29 September 2015
Stop harassment of lawyer Matthias Chang
Lawyers for Liberty condemns the police for questioning lawyer Matthias Chang over his client Khairuddin Abu Hassan who was recently detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) 2012. Khairuddin was held for allegedly committing “sabotage” when he lodged multiple police reports overseas on the massive 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
The police’s action against Chang clearly amounts to harassment of a lawyer who was merely performing his duties to act for his client without fear or favour. Such harassment endangers the independence of the Bar and the fundamental principle of lawyer-client privilege by which all lawyers are bound.
Lawyers perform a vital function when they act for their clients and they must be allowed to carry out their work freely and without improper interference. The police surely must know that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential and privileged.
Further, the government has a duty to ensure that international standards such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990) are complied with, in particular:
- Article 16: Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.
- Article 18: Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions.
- Article 22: Governments shall recognise and respect that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential.
We therefore call on the police to recognise and respect the functions played by lawyers in upholding the rule of law and constitutional rights, including the right to legal representation that should be an unfettered right that can be freely exercised in a democratic society.
Lawyers for Liberty
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