Friday, May 08, 2009

Arrests of lawyers a blatant transgression of the rule of law

Press Release

Arrests of lawyers a blatant transgression of the rule of law

The Malaysian Bar strongly condemns the arrest last night of five lawyers at the Brickfields Police Station who were there to represent their clients.

We are shocked and disgusted by this blatant transgression of the rule of law. By their action, the police personnel in question have demonstrated utter disrespect and blatant disregard for the criminal justice system that they are duty-bound to uphold and protect. They have violated the specific provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code guaranteeing access to lawyers. Although there is an exception to this provision, it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be turned into a right to arrest lawyers who are waiting to render legal representation to their clients.

The police action makes an absolute mockery of the constitutional right to legal representation and is a travesty of justice. We call on the Inspector-General of Police to immediately explain this gross abuse of police power.

This unprecedented conduct by the police has far-reaching consequences. It means arrested persons can be denied access to their lawyers without challenge. And when their lawyers are denied access and are forced to wait outside the police station, the lawyers themselves are at risk of arrest.

We acknowledge all our colleagues who have come to the aid and defence of those arrested by the police simply because they have chosen to exercise their fundamental right to assemble peaceably. We salute our colleagues from the Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre – Fadiah Nadwa Binti Fikri, Murnie Hidayah Binti Anuar, Puspawati Binti Rosman, Ravinder Singh Dhalliwal and Syuhaini Binti Safwan – who, without regard for their own safety and well-being, voluntarily went to the aid of those arrested, only to be arrested themselves. They have exhibited great courage and by their actions have demonstrated the highest standards of the Malaysian Bar. Their exemplary sense of duty and professionalism stands in stark contrast to the despicable conduct of the police.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar
8 May 2009

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