|On 14 April at Kuantan High Court, Malaysia, contempt of court charges against lawyer Charles Hector and eight environmental rights defenders were withdrawn – a major victory in this ongoing struggle against logging contractors.
This followed an international appeal for support by Legal Action for Women, UK, signed by 21 lawyers, including UK distinguished human rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC, over 60 organisations and 80 individuals from 17 countries, condemning attempts to discredit and criminalize Charles Hector and the villagers.
The defendants expressed their appreciation for the support they received.
In Defence of Charles Hector campaign commented:
“We are deeply grateful to every individual, organization and movement that supported and showed solidarity to both Charles Hector, the other environmental rights defenders and their community.
Our special thanks goes to Legal Action for Women, which initiated the Open Letter and to the Wages for Housework Campaign and the Global Women’s Strike, which helped co-ordinate support from prominent individuals and organisations internationally.
“While many aspects of the connection between human rights and the environment are important, none is more urgent than the need to protect those individuals and communities who work, often at great personal risk, to protect the natural environment from unsustainable exploitation, and defend their human rights and that of their communities.
“It is through their efforts taking collective community action that the survival of the environment and human life depends.”
Present in court to support the defendants was prominent women’s rights lawyer Honey Tan with her team. Representatives of the Bar Council of Malaysia attended on a watching brief. One indication that international support had an impact on the case is that the federal counsel representing the chief minister of Pahang state turned up in court.
The civil suit taken against eight inhabitants of Kampung Baharu, a village in Jerantut, Pahang by two logging companies continues on 5 May. Villagers are protesting intended logging in the nearby forest on which they depend for clean water and therefore for their lives and livelihoods.
Since the contempt of court charges have been dropped, Charles Hector can continue to represent them.
We will keep you informed as your support is still needed to prevent the logging, which could commence at any time.