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Wednesday 4 September 2019
Cecil Rajendra, a Malaysian lawyer with a passion for poetry and human rights, has been announced as the winner of the International Bar Association (IBA) IBA Pro Bono Award for 2019.
Presented by the IBA Pro Bono Committee and sponsored by LexisNexis, this annual award honours lawyers who have shown an outstanding commitment to pro bono work throughout their legal career.
Described by his nominator as 'the founding father of legal aid', Mr Rajendra has been a staunch advocate of human rights and has striven to improve access to justice for all throughout his career. In 1980, with just a small wooden shack at their disposal, Mr Rajendra and his associates set up the first rural legal aid clinic in Malaysia. During his tenure at the Malaysian Bar Council in the 1980s, Mr Rajendra initiated several key campaigns including 'Save the Judiciary' as well as the 'No Detention Without Trial' movement, which called for the abolition of the Internal Security Act and other legislation that allowed this practice to occur. He was also the driving force behind the Bar Council€s €Festival of Rights€ to commemorate Human Rights Day (10 December). In 2000, he launched the country€s first Mobile Legal Aid Clinic (MOBLAC), parking in popular night markets across Penang to encourage local people to engage with the legal system and understand their rights.
'To say that all are equal before the law is meaningless unless everyone has equal access to justice. Legal aid is a fundamental human right ... It is not so much pro bono as pro justicio. It is the bounden duty and obligation of every self–respecting lawyer who believes in justice to render legal assistance to those who cannot afford it,'said Mr Rajendra on his motivation to drive advancements in legal aid.
In addition to his incredible contribution to the pro bono sector, Mr Rajendra is the author of 25 books, with his poems published in more than 50 countries. His work has appeared in several prestigious publications including The Guardian, National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal. Declared a 'Living Heritage Treasure' by the Penang Heritage Trust in 2015, Mr Rajendra subsequently received the Malaysian Bar Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his pioneering legal aid work and tireless commitment to human rights.
On Mr Rajendra's win, IBA President Horacio Bernardes Neto commented: 'It is an honour to count such a passionate, dedicated individual as a member of our profession. Mr Rajendra's unwavering commitment to providing those in need with legal aid is truly admirable. He is undoubtedly a worthy winner of the IBA Pro Bono Award.'
In recognition of his achievements, the IBA Pro Bono Award will be presented to Cecil Rajendra on Thursday 26 September, during the IBA Annual Conference taking place in Seoul, South Korea.
Notes to the Editor
1. Information about the IBA Pro Bono Award is available at::
2. Click here to register for information about the 2019 IBA Annual Conference in Seoul:
3. Journalists wishing to attend the 2019 IBA Annual Conference should send an email to romana.daniel@int–bar.org
4. The International Bar Association (IBA) €“ the global voice of the legal profession €“ is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
In the ensuing 70 years since its creation, the organisation has evolved from an association comprised exclusively of bar associations and law societies to one that incorporates individual international lawyers and entire law firms. The present membership is comprised of more than 80,000 individual international lawyers from most of the world's leading law firms and some 190 bar associations and law societies spanning more than 170 countries.
The IBA has considerable expertise in providing assistance to the global legal community, and through its global membership, it influences the development of international law reform and helps to shape the future of the legal profession throughout the world.
The IBA's administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: Sao Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association€s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.
The International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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