Conviction of Malaysian opposition leader draws UN rights office concern

7 March 2014

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed serious concern today over the conviction of Malaysian opposition leader, Karpal Singh, who was found guilty of sedition late last month and is due to be sentenced on 11 March.

Under Malaysia’s 1948 Sedition Act, Mr. Singh was charged “after suggesting at a press conference in 2009 that it was possible to bring a legal challenge against a decision by the Sultan of the Malaysian state of Perak to dismiss the then Chief Minister,” explained OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville in Geneva.

“The prosecution in the case argued that Mr. Singh’s words had the tendency to create hatred towards the Sultan,” he said.

“Lawyers must be able to discharge their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance or improper interference of any sort and should be entitled to express views in their professional capacities on matters concerning the law,” Mr. Colville continued.

In addition to being a prominent lawyer and a Member of Parliament, Mr. Singh is also the chairperson of Malaysia’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Action Party.

He faces a fine of up to 5,000 Malaysian Ringgit (approximately $1,500) and/or three years’ imprisonment. If he is fined more than 2,000 Malaysian Ringgit or sentenced to more than a year behind bars, he could lose his parliamentary membership.

“The 1948 Sedition Act is not in conformity with international human rights law. Using this law to limit freedom of expression and opinion could stifle enjoyment of these rights in Malaysia,” said Rupert Colville. “We urge the Government of Malaysia to review Mr. Singh’s conviction and to repeal the Sedition Act – something which the Prime Minister had, in 2012, publicly undertaken to do.”


♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Malaysia: UN rights office urges Government to rethink ban of civil society group

The United Nations human rights office today expressed concern about a decision by the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs to declare illegal a coalition of 54 mainly non-Islamic civil society groups focused on human rights known by the acronym COMANGO.