Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bar concerned about police harassment of Suaram lawyer


5:45PM Oct 17, 2012 
The Malaysian Bar expressed concern today that one of the lawyers representing human rights NGO Suaram, Chan Weng Keng, has been served with a written order by the police to produce documents relating to his client.

Describing the action as oppressive and a form of intimidation, Bar vice-president Christopher Leong said it was also an intolerable incursion into the independence of the Bar and a major interference into the lawyer's obligation to advise and act for clients without fear or favour.

"Such behaviour is an appalling and unacceptable intrusion into solicitor-client relationship, and makes a mockery of this fundamental principle that lawyers are bound by.

NONE"It shows a grave lack of respect by the police for the criminal justice system, as the solicitor-client privilege lies at the core of this system," Leong (right) said in a statement.

He said the police action created a public perception that the application and timing of the investigation into Suaram by other government agencies as well was due to Suaram's efforts to have the Scorpene affair investigated in France.

"This selective application of resources and legislative provisions is a clear abuse of our criminal investigation procedure. Hence, in the long term, it will undermine respect for the system of law and order, and damage the administration of justice.

"The Bar is also deeply troubled by the pattern of recurring incidents involving enforcement and the regulatory authorities - of harassment of lawyers and interference with their professional duties," Leong added.

Harassment must stop 
He said the harassment against Suaram and its lawyer Chan should stop if the country was committed to the principle of rule of law and access to justice.

Lawyers, he said, performed a vital function in acting for their clients in the pursuit of justice and they should be permitted to carry their functions freely.

NONECiting the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Leong said governments should ensure that lawyers were able to perform their duties without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.

"The Malaysian Bar thus calls on the inspector-general of police to put an immediate halt to the repeated cases of lawyers being harassed, intimidated and interfered with by the police, and to take stern action against police officers guilty of such behaviour. Bullying tactics must not go unchecked.

"Police should respect and give due recognition to the rule of law, which includes the right of access to legal representation without the undue harassment and intimidation of lawyers carrying out their duties."

Leong also called on the police to withdraw the order given to Chan to produce confidential and privileged documents.

Suaram has been under the close scrutiny of the government following multiple investigations by the Companies Commission of Malaysia, the Registrar of Societies, and now by the police as well.

~ Malaysiakini

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