Lawyers for Lawyers speaks to lawyer Syahredzan Johan
On 2 February 2016, Lawyers for Lawyers spoke to Malaysian human rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan about the situation of lawyers in Malaysia.
Syahredzan visited the Netherlands as part of the “Dutch Visitors Programme” that is organized six times a year by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Lawyers in Malaysia who are critical of the state are often the subject of harassment and improper interference. With the rise of social media, the internet has become an important platform for criticism. Several laws, including the sedition act, were recently amended to make it possible to prosecute individuals who spread criticism via the internet. The sedition act is also used increasingly to obstruct legal professionals and lawyers who express their views about existing laws.
Human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen was charged on 5 February 2015 with sedition under the sedition act. The charges stem from a tweet posted by the lawyer on 9 January 2015 that accused the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), the main federal agency managing Islamic affairs, of promoting extremism in its Friday sermons.
The Malaysian Bar Council is critical about these laws and the arrests of activists and lawyers. On 16 October 2014, the Bar organized the ‘Walk for Peace and Freedom’ as a 1.3 kilometer march in protest against the recent string of arrests, charges, investigations and prosecutions under the archaic Sedition Act. Two thousand lawyers joined the march.
Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about these developments in Malaysia. Under principle 23 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, members of the legal profession have the right to participate in public discussions concerning the law, the administration of justice and promotion and protection of human rights. The authorities have the duty to respect and protect this right.
Lawyers for Lawyers will stay in contact with Syahredzan Johan and will continue to monitor the situation of lawyers in Malaysia closely.
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