JULY 13 — The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) urges the Attorney General’s Chamber to drop the charge of “obstructing a public servant” against human rights lawyer Siti Kasim. We also call on the Malaysian government to end discriminatory laws, policies, and practices against the transgender community, and further comply with international human rights standards.
Drop the charge against Siti Kasim
Siti Kasim is a prominent woman human rights lawyer known for her advocacy for indigenous, women’s, and LGBT rights. On 13th June 2017, she was charged for allegedly “obstructing a public servant” under Section 186 of the Penal Code.
This occurred after she questioned the legitimacy of a raid conducted by Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) officers on a private transgender event. Siti Kasim had identified herself as a lawyer and was conducting her professional duties as an advocate and solicitor at the event.
On 23rd June 2017, Siti Kasim pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released on bail. The next court hearing is scheduled for 22nd August 2017. If convicted, she faces up to two years in prison, a maximum fine of RM 10,000 or both.
The charge against Siti Kasim is an affront to the independence of the legal profession. The charge would set a chilling precedent that undermines lawyers’ ability to defend their clients’ rights without fear of arrest and prosecution. The independence of lawyers to freely conduct their professional duties is fundamental to protecting human rights, upholding the rule of law, and administering justice.
We urge the Attorney General’s Chamber to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Siti Kasim.
Stop discriminating the transgender community
Furthermore, JAG calls on the Malaysian government to stop targeting the transgender community through discriminatory laws, policies, and practices — such as the raid on the private event that led to Siti Kasim’s charge.
Such targeting breaches the Federal Constitution protection against discrimination on the basis of gender — as well as internationally recognised human rights to non-discrimination, privacy, and freedom of expression, such as those outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Uphold international human rights law and standards
JAG urges the authorities to repeal all discriminatory laws and policies and to ensure Malaysia complies with international human rights law and standards.
The charge against Siti Kasim violates the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. The Attorney General’s Chambers must drop the charge against her and comply with international human rights standards.
Heed the calls of human rights organisations
JAG joins other institutions in calling for the Malaysian government to respect and uphold the right of lawyers to perform their professional duties without hindrance or interference. These include the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), the Malaysian Bar, Amnesty International, and Lawyers for Liberty.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.