The International Bar Association (IBA) has announced the winners of its annual awards for 2019.
The 2019 IBA Award for Outstanding Contribution by a Legal Practitioner to Human Rights has been won jointly by Martin Lee SC JP and Margaret Ng. Both are Hong Kong-based lawyers.
The IBA says both have demonstrated tireless dedication to the protection of human rights and the pursuit of justice. This year marks the first time since the introduction of the award in 1995 that it has been bestowed jointly.
Mr Lee has devoted his life to the advancement of human rights and democratic ideals in his native Hong Kong. Called to the Hong Kong Bar in 1966, he was subsequently appointed Queen’s Counsel and later became the Founding Chairman of the United Democrats of Hong Kong. In 1985, Mr Lee served on the Drafting Committee for Hong Kong’s Basic Law, helping to shape what would become the territory’s post-handover constitution. He openly criticised the Beijing government’s role in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and more recently has spoken out against the controversial Hong Kong extradition law.
Dr Ng has similarly dedicated much of her career to the protection of human rights and freedom of speech in Hong Kong. Called to the Hong Kong Bar in 1988, she was one of the founding members of the Basic Law Article 23 Concern Group. Article 23 called for the prohibition of perceived acts of treason against the Central People’s Government, the chief administrative authority of the People’s Republic of China. Following huge demonstrations in the region, the bill was withdrawn. Dr Ng continues to fight against restrictions of civil liberties in Hong Kong as a member of the renamed Basic Law Article 45 Concern Group – a pro-democracy group. She has spoken out against the ban on the Hong Kong National Party and police treatment of the party’s founder, Andy Chan Ho-Tin.
The 2019 IBA Pro Bono Award has been won by Malaysian lawyer Cecil Rajendra.
In 1980, with just a small wooden shack at their disposal, Mr Rajendra and his associates set up the first rural legal aid clinic in Malaysia. In 2000, he launched the country’s first Mobile Legal Aid Clinic (MOBLAC), parking in popular night markets across Penang to encourage local people to engage with the legal system and understand their rights.
Mr Rajendra has also been a leading campaigner for human rights. He received the Malaysian Bar Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his pioneering legal aid work and tireless commitment to human rights. He has authored 25 books, with his poems published in over 50 countries.