Malaysia: UPR mid-term report
22 september 2021

Malaysia: UPR mid-term report


In preparation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Malaysia in 2023, Lawyers for Lawyers has written a mid-term report. In this report, we set out to what extent Malaysia has implemented the recommendations it partially accepted during the 2018 UPR process in relation to the role of lawyers.

During the UPR in 2018, Malaysia partially accepted four recommendations with respect to the freedom and safety of human rights defenders, including refraining from judicial and administrative harassment, guaranteeing the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of human rights defenders, and amending certain laws to better protect human rights defenders Our report concludes that Malaysia has not adequately implemented the four recommendations with respect to lawyers.

The Malaysian authorities have failed to respect the rights of human rights defenders, including lawyers. Malaysia’s usage of the contempt of court doctrine to intimidate and judicially harass lawyers has proven problematic. The lack of statutorily codification reportedly led to a vague legal concept which can be subject to misuse, such as arbitrary and disproportional (custodial) sentences. Furthermore, lawyers in Malaysia who work on sensitive cases can be the subject of improper interference, including arrests and even criminal prosecution. Lastly, Malaysian authorities have failed to protect lawyers’ right to freedom of expression. As a result, there is a hesitancy by lawyers to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the protection of human rights.

We urge the authorities of Malaysia to:

  • respect the rights of lawyers to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference, and to guarantee that lawyers are not being subjected to contempt of court or criminal charges or other disciplinary measures on improper grounds, in line with Principle 16(a) and (c) of the Basic Principles;
  • respect the rights of lawyers to exercise their freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in line with Principle 23 of the Basic Principles and reform provisions of the Penal Code, Sedition Act of 1948, Peaceful Assembly Act 2021, and Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to provide better protection of lawyers’ freedom of speech.

Click here to read the report.

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