KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30, 2015:
Police should not summon Charles Suresh Morais’ lawyer, Americk Sidhu, or target any other lawyer based on the actions of their clients, says Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).
Charles Morais, the brother of slain deputy public prosecutor Datuk Anthony Kevin Morais, had signed a statutory declaration in which he claimed that his late brother had known of criminal acts by Malaysian leaders.
In a statement released today, LFL executive director Eric Paulsen said the intention of police to question Americk amounts to harassment of a lawyer who was merely performing his duties to act for his client.
“Needless to say, Americk like any other lawyer must be allowed to carry out his work freely and without improper interference.
“We further call upon the police to recognise and respect the vital function played by lawyers in upholding the rule of law and constitutional rights, including the right to legal representation as guaranteed by Article 5 of the Federal Constitution.”
Recalling lawyer Matthias Chang’s recent arrest and charge, Paulsen also drew comparisons between the two cases.
“This latest development in investigating lawyers representing clients is a most serious assault on the independence of the Bar and the fundamental principle of lawyer-client privilege by which all lawyers are bound.
“It is basic that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential and privileged.
“Further, lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions,” wrote Paulsen.
He pointed out that the government has a duty to ensure compliance to international standards such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990).
In particular, Paulsen pointed to Article 16, 18 and 22 of the document.
Article 18 states that “Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference, are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad and 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.”
Under Article 18, “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions”.
Meanwhile, Article 22 states that “Governments shall recognise and respect that all communications and consultations between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential.”