The President of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), Panagiotis Perakis, has written a letter to the President of Singapore, Mdm Halimah Yacob, expressing concerns over the recent suspension of human rights lawyer Mr M. Ravi, petitioning her to do everything in her power to address the unjust suspension against him.

The CCBE, which represents the bars and law societies of 46 countries and over 1 million European lawyers, places great emphasis on respect for human rights and the rule of law, and is particularly concerned with the situation of human rights defenders around the world.

On 21 March 2023, the Court of Three Judges imposed a five-year suspension on Mr Ravi under s83(1)(b) of the Legal Profession Act 1986 for allegedly making “grave and baseless accusations of improper conduct” against the Attorney-General of Singapore.

The five-year suspension is the maximum allowable sanction for a lawyer’s misconduct.

Mr Ravi is a prominent human rights lawyer in Singapore who has argued in favour of several landmark human rights and constitutional law cases. He has been vocal about issues such as the death penalty, freedom of expression, defamation laws, freedom of assembly, contempt of court, and access to legal representation. He is also the founding member of the Anti‐Death Penalty Asia Network and the Singapore Anti‐Death Penalty Campaign (S.A.D.P.C.) community group.

He has been facing several disciplinary hearings and police investigations, resulting in personal fines of over S$70,000, mostly from death penalty cases that he has undertaken, most of which were pro-bono.

The CCBE’s letter to Mdm Halimah on Thursday (6 Apr) pointed out that the charges brought against Mr Ravi are reportedly related to an online interview he gave regarding the case of a Malaysian national who was sentenced to death in Singapore for drug trafficking.

In the interview, Mr Ravi expressed concerns about the public prosecutor’s conduct and alleged that it had led to the death sentence. The Attorney-General’s Chambers then demanded an apology and an unconditional retraction of the allegations, which Mr Ravi did not provide.

Highlighting the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular, Principles 16 and 17 on Guarantees for the functioning of lawyers and Principle 23 on Freedom of expression and association, CCBE urged the President to drop the charges against Mr Ravi so that he can carry out his activities as a lawyer.

The CCBE also emphasizes that all lawyers should be able to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation, or harassment in order to preserve the independence and integrity of the administration of justice and the rule of law.

Commenting on the letter by CCBE, Mr Ravi said that he is glad to have received the support and solidarity of over 1 million lawyers across Europe on his unjust suspension.

He added that Singapore cannot claim to be an international centre for arbitration if there are serious questions with its rule of law.

According to Mr Ravi, several Singapore lawyers have privately expressed disappointment with the ruling but are afraid to say it publicly.

He pointed out that the fact that these lawyers are fearful of openly showing their support and speaking out, by itself, points to a profound decline in the standard of the rule of law in Singapore.

“I urge lawyers in Singapore to stand up for their rights as the confidence in the Bar is being eroded with the profession being cowed into fear.”

The recent suspension of Mr Ravi has raised concerns about the state of freedom of expression and how it threatens the rule of law that underpins the Singapore legal system.

Some have also criticized the decision, arguing that it represents a blatant attempt to silence a vocal critic of the government and stifle dissent.

Twelve Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the Asia Pacific had earlier issued a joint statement in support of Mr Ravi last month,  calling on the Singapore authorities to halt its current spate of executions in line with the global trend towards abolition and to end the harassment of lawyers who dedicate their lives to defend those without a voice.


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