The High Court in Kuala Lumpur decided to strike out one of the four defamation suits brought against United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy.The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers welcomed the decision.
The Court upheld the position of the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers that Mr. Cumaraswamy was immune from legal proceedings by virtue of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations to which Malaysia acceded in 1957.
The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers is, however, disturbed by the failure of the Court to award costs to Mr. Cumaraswamy. That decision is based on the judge’s assertion, amongst others, that “this would best serve the interests of justice”. That assessment appears partisan rather than judicial.
Mr. Cumaraswamy is a Malaysian national and was being sued by two corporations as a result of statements attributed to him in an article which appeared in a London-based magazine concerning the Malaysian judiciary in 1995. At the time of interview, Mr. Cumaraswamy was speaking in his official UN capacity.
At first instance the Malaysian courts had refused to recognize Mr. Cumaraswamy’s immunity-despite a certificate issued by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, affirming his immunity from legal proceedings. On 29 April 1999, the International Court of Justice delivered a binding advisory opinion vindicating Mr. Cumaraswamy’s position by upholding his immunity from legal proceedings.
The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers notes that there are three defamation suits pending. It will continue to monitor these proceedings to ensure that international law is respected and that UN officials are free to discharge their professional duties without interference.NewsWeb stories