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.