Implications to the Rule of Law in Malaysia on cross-border transgression

If our objections are not expressed strongly against unjustified and unsubstantiated territorial claims, this may one day backfire on us 

FEB 24, 2023, marked the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. 

The Malaysian Bar observed that in the past one year, thousands of innocent Ukrainians have been killed and wounded, and several millions displaced, due to acts of aggression on the part of the armed forces of the Russian Federation. 

Indiscriminate bombing and violence against non-combatants are clear war crimes and crimes of aggression. The pain, suffering and destruction experienced by the people of Ukraine is intolerable and unacceptable. 

Ukrainian Bar members, as well as their family members, were equally affected by the transgressions of the invasion. Global efforts were made across jurisdictions by various Bar associations to reach out to the Ukrainian Bar members to lend whatever assistance possible to protect their role as lawyers in ensuring justice is meted out under such challenging circumstances. 

At the opening of the Legal Year of England and Wales last October (2022), a standing ovation was given to the president of the Ukrainian Bar Association, 

Anna Ogrenchuk, during the welcoming reception held at the Middle Temple, in support of the courage displayed by the Ukrainian Bar and its members in the face of such adversities. 

The Malaysian Bar expresses its solidarity with, and admiration of, our Ukrainian brothers and sisters-at-law who continue to perform their duties before their clients and their country, in spite of the adverse situation. 

A total of 141 member states of the United Nations, including Malaysia, voted on February 23, 2023, in favour of a resolution calling upon Russia to cease hostilities and to withdraw from Ukraine. However, much more can and must be done, than to merely vote on a non-binding resolution. Historical justifications or 

support for purported self-determination or independence movements cannot be used as an excuse to promote wars of secession or violation of internationally recognised borders. These invasions must be strongly resisted at an international level. 

Silence or the lack of a vigorous response is insufficient, or else it would give licence to passive acquiescence to do likewise to others, including Malaysia, if we do not speak up now. 

If our objections are not expressed strongly against unjustified and unsubstantiated territorial claims, this may one day backfire on us. Malaysia must prioritise people and peace before profit, and should therefore reconsider its trade relationship with Russia in the light of the far-reaching economic and political consequences of the war. 

The Malaysian Bar is committed to preserving and protecting the international rule of law, and strongly supports the people of Ukraine in their brave defence of their country. On the occasion of this dark anniversary, we stand in solidarity with them. 

  • Karen Cheah Yee Lynn is the president of the Malaysian Bar. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition