Legal harassment against NGO advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Malaysia

Case Study

Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) is a human rights and environmental NGO committed to campaigning for the conservation of tropical rainforests and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Between 2009 and 2018, BMF published a number of online posts, reports, and a book about the alleged grand corruption under the Taib regime in Sarawak, Malaysia, and the alleged laundering of illicit assets by the Taib family in Canada. 

In 2018, Canadian property firm SAKTO and its directors, Jamilah Taib and her husband Sean Murray, instigated civil and criminal proceedings against BMF and its executive director, Lukas Straumann. Among the charges were infringement of personality rights, defamation, coercion, fraud, and criminal mismanagement. The case has taken five years to make it to the courtroom and has cost BMF several hundred thousand Swiss Francs in the process. 

Despite their financial and psychological toll on the organisation, the lawsuits have not deterred the BMF team from carrying on their campaign. The day before the first scheduled court hearing, BMF are organising a public Rainforest Tribunal to “reclaim the forest, the money and repair the damage done”, according to Straumann, showing resilience in the face of legal intimidation. 

Watch testimony from Lukas Straumann


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