Malaysia: ICJ sends eminent jurist to observe hearing of appeal against Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal for sodomy

Justice Elizabeth Evatt AC (photo), will be observing the hearing of the appeal of Anwar Ibrahim’s case from 17 to 18 September 2013 at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya.

Justice Evatt is the first female judge to be appointed to an Australian Federal Court, a former member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and a commissioner of the ICJ.

Anwar Ibrahim is a Malaysian politician and is currently the leader of the opposition party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat, and the opposition alliance known as Pakatan Rakyat.

The appeal hearing that Justice Elizabeth Evatt will be observing emerged from the 2008 charges filed against Anwar Ibrahim immediately after the general elections held that year.

He was charged for allegedly committing sodomy, which is a crime under Section 377B of the Penal Code and carries the penalty of up to 20 years of imprisonment and whipping.

The High Court acquitted Anwar Ibrahim on 9 January 2012.

This is the second time that Anwar Ibrahim is facing sodomy charges after his dismissal from the Malaysian Cabinet in 1998.

In 2004, The ICJ also sent a representative to observe the sodomy trial of Anwar Ibrahim, where the Federal Court overturned the High Court decision to convict him.

The ICJ called the Federal Court’s ruling “a step in the right direction in upholding the rule of law”.

Justice Evatt’s mandate as ICJ’s high-level observer to the appeal hearing includes monitoring the fairness of the proceedings against Anwar Ibrahim in the light of relevant international standards.

These standards include, among others the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of Judges, which set out standards on the independence and impartiality of judges, and the UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors, which set out standards on the independence of prosecutors.

Justice Evatt will also be evaluating whether the prosecution under Section 377B of the Malaysian Penal Code is being used in this case to suppress political dissent, contrary to the right to freedom of expression.

“The right to observe trials stems from the general right to promote and secure the protection and realization of human rights. Trial observation is a key tool in monitoring the respect for human rights and the rule of law. It is an effective method to examine the level of independence and impartiality of a country’s criminal justice system,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s International Legal Adviser on Southeast Asia. “Trial monitoring also serves to promote better compliance with both domestic law and international standards that aim to ensure protection of human rights, including the rights to fair trial and due process.”


Emerlynne Gil, International Legal Adviser for the ICJ Asia & Pacific Programme, t +662 6198477 ext. 206; email: emerlynne.gil(a)

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