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Advocacy tested at the frontline in Zimbabwe - May-23-12
Source: The Times - Law
Do you fancy being an advocate? The starring role of Robert Jay, QC, as counsel to the Leveson inquiry, may be attracting a few would-be advocates but the Royal Courts of Justice are a far cry from places where advocacy is the only bulwark between abuses of authority and a suffering people, writes Roy Amlot, QC.
A group of English and South African lawyers has just returned from a week in Zimbabwe after helping trainers and young lawyers in the art of advocacy and showing support for a profession in the front line against human rights abuse.
Led by Desmond Browne, QC, and Edwin Glasgow, QC, the visit was part of a trip organised by the International Advocacy Training Council sponsored by the British Embassy and at the invitation of the Law Society of Zimbabwe under its President Tino Bere.
The young lawyers received us enthusiastically and were keen to improve their advocacy skills, knowing that these could provide one of few effective weapons when human rights are under strain. Their accounts were heartbreaking, if stirring: we heard of one woman lawyer taken into custody in the middle of a case, beaten and raped overnight but who returned to court the next day to finish the case.
We used the Hampel training method, the adopted practice in our country for many years and now accepted as the best technique by 17 nations. It was started by Professor Hampel, an Australian lawyer, who refined what became a simple, effective way of teaching advocacy. It isolates an advocate’s weaknesses, explaining why it is a weakness and providing a remedy, by demonstration from the trainer and playback from the advocate. The aim is that the advocate will focus on the defect and remember it. This involves role-play, with pupils playing the part of witnesses to give credence to an advocate’s performance.
Tino Bere was the first person to complain that the method needed time to sink in. But once he mastered it, he became a leading advocate, persuading others of its benefits. Another convert said that the training had allowed him to “set a court on fire” the next time he did a real case.
The strain on Zimbabwean barristers and solicitors tends to come in waves and in recent years the most severe tests have been at election time or during some major event such as the discovery of a large diamond field after an earthquake a few years ago.
In the run-up to an election, the pattern has always been the same. Zanu PF, the majority party, sets about a campaign of severe intimidation of anyone showing signs of opposition. In the past they have maimed or killed. One of our group, Justice Johann Kriegler, who has experience of monitoring elections including in Afghanistan, says that it is hard to rig an election at the time of counting; usually it is done by intimidation or corruption before voting.
Many of those abused were denied access to a lawyer. But where clients could find representation, the abuse and intimidation of the lawyers was often as bad as the abuse of the clients. To help Zimbabwean lawyers, therefore, was not just a pleasure but a privilege.
Roy Amlot, QC, is a former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association
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