Singapore Government Must Withdraw Threat of Contempt of Court Action Against Rights Lawyer M Ravi, News Portal & Lawyers for Liberty
3 September 2021
We refer to the publication on 1st September by news portal MalaysiaNow of the details of a historic lawsuit by 17 Malay death row inmates against the Singapore AG in Singapore’s Changi prison on grounds of racial discrimination, unequal treatment and systematic targeting of Malays by state organs. One of the 17 Malay prisoners is Rahmat Karimon, who is a Malaysian citizen.
The Singapore Attorney-General has on 2nd September 2021, threatened contempt of court action against the inmates’ Singapore lawyer M Ravi, news portal MalaysiaNow as well as Malaysian NGO Lawyers for Liberty for having published details of the lawsuit in the news portal. The threat was made in a letter dated 2nd September 2021 from the AG of Singapore to lawyer M Ravi’s law firm.
Mr Ravi is Singapore’s most prominent human rights lawyer, who is known internationally for his pro bono advocacy in death penalty cases. Apart from this latest threat, Singapore has also hit Mr Ravi with multiple professional disciplinary complaints over arguments he had made in court on behalf of death row inmates.
It is difficult to understand this disproportionate and heavy-handed response from the Singapore government over a mere news article on the filing of a lawsuit. Clearly the Singapore government is extremely fearful of any public discussion of racially discriminatory practices in the city state.
As regards the threat against the Malaysians, this is not the first time Singapore has threatened criminal sanctions or legal action against Malaysian activists or entities exercising freedom of speech within Malaysia. Previously, Singapore threatened LFL with their notorious POFMA law for having published details of brutality in carrying out hangings in Changi prison.
Singapore’s repeated attempts to reach across the causeway and silence critics here, shows disregard for Malaysia’s sovereignty and utter disrespect for free speech, open public discourse as well international human rights norms.
This bullying against Malaysian carrying out peaceful activities within Malaysia can no longer be tolerated.
We urge the Malaysian government to make the necessary representations to Singapore, and do the necessary to protect its citizens carrying out activities lawful under Malaysian law.
We further urge the Singapore government to immediately withdraw the threat of contempt action against M Ravi, MalaysiaNow and LFL. Singapore should defend the lawsuit by the 17 prisoners in court in the usual way, and not exert state power to intimidate the litigants, lawyers, activists and news media.
Lawyers for Liberty