Singapore government must stop intimidation, harassment of human rights lawyer – Rights group

M Ravi has been outspoken in his defence of Malaysian death row prisoners in Singapore

Lawyers for Liberty refer to the numerous disciplinary actions, contempt of court actions as well as police investigations taken against prominent Singapore human rights lawyer M Ravi for his staunch defence of the human rights of drug mules on death row, including many Malaysian citizens.

M Ravi is a lawyer and activist who has for decades provided pro bono representation to countless persons and spoken out fearlessly on human rights in Singapore as well as the rights of Malaysians deprived of fair trial in Singapore.

Unfortunately, Singapore authorities have responded to his outspokenness with a myriad of disciplinary, police and contempt proceedings against him. This threatens to bring him to financial ruin, jeopardise his profession as a lawyer, and bring the risk of imprisonment.

The number of pending cases launched by the government, attorney general and courts is simply breathtaking.

He faces seven separate professional disciplinary inquiries, which can result in him being fined, suspended or struck off as a lawyer.

He further faces three contempt of court proceedings now ongoing, as well as separate police investigations. These proceedings include actions taken against M Ravi for his vigorous defence of mentally disabled Malaysian Nagaenthiran Dharmalingam, who was executed amid international outcry last week.

It is disturbing to witness the extent that Singapore is willing to go to in order to decimate M Ravi for his principled stand. The right to freedom of expression and the right to legal representation, both of which are enshrined in the Singapore constitution, are all but trampled by the might of the state in its fervour to deny M Ravi the ability to continue to advocate for human rights causes.

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We remind Singapore that, in accordance with the UN Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers, the state has a duty to ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference. The failure to uphold this principle will inevitably destroy the integrity of its justice system, where a fair trial will be all but impossible.

This can already be seen from recent instances where the mother of the late Nagaenthiran as well as another Malaysian death row inmate, Datchinamurthy Kataiah, were forced to conduct proceedings themselves as there were no lawyers who were willing to represent them in court. There is no doubt that this is due to the oppressive atmosphere created by the punitive actions taken against M Ravi and other lawyers like Violet Netto and Charles Yeo for representing Nagaenthiran last year.

We thus urge the Singapore government to stop its harassment of M Ravi for carrying out his duty as a lawyer. The rule of law must be upheld and this can only be done if the right of legal representation is respected and lawyers can execute their duties without fear of punitive consequences. – LfL

Zaid Malek is chief coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty



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