March 13, 2015

Statement of ABA President William C. Hubbard Re: Pending prosecution of Eric Paulsen and Azmi Sharom

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2015 — American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard has sent a letter to Najib Razak, prime minister of Malaysia, expressing concern over the pending sedition charges against human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen and law lecturer Professor Azmi Sharom.                    

The letter indicates that the charges of sedition against Paulsen and Sharom violate their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and opinion and add to a pattern of harassment against lawyers and human rights activists in Malaysia. Since 2014, at least four other lawyers have been charged under Article 4 of the Sedition Act 1948.

Paulsen was deprived of his liberty for expressing his concerns over the government’s stated goal of promoting religious tolerance, and Sharom was expressing his views on matters of the constitutionality of government action. Neither attorney made reference to violence or to the overthrow of the government in their messages. Under international law, attorneys, like other citizens, have the right to publish their opinions concerning a government agency’s efficacy and the legality of government action.

“Freedom of expression, in particular on matters of public interest, is not only a basic individual right but necessary to a free and just society,” Hubbard said in the letter.

The ABA calls on the government of Malaysia to ensure promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law, in compliance with its international commitments and in accordance with the Constitution of Malaysia. 

For a full text of the letter, click here.

(Media contact: Maria.Gutierrez@americanbar.org)

Please click here for a biography and photo of William C. Hubbard, president of the American Bar Association.

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