Media Statement – 20/6/2022
Stop Harassment of the Malaysian Bar and Lawyers – Respect Right to Peaceful Assembly
We, the 19 undersigned groups and organizations are appalled by the police actions preventing about 500 lawyers of the Malaysian Bar from exercising their right to peaceful assembly in the "Walk for Judicial independence" on 17/6/2022, whereby the lawyers who had gathered at Padang Merbok car park to walk to Parliament, about a kilometer away, to hand over a Memorandum to the Prime Minister were wrongly prevented from doing so.
This was despite the fact that the representative of the Prime Minister had apparently made arrangement for the receipt of the protest note in Parliament. Later, the Deputy Law Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin, on behalf of the Prime Minister, had to go to the meeting point to accept the memorandum from the Bar President.
It was reported that ‘…police personnel formed a human chain to disallow some lawyers from attempting to leave the area…A police light strike force unit was also called in to provide further security after several lawyers attempted to leave the area but were denied.’(Star, 18/6/2022)
Police harassment continuing
It is a wrong misconception that the police is the ‘permission giver’ before one can freely exercise one’s right to peaceful assembly. ‘The task of the police is to facilitate and not frustrate the exercise of that right’ is a position taken by the courts and also the Bar.
The harassment against the Malaysian Bar and the lawyers continues when Dang Wangi OCPD ACP Noor Dellhan Yahaya said today the police will call up all participants of the "Walk for Judicial independence" march by the Malaysian Bar to give their statements, despite blocking the walk from occurring. (Malay Mail, 17/6/2022).
Dang Wangi OCPD Asst Comm Noor Dellhan Yahaya confirmed the matter when contacted Saturday (June 18). “They will be called to give their statements next week. All participants that were present will be called," he said. [Star, 18/6/2022]"
Such conduct of State and State agents, is contrary to justice and human rights, and may deter future exercise of peoples’ right to peaceful assembly in Malaysia.
Malaysian Bar’s right denied despite following the law
The Malaysian Bar sent the required notification to the police on 7/6/2022, more than 5 days before the intended march. According to law, within 3 days from the receipt of notification, the police must inform the organizer of any restrictions or conditions, and there was none in this case within the stipulated time.
On about 16/6/2022, a day before the intended march, the police suddenly ‘denied permission’ for the lawyers to march to Parliament, and allowed them to just assemble at the meeting point in Padang Merbok. It would have been most frustrating, for the hundreds of lawyer, some of who travelled hundreds of kilometers to march to Parliament to find themselves confined to a car park far away from the public eye.
The Bar rightfully took the position in accordance to law, that ‘…the assembly shall proceed as proposed in the notification…’ – the lawyers will gather and march to Parliament.
Section 14 (1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 states that, ‘…The Officer in Charge of the Police District shall respond to the notification under subsection 9(1) within three days of the receipt of the notification and shall, in the response, inform the organizer of the restrictions and conditions imposed under section 15, if any…’ Section 14(2) clearly says that ‘If the Officer in Charge of the Police District does not respond to the notification in accordance with subsection (1), the assembly shall proceed as proposed in the notification. “
Therefore, it is clear that the police had violated the law, and the right to peaceful assembly of the lawyers, when they prevented the Bar from marching to Parliament on 17/6/2022.
Judges are not above the law - "Walk for Judicial independence"
The march to Parliament was pursuant to a Resolution adopted at the Malaysian Bar Extraordinary General Meeting held on 27/5/2022.
The Malaysian Bar, while taking the position that Superior Court judges ‘…are not above the law and must be made accountable for crimes they commit, and that law enforcement agencies must be allowed to carry out their respective tasks in accordance with the law and the Federal Constitution…’, but how such investigations are carried out matters. The Bar, for example, condemned ‘…the unprecedented manner in which the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) has publicly announced the commencement of criminal investigation of a Superior Court Judge, and disclosed the name of the judge to the public, for an indefinite period and without proper closure, which is tantamount to an act of intimidation against the Judiciary…’.
There, we call for
a) The immediate end of harassment of the Malaysian Bar and lawyers by the police. Police must discontinue plans of calling for investigation all organizers and participants of "Walk for Judicial independence";
b) The relevant police officers, Inspector General of Police, the Minister in charge and/or the Government to forthwith tender a public apology to the Malaysian Bar and lawyers for their actions/omissions that frustrated the exercise of the lawyers’ right of peaceful assembly; and
c) Malaysia to defend and promote the right of peaceful assembly, which must also include human rights education to police and other law enforcement bodies.
For and on behalf of the following 19 groups
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
North South Initiative
Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific Region
Black Women for Wages for Housework
Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (CENTHRA)
Citizen Action Group on Enforced Disappearance (CAGED)
Community Resource Centre, Thailand
Haiti Action Committee
NAMM (Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia)
OHMSI Sdn Bhd
Payday Men’s Network (UK/US)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
Sisters in Islam
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
The William Gomes Podcast, UK
WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)
Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike