Commonwealth lawyers express concern

-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR: Ahead of the Malaysian Bar’s walk to protest the Sedition Act yesterday, the German Federal Bar expressed concern over the use of the law in a letter to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, asking the prime minister for his stand on its widespread use against the government’s critics.

The German Bar’s Dr Martin Abend, in a letter dated Oct 14, noted that the Act had been applied increasingly in Malaysia in the last few months, including against lawyers for voicing their legal opinions.

Abend said that in one particular case, a lawyer’s house was searched and his mobile phone and his laptop seized.

“The German Federal Bar is deeply concerned about these current developments in Malaysia. We kindly ask you to inform us if the information available to us is correct and how you view the situation,” Abend wrote in the letter which was posted on the Malaysian Bar’s website.

“In accordance with the UN Basic Principles on The Role of Lawyers, lawyers, just like any other citizen, shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights.”

These principles also provide that lawyers must be able to “perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”.

Furthermore, “the State must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”, Abend wrote.

Legal associations from other countries have also lent their support to the protest. Bar associations of New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Nepal, and the Commonwealth Lawyers Association sent letters which were posted to the Malaysian Bar’s website.

The UK Law Society also wrote a letter to Najib, expressing concern over continued use of the colonial-era law.

Its president Andrew Caplen said it was concerned about the use of the Act against lawyers in the course of conducting their legitimate professional duties and the effect of the Act on freedom of expression in Malaysia.

The Korean Bar Association also noted in a statement that there are continual cases of persons being unreasonably arrested, detained and prosecuted for voicing their news and opinions on matters related to the law and legal system.

As such, it called on the government to cease its disproportionate use of police powers and abuse of discretion under the Sedition Act. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 17, 2014.