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Bar Council to sue govt over lawyer detentions

PETALING JAYA, 15 May 2009: The Bar Council plans to file a civil suit against the government for the unlawful detention of five lawyers on 7 May and for denying them access to detainees.

Other defendants in the suit will be Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan, and Brickfields OCPD ACP Wan Abdul Bahari Wan Abdul Khalid, Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said today.

The civil suit was one of the action plans decided at the Bar’s emergency general meeting today, called specifically to pass a motion condemning the government and police for the lawyers’ arrests.

The meeting was attended by 1,428 lawyers, far exceeding the required 500 for a quorum. The motion was unanimously adopted.

The lawyers from the Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre — Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Murnie Hidayah Anuar, Puspawati Rosman, Ravinder Singh Dhalilwal and Syuhaini Safwan — were arrested after they had gone to the Brickfields police station to meet those who had been detained for holding a candlelight vigil outside the police station. The vigil was held over the arrest of political scientist Wong Chin Huat.

The lawyers were arrested after they had asked to meet the detainees and were denied access to them by the police. They were released on police bail the next day at around 3pm.

On 8 May, some 150 lawyers had gathered at the Jalan Duta court complex to protest the arrest of their five colleagues.

Ragunath said video recordings of the arrests clearly showed that the lawyers did not participate in the vigil.

“Denying them access to detainees is a travesty of justice. There is a need for lawyers to see the accused when arrested or interrogated so that there is public accountability,” he said in a press conference after the EGM.

There was a greater need for public accountability in the police as they used more physical force than any other enforcement agency, Ragunath added, noting that the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) had clear provisions on a detainee’s right to see his or her lawyers.

Hishammuddin should resign

Hishammuddin Hussein (Pic courtesy
of theSun)
The Bar Council also called for Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, as well as IGP Musa, to resign over the incident.

Ragunath took Hishammuddin to task for his remarks that lawyers should not think they were above the law. Ragunath said that police were also not above the law.

“For Hishammuddin to say that lawyers are not above the law is not a reply, is not a solution, is not what we want to hear. We (the Bar Council) had asked for an apology over the arrests, and he gave that response without even investigating what happened,” Ragunath said.

He said while Section 28 of the CPC detailed the circumstances whereby police were allowed to prevent lawyers from meeting detainees, none of those conditions could be logically applied to the lawyers who had gone to the Brickfields police station.

The conditions are if police suspect an accomplice is involved, or if concealment, destruction or fabrication of evidence could result, or if there is intimidation of witnesses.

“I cannot see what or how these reasons apply for denying access to lawyers,” Ragunath said.

Going all out

In addition to the civil suit, the Bar Council also intends to seek a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the matter, lodge a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to request an inquiry, and seek the intervention of the Chief Justice.

In the EGM motion condemning the government and police for the lawyers’ arrest, the Bar Council noted that the lawyers were made to wear lock-up uniforms and were unnecessarily handcuffed.

The motion also denounced the police for deliberately refusing to give family members and the lawyers of those arrested any information about their arrest and the police’s next course of action.

Calling the incident a “gross abuse of police powers”, the Bar is demanding an unconditional apology from the government to the lawyers.

Lawyers should be allowed to discharge their responsibilities to their clients without threat or intimidation, it added.

The Bar also reiterated its call for the government to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

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10 Responses to “Bar Council to sue govt over lawyer detentions”

  1. mike says:

    At last, the Bar has given Malaysians the hope of light at the end of the tunnel. IGP and Hisham should resign for acting against the constitution and basic human rights. Hisham is right, there is no one above the law, not the home minister and not the IGP.

    After Datuk Zaid, Malaysians are starved for people with integrity – well are we getting two more?

    The PM claims to be PM of the people, well then can we have him seeking the resignation from these two for the people?

  2. kip says:

    Good try. Let’s see how the govt wiggles out of this. Maybe another funny remark. Without them, it would not be so fun anymore. The hole is getting bigger by the day.

  3. raguel says:

    Bravo. Must be assertive or the police will continue to abuse their powers and turn our country into a police state, later may be military state like Myanmar. We have greedy ambitious top brass, encourage police to abuse their powers to help their secret agenda. Police can’t control escalating crime, good at traffic offences detection and collection shows they are above the law encouraged by their political masters. High time Bar Council makes their stand firm , the powers that be have double, multiple standards. They are above the law because they they have backing of police, military, gangsters.

  4. kuntakintae says:

    Believe this is a move in the right direction; it’s a start in trying to establish the rule of law in this country. Eager to see how this case pans out; eager also to see the PM’s and chief justice’s response to the meeting – if it materialises!

  5. Kamal says:

    Hishammuddin should lead the way and resign. Whether or not the orders were from the top, responsibility needs to stop at the highest office. It is the right thing to do; it is a chivalrous thing to do. It really doesn’t matter who ordered the arrests. Resign and the new Minister should form a committee to address it.

    Maybe it is about time we consider fragmenting the police force to a two jurisdiction-system like in the USA. You have a federal and state level enforcement body-like the FBI, the state police, the local county sheriffs, etc. That way, we can also do away with Rela; absorbing its members into a fully trained and recognised enforcement body rather than an ambiguously defined volunteer organization. A single over-arching and centralised police force perhaps can be too easily accomodated. Plus, in crime-busting, what worries most of us on the streets is not the big cases, like catching fugitive terrorists (which we should also not forget to congratulate the special branch for a job well done!) but the everyday petty crime; which unfortunately we seem to read a lot in the papers of late.

    A single police force has not inspired the sort of confidence and petty crime appears to be an unmitigated threat. This is perhaps a systemic problem rather than one of individuals and so we should look to address the system as a means to rectify the problem. And arresting lawyers appears to be the most recent problem. If lawyers as officers of the court are arrested while carrying out their duties, what more the rest of the country who want to participate in democratic practices? We can have an opinion and if we are not causing harm or damage, should have the right to peaceful protest. A divergence of opinion is a protest. The government doesn’t need to agree; just to note and appreciate the act of free public expression itself as it is an affirmation to the sovereignty of the people; all people including those in authority.

    To me, reading the police arresting lawyers who are on duty is like one department of the police arresting another that is on duty! Could that happen, why not? We are already seeing the spiraling down of our system into the absurd!

  6. elaine says:

    There are too many commissions that have been set up since Mr Abdullah’s time, I doubt we remember which is which, but add another commission does not make any difference too, after all it is all about paper and files. I am not being indifferent, there is no hope in the present social and political system, it has a life of its own on the path to massive suicide.

  7. freedom says:

    After all these years, the Bar Council has finally done ‘something’ meaningful to all Malaysians. If they do not stand up for us, who will? At least this round, 5 lawyers have been detained unlawfully by our finest PDRM from discharging their duties. And the finest part is, the IGP is also warning the Bar Council to shut up or else, or something like that. If scenarios like this are not kept in check, in the name of justice and human rights, then quite sorry to say it is “game over for Malaysian democracy”.Worst still the Bar Council should be ashamed of themselves!

  8. Jmaes says:

    These arrogant ruling BN politicians have elevated themselves to be on par with God. If they act accordingly then it is favourable to the Rakyat. But no! They act like devils in the name of God and commit all kinds of unspeakable wrongs to justify their importance. Shall these @$+!% be brought to task. Only God knows.

  9. SSLim says:

    Aiyah, waste of time trying to sue them. My rationale: Round 1, you may win if you get a courageous judge. So wat? RA & friends wld overturn that decision @ COA. Not satisfied? Go to Fed Court. Can win meh?!

    So how?, We are educated people, we can’t do a Hindraf or protest like our bros and sis in Pakistan. We must be seen doing something lah

    Hoi, senang lah. Just paste a list of all the correct, correct, correct judges on your bathroom mirror. Every morning in between brushing your teeth, you curse the names on the list. If, say 30% of you (out of 12,000 plus) do that every morning for the next 6 months, I guarantee you, these guys will go nuts and deliver victory to you. Mind over matter lah.

  10. Simply a dose of the high-handed and intiminating display of power from our men-in-blue, without any regards for fairplay and justice. Justice, what justice ? Pitiful Malaysia!

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