Beginning Tuesday, Lawyers in Kenya with practicing certificates will receive lock down permits in the form of a special ‘essential service provider identity card’ on their websites, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Mr Nelson Havi announced at the weekend.
According to Havi, the identity cards will enable lawyers move to and from work during curfew hours and within and out of restricted counties. ” print and laminate it ” Havi advises.
The development follows a spirited court fight mounted by the LSK last month against the Government of Kenya to include Lawyers and the justice system among essential service providers exempted from the coronavirus lockdown and curfew which resulted in High Court Judge Weldon Korir declaring that lawyers be added onto the list of services, personnel or workers exempted from the provisions of the Public Order (state curfew) Order 2020 that operationalised the lockdown so that they can ” assist in the protection of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution whenever called upon to do so”
Dismissing the Government’s argument that since Courts were not closed and therefore the right to a fair hearing not eroded – which includes legal representation, Justice Korir held that:
” The work of advocates is not limited to court work. They also attend to persons arrested by the police” adding: ” The petitioner’s (LSK) concern becomes more important when the manner in which the curfew has been enforced is taken into account ”
As of Monday, Kenya has 887 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and 50 related deaths and Government authorities have been accused of several human rights violations in the enforcement of measures to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Uganda, the Government has been reluctant to classify lawyers as essential service providers exempt from lock down and on Monday, 4th in an address to the Country, President Yoweri Museveni ordered that only a quota of 30 lawyers be allowed to practice in the meantime.
A suit filed with the High Court by Lawyer Godfrey Turyamusiima seeking to compel the Government to include lawyers on the essential service providers list was dismissed on ground that it was partially moot and overtaken by events following President Museveni’s directive. The High Court however ordered the Government to put in place modalities through which lawyers can access their clients in order to safe guard non derogable rights like the right to a fair hearing, right to habeas corpus, among others.