IBA's Paris-based rival elects English silk for new millennium

THE UNION Internationale des Avocats (UIA) has voted in only its third English president in its 71-year history as the group tries to build bridges with its largely English-speaking rival, the International Bar Association (IBA).

At the UIA conference in Nice last month, prominent English barrister Nicholas Stewart QC, who is chairman of the Bar Council's human rights committee, was voted in unopposed to be the organisation's president in 2000.

He will take over as president after that year's conference, which will take place in either Glasgow or Turin.

More than 1,300 lawyers from over 70 countries descended on Nice for the conference, which saw the start of ground-breaking talks between the UIA and the IBA over pooling their resources to promote human rights.

In his opening speech, current UIA president Bernard Cahen said: “There are too many attorneys in prison or prosecuted just doing their job. It is vital that the international organisations put an end to their internal quarrels… as it doesn't matter which organisation comes to the aid of a colleague.”

Stewart, of Hardwicke Building, said that he and UIA representatives agreed in principle with Peter Goldsmith QC, the incoming co-chairman of the IBA's Human Rights Institute, that the two organisations should co-operate.

Cahen told The Lawyer that the UIA would announce its policy on multidisciplinary practices (MDPs) at the end of the year, after a commission set up by French Minister of Justice Elisabeth Guigou had examined the issue and reported its findings. He said the UIA's position was likely to be that MDPs should be allowed but strictly regulated.