Human rights lawyer fighting death sentences in Singapore wins prestigious global law-industry award (3)

By Mathew Carr

Nov. 2, 2023 — Human rights lawyer Ravi M. Ravi wasn’t able to attend his own award ceremony in Paris today, as he grapples with litigation in his home country, Singapore.

He potentially faces jail time over contempt-of-court charges. A sentencing hearing is set for Nov. 8 and I understand travel restrictions have been levelled as part of the litigation. Singapore has a history of retaliating against those who speak out against it, even as it projects itself as a country that leads emerging nations.

The International Bar Association, an industry group for the global legal sector, anointed Ravi Madasamy as the winner of its award for “outstanding contribution by a legal practitioner to human rights.” The group is seeking to back people speaking out against wrongdoing by governments and corporations.

M. Ravi has defended scores of people sentenced to death in the city state.

Alka Pradhan, co chair of the IBA’s human rights committee, said M. Ravi’s bravery was exceptional:

“Death is different because no matter who you are in the world, it is a fearsome thing to stand against a government – any government – and say, you will not take someone’s life, you do not have that right. And yet that is what Ravi Madasamy has done for dozens facing the death penalty in Singapore. Described as ‘one of the foremost advocates against the death penalty worldwide,’ Ravi Madasamy’s advocacy contributed to an amendment in the law on the mandatory death penalty for certain drug offenses. He has taken on many such cases pro bono, paying out of pocket for legal expenses and also for funeral expenses. On this issue, what Amnesty International calls Ravi Madasamy’s ‘rock firm, inspiring dedication to this cause’ has truly made change in the world.”

Melinda Taylor, the other co chair, said at this morning’s award ceremony:

“M. Ravi has also made immense contributions to the field of human rights through his work in promoting LGBTQI rights. This includes mounting constitutional challenges to laws penalising same-sex relations and also advocating for LGBTQI equality in the work place.

To update a well-known quote, ‘no person is an island’, victims need bridges and connections to courageous lawyers and advocates such as M. Ravi who has raised his voice to fight for their rights in an environment where he risks being silenced and has in fact been silenced for doing so.

Lawyers like M. Ravi also need bar associations such as the IBA, not only to recognize and award their prowess, but also to speak out to support them to achieve protection under the rule of law. M. Ravi is a human rights defender of the highest order and he is also our colleague. 

He is currently being subjected to a wide array of retaliatory measures simply for trying to do what is right. So apart from giving him this prize, I hope everyone here uses their voices and their influence to ensure he can continue to fight the good fight.

M. Ravi said he regretted being unable to attend the award event: “Love and compassion must deploy every tool in the fight against inhumanity and law is one such tool.”

Video is in the IBA statement linked above.

(I updated to tweak the headline and add context, a link)

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