Ahead of the Malaysian Bar’s walk to protest the Sedition Act tomorrow, the German Federal Bar has 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
Published: 15 October 2014
The German Bar’s Dr Martin Abend, in a letter dated yesterday, 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 said in the letter which was posted on the Malaysian Bar’s website.
He also urged Najib to ensure that the Sedition Act would not be applied to facts relating to the freedom of expression.
“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,” Martin wrote.
He also called on the prime minister to ensure that the “Walk for Peace and Freedom 2014” scheduled by the Malaysian Bar tomorrow would be allowed to progress peacefully.
Legal associations from other countries have also lent their support to the protest tomorrow.
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 they were concerned about the use of the act to against lawyers in the course of conducting of their legitimate professional duties and the effect of the act on freedom of expression in Malaysia.
Caplen in his letter dated October 2, called on the Malaysian government to cease any investigations and prosecution’s under the act and to uphold its commitment of 2012 to review and repeal the act.
Caplen also noted the sedition cases brought against lawyer Edmund Bon and the late Karpal Singh, also a lawyer.
Law professors Dr Azmi Sharom and Dr Abdul Aziz Bari are also among those who have come under the Sedition Act.
The Korean Bar Association also noted in a statement that there were continuous cases of persons being unreasonably arrested, detained and prosecuted for voicing their news and opinions on matters related to law and the 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 lawyers’ march to protest the act will begin at Padang Merbok and move to the Parliament building at 10.30am tomorrow. – October 15, 2014.