November 14, 2016
We, the undersigned international human rights and legal organizations, are writing to express our serious concerns about the proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act 1976, which your government has indicated will be introduced in the Parliament. We urge you to reconsider pursuing these amendments, as they pose a serious threat to the independence of the Malaysian Bar, and the right to freedom of association, and threaten the environment in which lawyers are able to freely speak out on matters of concern and public interest.
As the United Nations Human Rights Council affirmed in 2015, an independent legal profession is among the “prerequisites for the protection of human rights and the application of the rule of law, and for ensuring fair trials and the administration of justice without any discrimination.”1 The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers state that governments shall ensure that lawyers can perform all of their professional functions “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”2
The Malaysian Bar, created by statute in 1947, is an independent bar association whose aim is “to uphold the rule of law and the cause of justice and protect the interest of the legal profession as well as that of the public.” It is managed by a 38-member Bar Council, elected annually from among its members. Consistent with its stated purpose, the Malaysian Bar has been an outspoken voice and a key guardian in Malaysia on the Constitution, judicial independence, human rights issues, and the rule of law for several decades.