2014, the IBAHRI embarked on a three-year capacity-building and advocacy programme in Myanmar. In broad terms there were three phases:
    1.       To build the foundation and local consensus for a national bar association to promote and protect the interests of the legal profession;
    2.       To legally register the bar association as an independent, representative professional body, and to promote reform of the justice sector; and
    3.       To strengthen the capacity of the bar to function independently and democratically, to promote and protect the rule of law.

    Read more about Myanmar, Capacity Building, 2014-2016
  3. For more information on the IBAHRI’s work in Myanmar, visit tinyurl.com/qyoqxum.
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington, DC, United States of America, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  5. Twitter handle: @IBAHRI

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Myanmar contact:

Mae Tanner
Legal Specialist (Myanmar)
International Bar Association

Email: mae.tanner@int-bar.org
Mobile: +95 (0)9 2500 21168

Khin Maung Win
Legal Specialist (Myanmar)
International Bar Association
Email: khin.maungwin@int-bar.org
Mobile: +95 (0)9 4211 53157