Jurists worldwide insist Putrajaya protect lawyers rallying against Sedition Act

Malay Mail Online
October 15, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 – An international jurists group urged Putrajaya today to ensure no “police abuse” and disruptions occur during the Malaysian Bar’s planned protest against the Sedition Act 1948 tomorrow.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) — comprising lawyers, judges and academics — noted that a rally against the colonial-era law that was organised by local human rights group Suaram in Penang last Sunday was disrupted by a rival group.

“The Malaysian government is responsible for protecting the rights of those holding dissenting views, and that includes protecting peaceful protesters from police abuse as well as from violent counter protesters,” ICJ’s international legal advisor on Southeast Asia Emerlynne Gil said in a statement today.

“The Sedition Act is being misused with increasing frequency to muzzle legal professionals who express their views about existing laws,” she added.

Gil noted that according to the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers have the right to participate in public discussions about the law, justice and human rights.

The Malaysian Bar will be marching from the Padang Merbok carpark in the city centre to Parliament tomorrow to call for the repeal of the Sedition Act, amid a government crackdown under the law that has targeted more than 30 people since March last year.

Critics have accused the government of using the Sedition Act to quell dissent, as the sedition dragnet has seen lawyers, opposition lawmakers, activists and even journalists being investigated, charged or convicted under the law.

“The freedom of peaceful assembly and of association is a right guaranteed under universally accepted international human rights standards. The ICJ calls on the Malaysian authorities to respect this right by facilitating the peaceful rally and not resorting to unnecessary intimidation or force,” said Gil.

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