Letter from the Union Internationale des Advocats (UIA) to the Prime Minister of Malaysia regarding the arrest of Matthias Chang
Paris, October 14, 2015
Y.A.B. Dato’ Sri Hj. Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Office of the Prime Minister
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya ‐ Malaysia
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The UIA has been informed of the arrest, under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (“SOSMA”), of lawyer Matthias Chang, when he was at the police headquarters to visit one of his clients, Mr.Dato’ Paduka Khairuddin.
We were also informed that Matthias Chang and his client were brought to Magistrate Court of Kuala Lumpur, and both of them were then charged under Section 124L of the Penal Code for attempting to sabotage banking and financial services in the country.
We were alerted by the Malaysian Bar Association and its President, Mr. Steven Thiru, who reiterated the Bar's opposition to Chang's detention. According to Mr. Steven Thiru, Mr. Chang was cooperating with the investigations, although there is no basis to invoke SOSMA.
We are extremely concerned by this situation, which seems to be the consequence of a misapplication of SOSMA. There is apparently no basis for invoking this anti‐terrorism law against a person willing to cooperate with the investigation.
Furthermore, we question the SOSMA provisions that have been widely criticized for violating the protection of fundamental human rightsin the name of nationalsecurity, notably because of the overly broad and often vague language in SOSMA and associated bills. The definition of “security offence,” for example, includes committing acts “prejudicial to national security and public safety,” thus rending the definition of who may be arrested under SOSMA too broad and inevitably leading to abusive arrest and detention.
The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1990, explicitly establish the right of lawyers to be protected when performing their professional functions, including the right not to be harassed or prosecuted for their clients’ causes. 
The UIA considers that these UN Basic Principles have a normative value under customary international law and should be respected by Malaysia, which was present at the Congress and voted in favor of their adoption.
We thus respectfully call upon the Malaysian State to abide by its obligations in this regard.
We also insist, along with the Malaysian Bar, that the State respect its obligation to respect the principle of legal professional privilege. This principle should remain inviolate and absolute.
We therefore support the Malaysian Bar in its demand
‐ that the police recognize and respect the role and responsibilities of Matthias Chang as a lawyer,
‐ that Matthias Chang be released immediately,
‐ that the authorities should refrain from any action that is likely to harass, impede or obstruct him from performing his duties on behalf of his clients.
We thank you for your attention to this important matter.
‐ Attorney General of Malaysia, Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Haji Mohamed Apandi bin Haji Ali
‐ Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
‐ The Malaysian Bar