Malaysia: ICJ saddened by death of prominent lawyer and human rights defender Karpal Singh

Karpal Singh, a prominent Malaysian lawyer, human rights defender and parliamentarian who fought courageously for equality, justice and democracy in the country, was killed in a road accident.

Karpal Singh died last night after the vehicle he was traveling in collided with a lorry near Gua Tempurung in the northern state of Perak. He was aged 73.

Throughout his years of practice, he was regarded as a criminal and constitutional lawyer in the country of highest disctinction, particularly for successfully defending people on death row and for fearlessly challenging persons from the Malaysian royal families to be held legally accountable for their actions.

In 1987, Karpal Singh was one of the 106 persons detained under Operasi Lalang, a government operation carried out to allegedly prevent the racial riots in Kuala Lumpur.

He was imprisoned for 15 months under the now repealed Internal Security Act.

In 2000 he was charged with sedition in connection with a statement he made in court during his defence of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

These charges were later withdrawn in 2002 by the Office of the Public Prosecutor of Malaysia.

He faced a second sedition charge for a statement he made in 2009 questioning the authority of Perak’s Sultan Azlan Shah to remove the province’s Chief Minister from office.

On 21 February 2014, he was found guilty by the High Court and fined RM 4,000 (approximately US$1,220).

Karpal Singh recently stepped down as the Chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), pending his appeal to the High Court’s decision.

The ICJ, in a previous statement, condemned this judgment by the High Court, viewing it as an unlawful attempt by the Malaysian government to restrict freedom of expression of lawyers and other public figures in the country.

The ICJ sends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Karpal Singh.

His legacy, marked by a commitment to core human rights principles, will not only be remembered, but will continue to live on in the many generations to come.

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