Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at the authorities in Singapore over what it described as a “breathtaking” number of disciplinary and contempt of court actions against prominent lawyer M Ravi, ascribing these to his years of work defending the rights of drug mules on death row in the city-state.
LFL chief coordinator Zaid Malek said Ravi faces seven separate professional disciplinary inquiries which could result in him being fined, suspended or struck off as a lawyer.
He also faces three contempt of court proceedings as well as a number of police investigations.
“These proceedings include actions taken against Ravi for his vigorous defence of mentally disabled Malaysian Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who was executed amid international outcry last week,” Zaid said.
“The number of pending cases launched by the government, AG and courts is simply breathtaking.”
LFL had previously criticised the Singapore government for attempts to stop or discourage rights lawyers from taking on public interest cases, warning that such moves would deprive prisoners of their right to legal representation and undermine the rule of law.
It said then that Ravi and fellow rights lawyers such as Violet Netto and Charles Yeo, who had worked to defend Nagaenthran and other mentally disabled prisoners on death row, were being “punished” for their efforts.
Zaid said today that the proceedings against Ravi threatened “to bring him to financial ruin, jeopardise his profession as a lawyer and brings the risk of imprisonment”.
“The right to freedom of expression and the right to legal representation, both of which are enshrined in the Singapore constitution, are all but trampled on by the might of the state in its fervour to deny Ravi the ability to continue to advocate human right causes,” he said in a statement.
He also referred to the recent cases of Nagaenthran and fellow death row inmate Datchinamurthy Kataiah who were forced to defend themselves in court as they could find no lawyer in the city-state willing to represent them.
“There is no doubt that this is due to the oppressive atmosphere created by the punitive actions taken against Ravi and other lawyers like Violet and Yeo for representing Nagaenthran last year,” he said.
“The rule of law must be upheld, and this can only be done if the right to legal representation is respected and lawyers can execute their duties without fear of punitive consequences.”