The ICJ continued its observation of the trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges under the colonial-era Section 377B of the Penal Code, which criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.
ICJ Commissioner Justice Elizabeth Evatt AC, the first woman judge to be appointed to an Australian Federal Court and a former member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, observed a hearing on the appeal of Anwar Ibrahim at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya yesterday.
“The ICJ will continue to monitor this case and evaluate the fairness of the proceedings in light of relevant international standards,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ international legal advisor for Southeast Asia. “The ICJ will also assess whether the prosecution under Section 377 is being used in this case to suppress political dissent, contrary to the right to freedom of expression.”
The hearing is an appeal against the High Court’s decision on 9 January 2012, which acquitted Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy.
“The ICJ has previously condemned Malaysia’s continuing use of colonial-era criminal charges of ‘sodomy’ to cover even consensual sexual relations between adults,” Gil said. “The ICJ believes that Article 377B of the Malaysian Penal Code is inconsistent with respect for the right to privacy under international standards.”
The Court of Appeal heard and eventually dismissed an interlocutory application filed by the lawyers of Anwar Ibrahim seeking to recall for testimony Jude Blacious s/o Pereira, the investigating officer and key witness in the sodomy case.
Pereira was recently found unfit to be a practicing lawyer in another case in a High Court decision of 10 January 2014.
In that decision, the High Court relied on a 2009 Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s (SUHAKAM) report, which determined Pereira to be an unreliable witness in a public inquiry established to investigate the arrest and detention of 5 legal aid lawyers.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the application on the grounds that Anwar Ibrahim had failed to satisfy the court that additional evidence in the appellate stage was necessary in dispensing justice and that it fell in the category of “most exceptional” cases, particularly as the SUHAKAM report had already been available since 2009.
The Court of Appeal postponed the hearing on the appeal itself to allow Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyers to file a notice of appeal with the Federal Court on the dismissal of the interlocutory order.
Anwar Ibrahim’s counsel immediately filed a notice of appeal to the Federal Court on the dismissed interlocutory application.
The case management for the sodomy appeal has been fixed on 28 February 2014.
The appeal proper was initially scheduled on 17 and 18 September 2013 but has faced continuous delays due to a series of interlocutory matters.