Punishing lawyer M Ravi for representing M’sians on death row in S’pore is an outright denial of right to legal representation
17 March 2022
We refer to the various applications by the Singapore Law Society and the Attorney General to stop M Ravi from practicing law in the country.
M Ravi, who is a stalwart human rights lawyer in Singapore who has represented many Malaysian death row prisoners on a pro bono basis is being punished by the Singapore authorities, who are attempting to suspend him from practice or even strike him off as a lawyer for his work.
It is undeniable that M Ravi is being singled out, in view of the numerous applications filed against him for representing the death row inmates. The exorbitant costs orders sought against him, as well as other lawyers like Violet Netto and Charles Yeo reflects the bleak legal landscape in Singapore, where lawyers are actively punished and deterred from taking on public interest cases that directly challenges the government or the system.
Every civilised country recognises that governments must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference, as per the United Nations Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers. The action taken against M Ravi blatantly violates this principle.
The larger repercussion of these actions against M Ravi is that it ultimately denies prisoners facing capital charges their right of legal representation, as lawyers would be reluctant to take on cases for fear of personal costs being ordered against them as well as the risk of being suspended or even removed from legal practice. The rule of law will hence be undermined.
The Singaporean Government itself must take heed of its own constitution, which recognises the right for any persons to be defended by a legal practitioner of their choice, which clearly would include death row inmates. The constant harassment of lawyers and the creation of a culture of fear amongst legal practitioners is essentially an underhanded way of removing this right. This must not be tolerated.
We thus urge the Singapore Government to hold up its own constitution and protect rights of legal representation, which must be done by ensuring that lawyers be protected from intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference, when carrying out their duties on behalf of clients.
Lawyers for Liberty