SINGAPORE: The Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA-IROL) has addressed a letter to the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) expressing profound concern regarding the recent imprisonment of prominent Singaporean human rights lawyer Mr Ravi Madasamy (M. Ravi) for 21 days without legal representation during the proceedings.
In a letter penned to LawSoc on Monday (20 Nov), Martin Pradel and Avninder Singh, both Director General and Deputy Director General of UIA-IROL, emphasized the imperative need for LawSoc to ensure Mr Ravi receives legal representation of his choice.
They urged LawSoc to provide this at no cost if he is unable to afford it, along with mental health counseling for his illness, as acknowledged by the court.
Mr Ravi has been an international human rights lawyer in Singapore for over 20 years, representing numerous landmark human rights and constitutional law cases, including death penalty cases.
The UIA, established in 1927, is a global, multicultural organization for the legal profession that promotes professional development, learning, networking, and the Rule of Law. It represents two million lawyers from 110 countries.
In the letter, both Mr Pradel and Mr Singh urged LawSoc for urgent consideration of the need for protection for Mr Ravi, who has recently been sentenced to 21 days of imprisonment, as well as costs of S$10,000.
Mr Ravi was recently released from imprisonment on Wednesday (22 Nov).
UIA-IROL highlighted that during the proceeding, Mr Ravi was “unrepresented by counsel, and it seems that the LawSoc did not provide counsel for his defence.”
The Institute for the Rule of Law of the UIA-IROL has diligently monitored the case of M. Ravi who faced repressive actions since March 2023.
At that time, the UIA-IROL issued a statement, expressing grave concern over the severe disciplinary sanctions imposed on Mr Ravi due to the fulfilment of his professional duties and exercise of freedom of expression.
“It is distressing that Mr Ravi’s defence is a mental health issue, no doubt exacerbated by the continuing sanctions and disciplinary proceedings against him, ” added the letter from UIA-IROL.
UIA-IROL reminded LawSoc of its primary duty: “Representing, protecting and assisting members of the legal profession in Singapore” […] “The mission of the Law Society is to serve its members and the public by sustaining an independent bar which upholds the rule of law and ensures access to justice”.”
UIA-IROL said a jail sentence seems “disproportionate and unfair” based on the facts at issue and on Mr Ravi’s health condition, which should at least constitute a mitigating factor.
“We hope as an immediate remedial measure, Mr Ravi is provided counsel of his choice, at no cost if he cannot afford one, and mental health counseling for his illness, which has been recognized by the court.”
“We respectfully request that you consider Mr Ravi’s case, and we seek your urgent intervention in this case.”
UIA-IROL also seeks a meeting to discuss strategies ensuring compliance with the principles outlined in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (Havana Principles 1990).
UIA-IROL strongly denounces suspension of Mr Ravi in May
The decision followed Mr Ravi’s public criticism of the prosecution and the Law Society of Singapore in the context of representing a client facing a death sentence for drug-related offences.
UIA-IROL believes these repressive measures constitute a grave violation of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the freedom of expression in matters concerning the law, the administration of justice, and the protection of human rights.
According to the UIA-IROL statement, “We believe that M. Ravi was erroneously held to having ‘recklessly and baselessly undermin[ed] the very pillars of the legal system in which he (as well as his fellow practitioners) operates’. Indeed, M. Ravi only expressed a personal opinion in the press about the procedure and the outcome of a trial he had been involved in.”
UIA-IROL strongly disagrees with the court’s characterization of Mr Ravi as a “continuing danger” to the public’s confidence in the Singaporean judicial system.
The statement emphasizes, “In fact, it is the court’s decision that undermines the rule of law in Singapore, for which the independence of the legal profession is essential.”
The statement also expresses deep concern over the chilling effect of misconceived disciplinary proceedings, resulting in lawyers being unwilling to represent death row convicts. UIA-IROL notes several cases where persons facing imminent execution appeared unrepresented.
UIA-IROL urges the Law Society of Singapore to review its practice of initiating disciplinary proceedings against lawyers for their role as lawyers, which includes the freedom of expression in representation of a case, and calls for a moratorium on all disciplinary proceedings pending such a review.
M Ravi received 21 days imprisonment amidst recognition for advocacy
On 8 November, Mr Ravi was sentenced to three weeks’ imprisonment by the Singaporean courts.
Ravi contended with two charges of contempt of court, where the presiding judge, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng affirmed that the custodial threshold was surpassed.
The ruling also mandates Ravi to pay the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) S$10,000 for legal expenses.
AGC had sought S$12,000 in legal costs, excluding disbursements of over S$6,000.
His charges are rooted in his behaviour during two distinct court cases in November 2021. He first represented Chua Qwong Meng, a former bus driver suing SBS Transit for purportedly unfair work practices. The second case involved Magendran Muniandy, a 33-year-old Malaysian, charged with the forgery of various documents.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers charged Ravi with several offences, including baseless accusations of bias against judges, persistent disruptions during court sessions, and misrepresentation of his availability for proceedings, culminating in Justice Hoo’s ruling of contempt in March.
In spite of these legal challenges, Ravi’s contributions to human rights have not been overlooked. Earlier this month, he was lauded with the 2023 IBA Award for Outstanding Contribution to Human Rights by the International Bar Association.
This prestigious recognition celebrates his advocacy for the underprivileged, with emphasis on representing death row inmates and advancing LGBTQI rights.
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