Malaysia-Press Release | Let Lawyers Discharge their Professional Duties Without Hindrance

Press Release | Let Lawyers Discharge their Professional Duties Without Hindrance






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Press Release
Let Lawyers Discharge their Professional Duties Without Hindrance
The Malaysian Bar is concerned that lawyer Siti Zabedah Kasim ("Siti Kasim") was charged on 22 June 2017 under Section 186 of the Penal Code, for allegedly obstructing an officer of Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department, "JAWI") from carrying out her duties during a raid on an event at the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel on 3 April 2016.  If convicted, Siti Kasim could be jailed for up to two years or fined up to RM10,000, or both.
Siti Kasim was present at the function in her capacity as an advocate and solicitor for the organisers and participants of the event.  She had identified herself as a lawyer, and enquired about the basis for the raid.  As such, she was discharging her professional duties as a lawyer at the time that the alleged offence was said to have been committed.
The independence of an advocate and solicitor to act for a client without fear or favour is fundamental to the administration of justice.  A lawyer must at all times be allowed to advance a client's rights without obstruction or impediment, or fear of prosecution for carrying out his or her duties as an officer of the court.  Any unwarranted interference with the discharge of such duties is a serious violation of the independence of the legal profession, and an affront to the administration of justice.  A robust and independent legal profession is indispensable to the rule of law.
The charge against Siti Kasim is in clear contravention of Principle 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which provides that "Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; … and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics".
We urge the authorities to respect and uphold the rule of law, which includes the right of access to legal counsel who are free to perform their vital role without undue harassment or intimidation.
George Varughese
President
Malaysian Bar
29 June 2017



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