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M Ravi voices disappointment over MinLaw’s response to his IBA award

Ravi Madasamy, a Singaporean human rights lawyer, voiced disappointment at MinLaw’s reaction to his IBA 2023 Human Rights Award. He saw it as emblematic of a broader hesitancy to embrace efforts challenging the status quo, despite global recognition.



SINGAPORE: Singaporean human rights lawyer Ravi Madasamy on Monday (29 January) expressed disappointment with the Ministry of Law of Singapore‘s recent response, which protested the terms under which he was honoured with the International Bar Association (IBA) 2023 Human Rights Award.

Mr Ravi expressed his dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Law’s reaction, highlighting a more significant concern within the legal system.

He believed that this highlighted a systemic reluctance to recognize and applaud endeavours that challenge the status quo, even when those efforts garner recognition on a global scale.

Ravi honoured with IBA Award for advocacy for the underprivileged

On 2 November last year, Mr Ravi was awarded the prestigious 2023 IBA  Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Legal Practitioner to Human Rights.

This recognition celebrated his remarkable commitment to defending human rights and advocating for the decriminalization of homosexuality and the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore.

The IBA, in its statement, highlighted 54-year-old Mr Ravi’s extensive career, where he successfully worked to save more than 40 inmates from death row, with notable cases in both Malaysia and Singapore.

The organization recognized his pivotal role in legal challenges, notably contributing to a moratorium on death penalty cases in Malaysia through his involvement in the case of Yong Vui Kong.

IBA added that he was instrumental in the case of Nagaenthran, an intellectually disabled death row inmate, drawing worldwide attention.

The IBA, an esteemed international legal association with over 80,000 individual lawyers and 190 bar associations and law societies across 170 countries, including the Law Society of Singapore, presents this annual award to a lawyer who has made a remarkable contribution to the promotion, protection, and advancement of human rights.

However, the statement also noted the challenges Mr Ravi has faced as a result of his advocacy.

“Mr Madasamy’s challenging of the Singaporean government has led to periodic restrictions on his license to practise law, including the imposition of personal cost orders to the sum of S$70,000 for bringing ‘last-minute’ death penalty challenges in court.”

“In March 2023, he was suspended from practising law for five years in Singapore courts for criticising the prosecution’s conduct and he is currently facing contempt of court allegations with state prosecutors pursuing a prison sentence as the penalty. ”

MinLaw disputes IBA’s portrayal of Mr Ravi

On 19 January, MinLaw of Singapore issued a statement expressing disagreement with the characterization made in the IBA’s article regarding Mr Ravi.

Sarala Subramaniam, MinLaw’s Director-General (International & Advisory) denied the allegations made in the IBA’s article, refuting the notion that Mr Ravi’s challenges to the Singaporean government led to periodic restrictions on his license and a five-year suspension for criticizing the prosecution’s conduct.

Instead, she asserted that various cost orders and suspensions against Mr. Ravi were consequences of his repeated instances of professional misconduct.

The MinLaw statement outlined specific instances of misconduct, including Mr Ravi being sanctioned in 2016 for mishandling client funds and making inappropriate statements about a client on video.

It was mentioned that in the same year, he was found to have conducted himself deplorably, resulting in a two-year prohibition from applying for a practicing certificate.

Despite returning to legal practice in 2019 under a conditional practising certificate, Ms Subramaniam pointed out that Mr Ravi continued to engage in professional misconduct from 2020 to 2023.

“This including: repeatedly abusing the courts’ processes; making baseless allegations of improper conduct against the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Law Society of Singapore; and making unfounded allegations of bias against Judges, in contempt of court,” Ms Subramaniam stated.

Ms Subramaniam expressed MinLaw’s “disappointment” in the IBA’s characterization of Mr. Ravi’s instances of misconduct as challenges to the government or prosecutorial authorities of Singapore.

She emphasized that Singapore’s laws and legal professional rules apply to all lawyers equally, and allegations of offences, breaches of professional conduct rules, or improper conduct in cases are treated seriously following due process.

“For example, it will be serious misconduct in many jurisdictions, if a lawyer mishandles his clients’ monies, or makes improper allegations about his clients, or makes improper allegations about judges.”

Ravi calls on Government to acknowledge diverse voices in the legal community

On Monday (29 January), Mr Ravi in a Facebook post expressed his disappointment with the government’s position while also defending his accomplishments as a lawyer.

He underscored a broader issue within the legal system, pointing out the reluctance to acknowledge and celebrate efforts that challenge the status quo, even when such endeavours receive recognition on a global scale.

Mr Ravi asserted that the International Bar Association’s (IBA) decision to honour him with the Human Rights Award was a testament to his decades-long commitment to upholding human rights in Singapore.

Over nearly two decades, he has actively challenged unconstitutional practices in court, represented marginalized individuals, and advocated for legal reform.

“The IBA award reflects not only my contributions to Singapore’s jurisprudence but also represents the global legal profession’s commitment towards cause lawyering and championing human rights, ” Mr Ravi added.

Expressing his hope as a Singaporean, Mr Ravi stated that he looks forward to the Singapore government recognizing the value of diverse voices in the legal community.

He urged an understanding that progress is achieved through embracing and supporting different perspectives and courageous advocacy, rather than shunning them.

IBA’s recent report warns of escalating risks for lawyers in Southeast Asia, especially those championing human rights

In a recent report, IBA’s digital content Global Insight highlighted a worrisome trend indicating that the appeal of working as a lawyer in Southeast Asia is diminishing.

Lawyers in the region are increasingly vulnerable to attacks, especially when championing human rights causes.

Particularly in Myanmar and Hong Kong, these threats have resulted in a significant exodus of professionals from the legal field.

In Singapore, the Law Society reported a 30% increase in the departure of lawyers across all age groups from the profession in 2021 compared to 2020.

For those who choose to remain, considerations of personal safety and workload may lead them to steer clear of more sensitive cases.

In Singapore, Jaipreet Kaur, South East Asia Caseworker at legal action NGO Reprieve, notes the growing difficulty in finding legal representation in capital punishment cases and those where an execution is imminent.

She emphasizes the challenges lawyers face in meeting stringent filing deadlines and enduring personal harassment.

‘When [Nagaenthran Dharmalingam’s] case was scheduled, there was more than one occasion where courts set stringent filing deadlines, such that there wasn’t enough time for lawyers to prepare submissions property’, says Kaur.

‘Once the lawyer files or assists the person facing execution to file an application in court to stay the execution or to, in any way, oppose or delay that execution, the courts react in an extremely hostile manner and set impossible-to-meet filing deadlines.’

In response to these concerns, a spokesperson from Singapore’s MinLaw denied allegations of government interference in capital punishment cases.

They asserted that many lawyers in Singapore have represented individuals facing the death penalty without experiencing absconding, false charges, threats, or harassment.

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Minlaw no credibility. Period.

The human rights lawyer is a threat to Singapore PAP government which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his PAP government Ministers subordinates trying every effort to get rid of him and the rest of the opposition parties members together with the opposition parties supporters

human rights or leegally rights? What do you think? tsk tsk tsk .just my opinion. LOL

There is always a challenge when faced with an institution that favours non-provocative and unopposing views by its citizens and any legal solicitors who challenge the stand of the govt would eventually faced consequences. I support constructive criticism by any blue-bred citizens that could improve the lives of our citizens then there will be hope for everyone.

Congratulations Ravi, The Law Society in Singapore itself has lost its significance in Singapore so you need not bother about their comments.

Ravi, congratulations. The people recognise your efforts and achievements. MinLaw should applaud a Singaporean’s achievement. It is a win for the State internationally. Don’t be so petty and narrow minded.