5 Nov 2014
Mr. Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak
Department of Prime Minister of Malaysia
Block B8, Prime Minister’s Department Complex
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya – Malaysia
His Excellency Mr Razak,
I am writing you to express the Union of Turkish Bar Associations’ deep concern about the worrisome developments taking place in Malaysia under the Sedition Act of 1948 which infringe principles of democracy and fundamental rights.
We have been informed that, Mr Edmond Bon, whom is a lawyer, was placed under investigation for stating his legal opinion on Federal Constitution of Malaysia. In addition, another lawyer named Mr. Hassan Karim is also being investigated for his comments on Twitter regarding the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis. Furthermore, we have also been informed that at least 23 persons recently have been charged under the Sedition Act of 1948 which Malaysia still applies and uses against dissents.
Under these circumstances, I would like to draw your attention to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948, which provides: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. This declaration is important in the sense that it sets out international standards of freedom of expression that is to be achieved for all nations as articulated in its preamble.
In that vein, I would also like to underline Article 23 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in Havana in 1990 which states that “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization”. Undoubtedly, freedom of speech is a requisite for a proper administration of justice in which lawyers play a key role.
However, regrettably, the current situation in Malaysia under the offences caused by the application of Sedition Act seems to be incompatible with democracy and international human rights standards. According to Article 2 of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adopted by General Assembly resolution in 1998: “Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia, by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields…”. This significantly implies that it is each State’s responsibility to ensure that individuals are able to enjoy these rights and freedoms in practice.
Therefore, as the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, we kindly would like you to take into consideration abovementioned principles under circumstances that lawyers are unjustifiably being placed under investigation or charged for expressing their views.
Prof Metin Feyzioğlu, Esq.
President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations
CC: His Excellency Abu Zahar UJANG
President of the Dewan Negara – Parliament of Malaysia
His Excellency Pandikar Amin MULIA
Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat – Parliament of Malaysia
Her Excellency Puan Hajah Nancy Binti SHUKRI
Minister of Justice – Ministry of Justice
Mr. Christopher LEYONG
President – Malaysian Bar