ICJ report condemns charges against lawyer
A report by the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers finds that the aim of the prosecution against a human rights Malaysian lawyer was to intimidate and harass him in his work.
The report was released today on the trial of the lawyer, representing the family of a youth who died in police custody.
Mr. Uthayakumar was charged with two offences of insulting a public servant during judicial proceedings and one offence of criminal intimidation when he tried to question a police witness about the circumstances of the death. For his vigorous cross-examination, Mr. Uthayakumar was arrested at the steps of the court in full view of his clients, the press and the public. He remained in prison overnight.
Although the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers commends the Attorney-General’s decision to withdraw the first two charges following a discussion with Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers is disappointed that the Attorney General nevertheless chose to proceed on the remaining charge of “criminal intimidation” which carries a seven-year term of imprisonment. It is also distressing that the Attorney General has appealed the ruling of the High Court ordering that the lawyer be discharged. The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers finds that the charges could have been dealt with more appropriately by the Disciplinary Board of the Bar Council.
The Malaysian legal system has been under international scrutiny for its prosecution of lawyers. An ICJ joint report, Justice in Jeopardy (2000), concluded that the relationship between the Bar and the Judiciary was strained and that the use of contempt proceedings against lawyers – similar to the charges in the present case – constituted a serious threat to their ability to discharge their duties.
Link to full report: Report of criminal proceedings against P. Uthayakumar before Sepang Magistrate’s Court on 8 April 2003NewsWeb stories