The Law Society of Upper Canada is calling on the Malaysian government to protect lawyers and judges against harassment, threats of violence and intimidation as they carry out their professional duties in the Malaysian Catholic Church's case and in other cases involving the use of the word 'Allah'.
Reports indicate that the High Court of Malaysia's decision to overturn the government's ban on the use of the word 'Allah' because it infringed constitutional rights, including freedom of expression and freedom to practice one's religion has resulted in retaliation where churches have been attacked or defaced.
Another means of retaliation has been to intimidate legal professionals associated with the case. According to the Malaysian press, the Malaysian judiciary has been targeted with threats of violence in connection with the High Court's decision. It has been reported that on January 7th, 2010 hackers replaced the homepage of the judiciary's website with posted messages such as "Allah only restricted to Muslim only" and "Mess with the best, die like the rest." In addition, it was reported that on January 14th, 2010 the office of lawyer Derek Fernandez was vandalized.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is deeply concerned about intimidation and harassment faced by lawyers and judges associated with this case. Lawyers and judges must be able to fulfill their professional obligations without fears for their security in order to advance the rule of law.
The Law Society calls on the Malaysian government to,
- take decisive steps to protect lawyers and judges conducting investigations or prosecutions related to the Catholic Herald case;
- ensure that all lawyers and judges can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of harassment, intimidation and violence; and
- respect its obligations under national and international law.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 41, 000 lawyers in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.
The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in Malaysia in their effort to promote the rule of law and democracy.