Suppression of lawyers
Lawyers receive anonymous death threats in the form of pamphlets, email and Phone calls. Furthermore, organizations which present themselves as NGOs organize demonstrations against these lawyers (sometimes even in front of their houses). Lawyers who are repressed are most of the time involved in the defense of members of the opposition and/or suspects of apostasy. Examples of suppressed lawyers include Chee Wee Lim, Ambiga Sreenevasan and Malik Imtiaz.
Chee Wee Lim, former president of the Malaysian Bar Council, opposes the adaptions of the Legal Professional Bill and the establishment of an alternative Academy of Law and is critical about actions of the government that may put the independence of the legal profession under pressure. Former president of the bar Malaysian Bar Council Ambiga Sreenevasan has fought for fair elections in Malaysia with Bersih 2.0, a coalition of human rights organizations under his lead, and has for instance organized a rally with 100.000 participants to protest against the Peaceful Assembly Bill, which might limit the right to peaceful assembly. Malik Imtiaz was involved in the apostasy case of Lina Joy, a woman who converted from Islam to Christianity, for which she tried, in vain, to get official recognition before the court. Furthermore, Malik Imtiaz is often involved in public debating about the constitutional protection of the freedom of religion for non-Muslims.
Legal profession in Malaysia
In Malaysia, the Legal Profession Act is in force. On the basis of this law, Malaysia has three bar associations: one for the peninsula, and seperate bar councils for the states Serawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo. About 14.000 lawyers are active in Malaysia. They are obliged to join one of the bar councils. The current independence of the councils may be threatened by the establishment of an alternative Academy of Law, for which the government has prepared an amendment.
International human rights treaties
Malaysia is party with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Reservations have been made with respect to some of these, for instance the reservation with respect to the convention against discrimination of women that it may not be in violation of the sharia, Islamic law, and the federal constitution of Malaysia. The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders have universal validity and therefore also apply to Malaysia.
L4L has only recently begun to focus on Malaysia and has not yet taken action for individual lawyers. However, L4L has contact with lawyers and (lawyers-) organizations and monitors the situation, which makes that it can quickly come to action when necessary.
In March 2013, L4L together with the Law Society of England and Wales filed a submission in the context of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Malaysia before the UN Human Rights Council.