Friday, November 26, 2010

Book on Seychelles Court of Appeal Judgments Published

The Bar Association of Seychelles, on their website, has welcomed the publication of the latest book on Seychelles law - "Leading Cases of Seychelles 1988 - 2010". The publication of the book was the initiative of Professor Angelo of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Professor Angelo is no stranger to the Seychelles legal scene, he co-authored one of the most popular books on Seychelles case law - "The Law of Seychelles Through the Cases", more commonly referred to in the Seychelles legal community simply as the "Venchard" book, it was a compilation of selected judgments from the Seychelles superior courts from 1936 to 1996. The latest book also has a foreword written by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice MacGregor, who traces the history of Seychelles case law books.

This latest book is a compilation of summaries of selected decisions of the Seychelles Court of Appeal from 1988 to 2010. It does not contain the actual judgments and it does not pretend to do so. But the summaries of the facts and principles of some of the cases therein are not presented accurately. Court users and students of Seychelles law must use this latest book with care.

Nevertheless, publications on Seychelles law are always a welcome thing given the lack materials on the matter. The website of the Bar Association of Seychelles has a Law Journals page in which materials on Seychelles law are made available to the public. Presently, the Law Journal only has a handful of articles but it boasts of articles from the much revered Andre Sauzier and Philippe Boulle.


The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Derjacques Re-Elected as Chairman of the Bar Association of Seychelles

The Bar Association of Seychelles ("BAS") held its 2010 Annual General Meeting ("AGM") earlier today (6th October 2010) at the Supreme Court Building.

Members of BAS displayed their support for the previous year's Management Committee by re-electing several of its officers. Below is the list of the newly elected Management Committee of BAS:

Chairman: Mr Antony Derjacques
Secretary: Mr Divino Sabino
Treasurer: Miss Teresa Micock
Executive Officers: Mr Frank Ally & Mr Elvis Chetty

The Chairman expressed his delight in being able to hold true to the key issues that his committee promised to undertake in the previous year, such as the setting up of the BAS website and the holding of the BAS "Annual" Dinner (in December 2009) for the first time since 2005, a dinner which saw an excellent turnout from members of the private bar and judiciary. For the coming year, the new Management Committee has been mandated, inter alia, to draft and circulate a Code of Ethics for lawyers and to forge working relationships with more local and international organizations.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2010 Re-Opening of the Supreme Court

The Re-Opening of the Supreme Court took place this morning. The event marks the end of the Supreme Court vacations, which lasts from the entire month of August until today. During the vacations, only criminal matters and civil cases of an urgent nature are heard.

As is customary, the ceremony starts with a church service, this year this took place at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The theme of the church service was that the Judiciary is a servant of the people. Thereafter the judges, magistrates, court officers, attorneys, other court advocates and staff proceed to the Supreme Court premises in conjunction with the National Brass Band. At the Supreme Court, as is customary, the Chief Justice then delivers an address to mark the occasion.

To start off his address, Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende stated that the problems with the judiciary were far worse than what he had thought when he made his address a year ago, back then, he had been the Chief Justice for only 3 weeks. Although he insinuated that the problems with the judiciary will require more time to be dealt with, he stated that things are improving. In particular, after reciting a handful of statistics on cases being disposed of, he remarked that in the past year, far more cases were being disposed of compared to the previous years. However, he stated that there is still a backlog of cases dating from the year 2000 and that this was unacceptable. He stressed that judges will prioritize older cases and partially heard cases in order to deal with this. He also mentioned that the hearing of cases should take place in consecutive days until disposed of, and if not possible, then they should be adjourned to a date not too far in the future. He also mentioned that judges will reserve a particular half-day from their weekly schedules to deal with motions, petitions, interlocutory matters not expected to last more than half an hour each. This will free up the court's time to deal with the hearings/trials as scheduled.

As part of his continuing reforms, he mentioned that new sets of audio recording equipment were brought in to the Supreme Court late in 2009 and that the new equipment has been functional since March 2010. And that this has helped improve the speed in which transcripts can be typed and produced in written form to the public.

He also mentioned that he expects the construction work on the new Supreme Court Building at Ile du Port, sponsored by the Chinese Government, which will house the Seychelles Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, to commence shortly. Mention was also made of the construction of 4 more court rooms in the current vicinity of the Supreme Court. He also mentioned that new Magistrates would have to be sourced from abroad given that there appears to be a lack of interest from the local attorneys, and that it will take at least 7 years before the University of Seychelles can produce a Magistrate (3 year law degree, 1 year for the bar exams, 2 years pupillage and there is a policy that Magistrates should have at least 1 year of practice as an attorney). He stated that he expects to double the number of Magistrates from 4 to 8 within the next 2 years. With regards to the jurisdiction of the Magistrates' Courts, he mentioned that the law will have to be amended to increase the monetary jurisdiction of the Magistrates. Currently, Magistrates may entertain claims up to SR 25,000 (around USD 2,000) in value. Above that and claims must be filed before the Supreme Court, even the most simplest and basic debt cases. The Chief Justice proposed that Magistrates be able to hear claims of up to SR 250,000 (around USD 20,000) and that Senior Magistrates hear claims of up to SR 350,000 (about USD 30,000) in value. This will alleviate the workload of the Supreme Court.

Mention was made of the creation of a High Level Committee with the judiciary and various stakeholder as a forum for other bodies to be able to communicate their concerns and suggestions directly to the judiciary. The Chief Justice also stated that he has had several meetings with the Bar Association and that he shall continue to consult with members of the legal profession.

The Chief Justice also stated that several laws were made in a bygone era and need to be revised. He mentioned that the Civil Procedure Code will have to be revised. He also mentioned that decisions of the superior courts are now available online and that a volume of law reports from 1991 to 1996 will be published shortly. He mentioned that another volume for cases from 1997 to 2010 is in the works.

The Chief Justice also mentioned the setting of time standards for the disposal of cases. Standards that the judges will seek to enforce. For example, he mentioned that civil cases must be disposed of within 24 months from the date of filing, and the criminal cases must be disposed of within 12 months from the date of filing. Shorter time frames were given for interlocutory motions and petitions for judicial review. 

Thereafter those present were invited to refreshments. Many in the profession agreed that the rate of cases being disposed of has improved tremendously, but it will take a while longer to clear the massive backlog. Many believe that Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende is on the right track. But there was concern on the separating of the physical locations of the Magistrates Courts from the Supreme Courts and whether by increasing the monetary jurisdiction of the Magistrates to such a high amount, this would eventually clog up the Magistrates' Courts.

At the start of his address the Chief Justice made an analogy that if the judiciary had been a medical patient, that in the past year, under his stewardship, it had survived from the Intensive Care Unit. Of course, this does not mean that it has been released from the ICU. 

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shortage of Legal Professionals?

A Tanzanian online news website - The Citizen, has reported that the Seychelles Judiciary intends to source for judges and lawyers from Tanzania. The article may be read by clicking here.

The article states that Seychelles intends to bring in Tanzanian legal personnel to help in its fight against piracy. The article quotes Seychelles Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende as stating that Seychelles needs more judges. However, the source for the need for more lawyers is not stated.

Recently, the Nation advertised vacancies for two Magistrates. The Robing Room has also learned that several attorneys have been approached for these posts but most, if not all, have not shown serious interest. Although the salary of Magistrates have become more competitive, their work schedule is hectic and they do not have much of the perks that most, if not all judges and justices are allowed e.g. car and chauffeur, apparent unlimited fuel allowance, security personnel. Some attorneys are also concerned that there is no guarantee of any career progression were they to accept a post of a Magistrate. It has been noted that the very best Magistrates, especially those that show independence from the executive, are never elevated to the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal.

With regards to lawyers, there are strict rules prescribed by law on being able to practice in Seychelles. Apart from three very particular circumstances (the ad hoc court advocate, the State Counsel/Public Prosecutor and the distasteful international business legal advisor), one will have to possess the necessary qualifications and undergo a two year pupillage at an approved law chamber in order to qualify as an attorney-at-law and practice law in Seychelles. There can be no short-cuts on the law when it comes to qualifying. No other country allows it. And it would be another poorly planned venture of the Government if they sought to change the law to allow foreigners to qualify more easily (or even automatically) as Seychelles attorneys and then simultaneously invest into the University of Seychelles to train tomorrow's attorneys, magistrates and judges, and the Robing Room has learned that there will be about 30 students enrolling into the University of Seychelles' law degree programme (in fact it is the University of London External LLB programme), which is to commence this October. Yep, let's train a large number of lawyers, take up at least 4 years of their lives doing so, and then there'll be no work for them later thanks to all these foreigners.

And some wonder why xenophobia is in the air...

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Keeping Up Standards

In today's Nation there is an article whereby the Central Bank of Seychelles is warning the public about pamphlets that are being circulated in Seychelles advertising banking and insurance services from an entity which is, according to the Central Bank, not licensed to carry out banking or insurance services in Seychelles. The article goes on to state that an offence may have been committed.

It is good to see that at least some authorities are doing their job in policing licensable activity. The Legal Practitioner's Act ("LPA") makes it an offence for anyone to represent themselves as being able to provide legal services in Seychelles if they are not appropriately qualified.

For example, this practice of Government Departments/Ministries and parastatals having legal officers who actually give legal advice or draft contracts would fall foul of the law if they are not appropriately qualified. The Government should be addressing all legal queries to the Attorney General's Chambers/Department of Legal Affairs. Then there are the corporate service providers, entities that establish and maintain International Business Companies. Although some do other work as well, the reality is that the bulk of their work is clerical in nature, but some are calling themselves law firms and some of their employees even believe that they are lawyers and are calling themselves such, obviously in breach of the LPA. The worst part is that many of these corporate service providers blatantly advertise themselves as being able to provide legal services and nothing is done by the authorities to stop and punish such acts.

Fortunately, there is no prescription period or time bar to prosecute individuals who commit a criminal offence. Individuals may be imprisoned for up to 5 years if found guilty of the offence of representing themselves as being able to provide legal services in Seychelles.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Seychelles Court of Appeal Judgments Online

Selected Seychelles Court of Appeal Judgments are now available online. This is through the website of the Southern Africa Legal Information Institute. Earlier in the year, selected judgments of the Supreme Court of Seychelles were made available online through the same website.

As of today, there are 51 judgments of the Court of Appeal available online. These are judgments made from 2004 to 2009. As of today, 270 Supreme Court Judgments are also available, these range from 2004 to 2010.

As stated earlier, these are selected judgments. It is not known what criteria was used by the Judiciary in deciding which judgments are made available online.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Code of Conduct for Judges

Finally! Slowly but surely, Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende is paving the way for a judiciary that the public can have some confidence in. On the 22nd of July 2010, the Chief Justice launched the Seychelles Code of Judicial Conduct, a 15-page document outlining the principles in which Judges must conduct their duties.

In the launch event, held at the STC Conference Room, before several eminent guests, including Vice-President Danny Faure and Deputy Speaker Wilby Lucas, the Chief Justice stated that the public has lost its confidence in the judiciary and that the Code of Conduct may help bring back some confidence by giving the public a better idea on what to expect from judges.

The Code of Conduct has some key principles that all judges must abide to, and these are: Independence, Impartiality, Integrity, Propriety, Equality, Competence and Diligence. The Code of Conduct also makes it clear who should conduct their duties in line with the Code and these are all the Justices of Appeal, Judges of the Supreme Court, Masters, Registrars, Magistrates and any other person exercising judicial authority. This means even the chairpersons and members of tribunals, such as the Family Tribunal and the Employment Tribunal.

How You Can Help

It is not entirely clear what sanction or punishment may be levied at a judicial officer for breaching the code, but it is unequivocal that they should be reported for their breaches. Justices of Appeal and Judges of the Supreme Court should be reported to the Constitutional Appointments Authority, who may initiate an investigation into the matter and has the power to constitute a committee to decide upon the removal of the Justice or Judge. In the same vein, Magistrates may be reported to the Chief Justice and Chairpersons/members of tribunals and boards should be reported to their respective Ministries and perhaps complaints should also be copied to the Ombudsman, who is in charge of investigating maladministration within the Government. And if all else fails or at the same time as you make the above complaints, perhaps you should also report unethical behaviour to the press, the IMF (economic development and investor confidence are influenced by public/investor confidence in the judiciary), the Bar Association of Seychelles and the Robing Room.

Interesting Paragraphs in the Code

Paragraph 1.1 states that "A Judge shall exercise the judicial function independently... free of any direct or indirect extraneous influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interference".

Paragraph 1.2 states that "A Judge shall reject any attempt arising from outside the proper judicial process, to influence the decision in any matter before the Judge for judicial decision." This has huge consequences, because it would mean that certain judges will now have to learn about proper admissibility of evidence in court.

Paragraph 2.4 states that "A Judge shall refrain from participating in any proceedings in which the [impartiality] of the Judge might reasonably be questioned. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, a Judge shall disqualify himself or herself from participating in any proceedings... where the Judge has personal knowledge of the disputed facts concerning the proceedings and which knowledge is likely to influence or prejudice his judgment; [or] ... where a member of the Judge's family [which includes in-laws and any close relative], employee or friend is representing a litigant, is a party, or has interest in the outcome of the matter in controversy, in the proceedings."

Para 3.1: "A Judge shall respect and uphold the laws of the country."

Para 5.1: "A Judge shall not in the performance of judicial duties, be biased or prejudiced towards any person or group on basis of unjust discrimination."

Para 6.1: "A Judge shall endeavour to maintain and enhance knowledge, skill... necessary for the proper and competent performance and discharge of judicial duties."

It is not clear where members of the public may obtain a complete copy of the Seychelles Code of Judicial Conduct, whose publication has been funded in full or in part by the UNDP. But this is a document that must be made more widely available to the public. The problems with the judiciary is not only due to the system, but also to some of the judicial officers behind it, getting them to behave is the next best thing to having them removed.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Of Executors and Land Transmissions - Incompetence and Fraud

Ownership of Land is a serious matter. In a country like Seychelles, where land is scarce, to own land is now clearly a privilege rather than a right. The days of purchasing land from private owners at reasonable prices are virtually extinct. Landowners only want to sell for top dollars, whilst purchasers have all become wiser and are refusing to purchase at the exaggerated asking prices. The word is that the golden age of selling land at incredibly high prices are long gone, it's just that several land owners don't get it yet.

The average Seychellois cannot afford to purchase land from private owners and in general one must be very needy or very well off (or well connected) to purchase state land, which is generally sold at reasonable prices. As such, the hard working middle class feels hard done by and many leave the country in search of pastures... it doesn't have to be greener pastures just so long as it's not barren.

But there is another route to own land, and it is a route that is becoming more popular. And this is through fraud or "incredibly-gross-incompetence-that-it's-very-difficult-to-believe-that- it's-not-fraud" (henceforth referred to as "the Scheme"). This new Scheme that is sweeping the nation works due to the lack of efficiency in the law and the lack of diligence or integrity in those involved in the process. It all has to do with preventing heirs from inheriting land.

The normal process: Let's say that Philippe dies, living behind 3 children as his heirs: Andy, Bobby and Chloros. According to Seychelles law, each heir would take 1/3 of Philippe's estate. Philippe's estate can be transmitted to his heirs through the appointment of an executor who would handle the formalities of transferring the land (or the proceeds of sale, if the heirs so consent to selling the land) to the lawful heirs or through the filing of an affidavit of transmission. 

The Scheme: There are 2 methods. Method No. 1 is through the Appointment of Executor process. One of the heirs would petition the court to appoint themselves as the sole Executor. In our example, let's say that it's Andy. Andy would represent to the court, through a sworn affidavit, that he is the only living heir or that he has obtained the consent of all the other heirs (when in fact he may have obtained the consent of some of the heirs and he has excluded other heirs from the process - either unknowingly or deliberately). The court then appoints Andy as the Executor and he then transfers the land to himself or sells it off to third parties and pockets all the proceeds. We cannot really blame the court here because the court takes the evidence of a sworn affidavit as given. There are 2 problems here: (i) No one gets seems to get punished in Seychelles for swearing false affidavits - where the penalty can be several years in prison. This tempts many to swear false affidavits knowing that they are likely to get away with the consequences of so swearing; (ii) Where the application is filed by an attorney, as in most cases, he has a duty to ensure that he does not deceive the court, he should therefore conduct reasonable inquiries - such as running the deceased name by the Civil Status, which can reveal the existence of other heirs, instead of simply taking the word of his client. As a result, the attorney may have filed an application without informing/adding all the heirs to the case... unknowingly or deliberately deceiving the court and in the process facilitating the commission of a great crime - fraud.

Method No. 2 has to do with the filing of an affidavit of transmission at the Land Registry. There is no need to go through the courts here. Given certain circumstances, an heir may simply swear an affidavit, which exhibits all birth and death certificates of the landowner and all the heirs. The Land Registrar will then transfer the land onto the heir(s). And if the person who filed the affidavit claim to be the only living heir... so be it, thereafter he may sell off the land and pocket the proceeds. Again, the Land Registrar takes the evidence in the affidavit of transmission as given. But birth and death certificates proving the heir must accompany the affidavit of transmission and there are cases where the affidavit of transmission has no attached birth or death certificates - this shows incompetence. But it is incompetence that may cost the true heirs dearly - the loss of their inheritance.

Affidavits are sworn before notaries or certain court officers. In general, the notaries or court officers only have to ascertain that the person signing the affidavit is the person he or she claims to be. But there are suspicions on the innocence of certain notaries.

There are ways to tackle these problems: (1) Notices of Applications for the Appointment of Executors and the filing of affidavits of transmission could be published in a daily paper and/or online; (2) Attorneys and Notaries are properly appointed according to the law (there are instances of appointments whereby it is doubtful whether one has actually gone through the lawful process of qualifying as an attorney or notary - and if one is willing to cheat the process of qualification, one may be of the character of willing to cheat heirs of their inheritance); (3) The Police/Attorney General's Office should take complaints of swearing false affidavits seriously and prosecute such individuals, they are also committing other crimes in swearing the false affidavits. The prosecution of such offences should be made public to make the public know that the authorities are dealing with such matters and this may deter future fraudsters.

For now, heirs or heirs-to-be must be vigilant. Information on Land Ownership is publicly available at the Registrar General's Offices, which is also the Land Registry. Attorneys and Notaries who dabble in such affairs should be reported to the Chief Justice of Seychelles, who may initiate investigations into the attorney's and/or notary's conduct and take disciplinary action against them if they are found to have acted unethically or incompetently.  Those who swear false affidavits or aid in the process should must be reported and complained of to the police. And if the police fails to take the matter further, the police should be reported to the Ombudsman.

For those who may already be victims, you should see  an attorney. The Scheme can be reversed, but the passage of time does not help that end.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Erratum - Mr Simon Mitchell admitted as Seychelles Attorney since January 2003

In its article of June 13, 2009 entitled The Internet on "Seychelles Law Firms": Misleading, the Robing Room stated that Mr Simon Mitchell was not an Attorney-at-Law. This is inaccurate.

On the 14th May 2010, in a statement addressed to the Bar Association of Seychelles, the Registrar of the Supreme Court stated that Mr Simon Mitchell was granted approval to commence his pupillage at the Law Chambers of Mr Serge Rouillon in December 2000 and, after completion of 2 years pupillage, was admitted as an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Seychelles in January 2003 on the condition that his legal practice shall at all times be confined to the provision of legal services in relation to Offshore and International Business matters only.

The Robing Room apologizes to Mr Simon Mitchell for the error.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Constitutional Review Report Online

The Constitutional Law Report, chaired by former Attorney General Francis Chang-Sam may be downloaded from the website of the Office of the President of the Republic of Seychelles.

The Department of Legal Affairs has been tasked with drafting amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles and members of the public are being encouraged to read the report and submit their comments, observations or suggestions to:

The Attorney General
Department of Legal Affairs
National House
PO Box 58 

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Registrar of the Supreme Court Appointed

Mr Jude Bonte has been appointed as the new Registrar of the Supreme Court of Seychelles. This is a welcome appointment given that certain matters at the Supreme Court were at a standstill since the departure of the previous Registrar in early January.

The Registrar of the Supreme Court is, inter alia, in charge of the day to day administration of the Courts. Although it is not necessary for the Registrar of the Supreme Court to be a qualified lawyer, as the Registrar has to deal with certain legal matters, it is highly desirable that the Registrar has experience in court processes. And prior to this appointment, Mr Bonte was a practicing Attorney-at-Law and a Notary. He had also served as a State Counsel at the Attorney General's Office and was the Compliance and Corporate Services Manager at the Seychelles International Business Authority (SIBA). Mr Bonte was also elected to the Management Committee of the Bar Association of Seychelles in 2009. Mr Bonte was instrumental in the setting up of the website of the Bar Association of Seychelles.

Mr Bonte has a computer-related bachelor's degree, a Graduate Diploma in Law and has successfully completed the Legal Practice Course of the UK. It is hoped that Mr Bonte can bring the Supreme Court into the IT age. Already, steps have been done to publish selected Supreme Court judgments online.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Supreme Court Judgments Online

Judgments of the Supreme Court of Seychelles can now be seen online. This is through the website of the Southern African Legal Information Institute. At the moment, only a selection of judgments are visible online. As of today (09/03/2010), 172 judgments from 2004 to 2010 are available. Click here to access the website's index of Seychelles Supreme Court judgments.

The information is being made public on the initiative of the Supreme Court of Seychelles. It is envisaged that over time, all of the judgments of the Seychelles Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of Seychelles and eventually all of the laws of Seychelles will be available online. Co-ordination between the relevant Government bodies will be necessary to ensure that this information can be made available to the public, and in an efficient manner. As, although it is the Judiciary that causes the production of judgments, it is the Department of Legal Affairs that is in charge of preparing and collating the laws of Seychelles, both primary and secondary legislation.

For now, it is a step in the right direction. Having the laws and judgments available online will increase transparency and accountability in the Seychelles Legal System.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Raising the Bar

A quick glance at the website of the Bar Association of Seychelles ("BAS") will reveal that they have put up a notice on their homepage warning the public against false lawyers and law firms. It has been a while now since a small number of individuals and organizations have been calling themselves lawyers or law firms when they are not one. The relevant authorities have done little or nothing to address the situation. As a result, more individuals and organizations have become even more ambitious and are marketing themselves as lawyers or law firms and are in fact providing legal services in contempt of the law.

The problem is compounded when these individuals give erroneous legal advice. Many, if not all of these false lawyers have not undergone pupilage as prescribed by law and as such are pretty clueless about Seychelles law, often assuming that the law that they learned through their English or Australian law degree is valid in Seychelles. Things are even more worrying when they are clearly giving wrong advice to big clients, such as multinational banks or companies, on deals worth millions of dollars.

The Bar Association of Seychelles has a complete list of Attorneys-at-Law and Notaries. They also have a complete list of Seychelles Law Firms. They are urging members of the public who deal with any person or organization not on their list to report them or query their status to the Bar Association, the Seychelles Licensing Authority and the Judiciary.

The website of the Seychelles Legal Environment also maintains its own list of Attorneys-at-Law and Law Firms. Lists which mirrors that of the Bar Association.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Ombudsman Announced

The local media announced last Thursday evening that the President has appointed Ms Dora Zatte as the new Ombudsman, effective as of the 15th February. Ms Zatte will replace the outgoing Mr Gustave Dodin, who has been appointed to the Supreme Court bench.

Ms Zatte had been serving as the Seychelles People's Defence Forces (SPDF) legal counsel. She is also an Attorney-at-Law and Notary. Ms Zatte had also served as a State Counsel.

Ms Zatte obtained her LLB from the University of East Anglia and is a Barrister of the Honourable Society of Middle Temple.

The Ombudsman is in charge of investigating maladministration within the Government and has powers to initiate legal proceedings before the courts where individuals' fundamental rights and freedoms are not being respected by the Government.

For a more information on the role of the Ombudsman, see the entries from the Seychelles Legal Environment and from the Bar Association of Seychelles' website.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Lesser Tribunals - Losing Their Purpose

The court hierarchy in Seychelles has the Seychelles Court of Appeal at its apex, this is the final appellate court in the country, then there is the Supreme Court of Seychelles and then the Magistrates Courts. But there are several other 'lesser' courts and tribunals.

These lesser courts deal with specific issues. For example, there is the Employment Tribunal, this deals with disputes between employers-employees in the private sector.

There are several reasons why lesser tribunals are created. One key reason is so that the higher courts are not clogged up dealing with very particular issues, this therefore frees up the time of the higher courts to deal with other matters.

Another reason in support of lesser tribunals is that they usually cut through all the legalese and are mandated by law not to follow strict legal procedure (although the most essential legal principles must be followed to ensure a fair hearing), this is so that the layman can represent himself before the tribunals, saving himself the costs of obtaining legal representation. By cutting through all the legalese, the lesser tribunals also aim to resolve disputes quickly. This is also a key reason in support of lesser tribunals, they are meant to handle matters quickly and efficiently.

In theory, this all sounds good. But the reality is a different story.

The Family Tribunal is in charge of handling disputes closest to the heart. They deal with child custody, access and maintenance issues. They also deal with domestic violence disputes and many other related matters. The Family Tribunal is now taking so much time to deal with issues. Parties with an urgent matter that need resolution now have to wait for at least several months to obtain a hearing date, this means several months with their problems hanging in the air, the agony of waiting whilst tension fills the domestic scene of a Seychellois home. Perhaps there should be more than just one Family Tribunal sitting at any one time. And then there are reports that the Family Tribunal makes orders in ignorance of the law. There are rulings which show that they have ordered spouses to divide their property when this is not in the jurisdiction of the Family Tribunal (it is the Supreme Court which determines matrimonial property disputes). There are rulings which appear to be unconstitutional whereby the Family Tribunal orders a landowner to leave his own property due to allegations of violence from his partner (who he is not married with) - there are cases where a landowner has to leave his own property indefinitely. The Family Tribunal is now evicting the owner of a property from their own land. Not only has the Family Tribunal cut out a lot of the legalese in procedure, it now appears to be simply ignoring the law altogether, but we cannot blame the Family Tribunal entirely, it has had almost no support from the appeals/judicial review cases against its decisions or procedures brought before the Supreme Court. For quite a while we have had a Supreme Court that was unwilling to interfere with rulings of the Family Tribunal in its appellate jurisdiction. In the process, the Supreme Court has therefore encouraged the current state of the Family Tribunal. It is hoped that this can change with the new Chief Justice.

The Rent Control Board often referred to simply as the Rent Board, is in charge of dealing with landlord-tenant disputes, primarily evictions. Again, legal procedure is not followed strictly, so this should ensure the quick resolution of disputes. Unfortunately, this is not the case, the Rent Board takes so much time to resolve disputes that it actually helps the tenant who is not paying his rent, allowing him to stay at the landlord's premises for several more months, rent free. There are even cases where, due to numerous adjournments on flimsy grounds, a tenant has been basking in the sun of a rent-free lifestyle for years. In the meantime, the poor landlord has do with no rental income during all that time, and if that income were his only source of income, what about the landlord's other financial obligations? What if he needs that income to repay a loan? The Rent Board also deals with disputes regarding commercial property. It is now the case that more and more landlords are demanding for 3 to 6 months deposit from their potential tenants simply because they are now wary of how slow the Rent Board functions. The Rent Board is therefore, effectively, causing rent deposits to rise due to how slow it resolves disputes. Interestingly, the Rent Board only sits for two afternoons a week. Surely, given the number of disputes that continue to be filed verses the lower numbers being disposed off, the Rent Board can be allowed to sit for much more than just two afternoons per week.

The relatively new Employment Tribunal can also be criticized on the same vein. Surely it can sit much more often that it does presently.

Then there is the ITZ Employment Authority, presently under SIBA's mandate, its catalogue of errors on the most basic legal issues are often quite unbelievable. But can you blame the persons who are placed in the positions they are in, to decide on legal disputes involving Seychelles ITZ Employment laws without the guidance of an actual lawyer in their board (all the other lesser tribunals generally have at least a lawyer as its Chairman).

A complete review of the Lesser Tribunals need to be done, it is quite clear that they are functioning below par and are at risk of losing their very purpose - efficient and speedy resolution of disputes, if they haven't already.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gustave Dodin Ascends to the Supreme Court

In the evening of the 22nd January 2010, SBC TV announced the appointment of Mr Gustave Dodin as a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Seychelles.

Until this appointment, Mr Dodin was serving as the Ombudsman. He also held the position of Chairman of the Human Rights Commission and was practising as an Attorney-at-Law. In the past, he held the position of Registrar General and was a State Counsel at the Attorney General's Office.

He completed his LLB at Kingston University and has an LLM from the University of Malta in Maritime Law. He also completed the Seychelles Bar Exams.

Mr Dodin's appointment means that out of the 5 Puisne Judges of the Supreme Court, 3 are now Seychellois (although one of the judges is in fact only a naturalised Seychellois). His appointment from Ombudsman to Judge also follows the precedent set by the appointment of Judge Bernadin Renaud in 2004, who was appointed as a Judge after serving as the Ombudsman.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Judges, the Registar and State Counsel - What's Up?

There is much talk in the Robing Room (and everywhere else) on who may be appointed to the Supreme Court bench, even the current bench, in open court, has already indicated that there will be new appointments in the next few weeks.

What will be interesting to see are the courtrooms of the new judges, in particular, where will they be located? The Supreme Court Building does not seem to have any more space for courtrooms, or even judges' chambers. Maybe the Magistrates will have to move over? Never mind, I guess the courts are used to being inadequate: Court files are often missing, leading to the frustration of the progress of certain cases; copies of judgments/orders take ages to be typed, and then a little bit more time just to have them printed, and then add a little bit more time just for them to be delivered to the litigants.

To make matters worse, the court has now been without a Registrar since early January. Previously, Mr Melchior Vidot served as Master & Registrar, but he was removed as the Registrar and in came the new Registrar Ms Jenny Adrienne. But she left the post very shortly after taking it up. The Registrar is the person in charge of the day-to-day administration of the courts, but the Registrar also has to tend to certain legal matters. It is therefore imperative that the Registrar has some background in court processes. The Registrar should therefore be someone who has had significant exposure to the courts and its processes.

It will be interesting to see who the new Supreme Court Judge(s) and Registrar will be.

In the meantime, the Attorney General's Office has just lost two more State Counsel and those left are scrambling to cope with their own workload in addition to the workload of those who have left. It is now such a common sight to see a case of the Government or the Republic being called out in court and no one from the Attorney General's Office knows which State Counsel is in charge of the case and what is happening in the case. It is very difficult for the State to seek to convict an accused person of an offence beyond reasonable doubt when they first have to discern, on a balance of probabilities, what is happening in the case. The problem is that so many State Counsel come and go and when one leaves, they are not made to brief remaining State Counsel of their cases and concerns. A system must be put in place and the office will have to get their act together.

Once again, only time will tell how things will pan out.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Kishna Labonte sworn in as Magistrate

Mr Kishna Labonte was sworn in as a Magistrate before Chief Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende on the 14th January 2010 (yesterday). He is expected to serve as the new "D" Court Magistrate of Victoria as from Monday, 18th January.

Mr Labonte served as a Police Officer for 28 years, before successfully completing the University of London External LLB with honours and the Seychelles Bar Exams, which he completed in 2007. Thereafter he was sworn in as a State Counsel and has been practising as one until his appointment as a Magistrate yesterday.

Mr Labonte's appointment means that Seychelles now has 4 Magistrates, all of whom are Seychellois. His appointment will help alleviate the backlog of cases in the Magistrates courts.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Demand for Legal Professionals in Seychelles

This morning the University of Seychelles, in a presentation made to various stakeholders, announced that it would be offering a law degree programme come the start of the next academic year, i.e. in October 2010. In particular, it will be offering the London External LLB program. It will offer only the full-time programme come October, but will offer part-time and modular programmes in the coming years.

The University of Seychelles will provide the facilities: the learning environment, lectures, seminars etc, but the course content will be provided for by the University of London and more importantly, at the end of the day, the blood and sweat of the law student will be rewarded with an internationally recognized degree - a University of London LLB.

Attending the presentation were the Chief Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende, President of the Court of Appeal Francis MacGregor, Justices of the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General and various members of the legal profession, there were also members of the national assembly and many potential law students. Such a varied crowd with many conflicting interests.

Justices of Appeal and legal professionals warned those interested in pursuing the programme that they would be studying English law and not Seychelles law. Justice of Appeal Hodoul pointed out that English Land Law and Law of Trusts are "useless" in Seychelles. A member of the audience who queried about studying the labour/employment law module of the LLB programme was cautioned that she would be studying English labour/employment law and not Seychelles labour/employment law. It might be worth mentioning right now that many individuals interested in obtaining an LLB would perhaps only wish to do so, so that they could work locally with corporate service providers or banks, but be wary, perhaps the one of the most important areas of the law they would need to learn is that of contract law and the Seychelles law of contract has some significant differences from the English law of contract. It was interesting to note though, that a local element to the course was discussed: Maybe summer modules on Seychelles law or the implementation of a Seychelles Bar Finals/Vocational course under the wing of the University of Seychelles.

Perhaps today some people would have understood why legal practioners severely opposed a bill for a new Legal Practitioners Act, that was in circulation in 2009 and has since been put down. If you learned the laws of one country that is all you have learned, you will not know about the laws of another country. That is often why, contracts drafted by foreign entities have to be significantly revised to be applicable in Seychelles.

A key issue put forward by the University of Seychelles' Vice-Chancellor and the presenter of the day, Dr. Rolph Payet is whether there is a great demand for attorneys-at-law in the country. The answer is twofold because there are two issues here. Is there a demand solely for law graduates in Seychelles? The answer is probably not. Someone who has learned the laws of England is not really helpful to anyone here. They will simply end up confusing themselves and everyone around them who doesn't know any better. And it is happening, there are individuals who only possess an LLB from England or Mauritius with no background in Seychelles law dictating what Seychelles law is when they have never studied it, never undergone pupillage and is not a Seychelles lawyer - an Attorney-at-Law. Not to mention that the providing of legal services/advice when one is not an attorney is an offence under Seychelles law punishable with 5 years imprisonment.

Of course, the skills one learns in successfully graduating with a law degree is transferable: analytical thought processes; logic and reasoning; presentation of facts and issues; structured argumentation... these are skills you can take to many jobs in Seychelles.

Now, is there a demand for Seychelles lawyers i.e. the Attorney-at-Law? The answer is Yes. There is a desperate need for more State Counsels at the Attorney General's Chambers. At the presentation, Dr. Payet indicated through a slide show that the country needs at least 8 more State Counsels. Perhaps, we might even need more than that. We are still recruiting foreigners to take up several key positions within the judiciary. We should strive to have an all Seychellois judiciary, and candidates should be hand-picked from the Attorneys-at-Law and/or State Counsels, and take note that it is expected that the number of Supreme Court judges and magistrates are expected to rise in the coming years. There are also many tribunals filled with non-lawyers adjudicating on legal issues, take SIBA as the ITZ Employment Authority and the consequent number of appeals and judicial reviews that take place after it decides on matters... appeals and judicial reviews that would not have been necessary if at least attorneys presided on the Authority's board. It can also be argued that the Registrar General and the Registrar of the Supreme Court should at the very least be qualified attorneys. With regards to demands for more Attorneys-at-Law, there has been a marked increase in litigation, both civil and criminal; and there has been a marked increase in advisory work brought about by the International Business Companies. There is also the potential of growth in legal advisory work in the securities and hedge funds industries but this is presently being stifled by the apparent lack of know-how from those involved to encourage the development of these industries.

But are there law students out there ready to come in and fill the void? Yes there are, but it is doubtful that they can fill up the void and one must also take into account that they may not all eventually qualify as lawyers. Presently, there are around 6 individuals seeking to complete the Seychelles Bar Exams or the UK Bar Vocational Course this year. There are around 9 students studying for their LLB degrees abroad, varying from the first year to the final year. There are also around 5 students presently enrolled in the University of London External LLB programme but they are all embarking on this mission separately from the University of Seychelles.

A potential law student may now realise that in the next few years, we could see a score of new legal practitioners, but this should not discourage them from embarking on this, the noble profession, as indicated above, there is tremendous room for growth.

The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (, the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.