Threatening, harassment of lawyers carrying out their professional duties must cease

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The Malaysian Bar is deeply disturbed by recent news reports casting aspersions on RSN Rayer, a member of the Malaysian Bar, as regards his decision to defend his client, which are calculated to intimidate and harass.

It is a constitutional guarantee that every accused person is entitled to be defended by a lawyer of his own choosing, regardless of how heinous the alleged crime may be. In support of this are the professional standards imposed on an advocate and solicitor to perform his duties to put forward the best representation possible for his or her client.

The independence of an advocate and solicitor to act for a client without fear or favour is fundamental to the administration of justice. A lawyer must at all times be allowed to advance a client’s rights without obstruction or impediment or fear of prosecution for carrying out his or her duties as an officer of the court.

Any unwarranted interference with the discharge of such duties is a serious violation of the independence of the legal profession and an affront to the administration of justice. A robust and independent legal profession is indispensable to the rule of law.

These accusations against RSN Rayer are in clear contravention of:

  • Principle 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which provides that “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; … and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics”; and
  • Principle 18 of the same, which reads, “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”
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Recalling that the presumption of innocence, ie that an accused is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, is an essential precept of our criminal justice system, the Malaysian Bar urges all parties to respect and uphold the rule of law in this regard. The right to a fair trial must be protected.

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the authorities to act swiftly against anyone attempting to impede the process of justice by threatening and harassing lawyers.

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor is president of the Malaysian Bar.

This piece dated 23 September 2019 is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.

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