Prominent human rights lawyer William Bourdon will appear at Suaram’s fundraising event in July.
The starattraction in Suaram’s upcoming fundraising event dubbed ‘Ops Scorpene’will be a prominent French lawyer specialising in the defence of humanrights and victims of crimes against humanity.
William Bourdon (right)and his team of lawyers at Sherpa – a not-for-profit organisation he founded in 2001 that focuses on improving legal tools to promote corporate social responsibility – have been providing pro bono services for Suaram thus far.
Active in initiating legal procedures in France against former Serbian and Rwandan leaders suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes,Bourdon also served as legal council for Franco-Chilean families who were victims of the former dictator Augusto Pinochet. From 1995 to 2000, he was General Secretary of the International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR).
Scorpene heads to open trial
Ops Scorpene, the details of which can be found on Suaram’s website, was launched in May after French prosecutors concluded initial investigations into the alleged scandal.
The scandal involves commissions amounting to 114.96 million euros (RM574.8 million) paid to Malaysian consulting company Perimekar Sdn Bhd. A French probe revealed another 30 million euros (RM150 million) paid to DCN’s commercial network Thales and another 2.5 million euros (RM7.5 million) paid to an unknown recipient.
Suspicions were raised when government officials contradicted one another when attempting to clarify the “commissions”.
While then-Deputy Defence Minister Zainal Abidin Zin said in 2006 that the commissions were paid “voluntarily” (to Perimekar) by the French parties in the deal, Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Parliament in 2008 that the government had indeed paid the 114.96 million euros to Perimekar, but that it was for “coordination services” and not commissions.
Ahmad Zahid said recently that he was ready to testify in court, but many think it would be more relevant for the court to seek the testimony of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was then Defense Minister in charge of the deal.
Perimekar is a subsidiary of KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, of which the major shareholder is the wife of Abdul Razak Baginda – Najib’s close confidante who was charged with and acquitted of the murder of translator Altantuya Shariibuu.
Suaram board director Cynthia Gabriel (right) said the case, which was filed in a Paris court, was very important as it would reveal a host of relevant documentation related to Malaysia’s purchase of the submarines.
When the case goes to open trial, documentation – including contracts between the Malaysian government and DCN – will be made public and witnesses – including Malaysian officials – can be subpoenaed, she added.
The legal costs of the case, however, are expected to balloon as it proceeds to open trial, she noted.
Fundraising to fight corruption
Gabriel is optimistic that the human rights NGO will achieve its target of collecting RM100,00 from concerned Malaysians who support the fight against corruption, especially among the country’s top officials.
“We have been already receiving pledges and contributions from citizens who are very concerned about the corruption level in our country,” she told Malaysiakini today.
“We are appealing for more pledges so that we can continue with the trial in France until the questions surrounding the scandal and the mystery of the grosteque death of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu be put to rest,” she added.
The fundraising event will kick off in Penang on July 21, and besides Bourdon, a string of political leaders are expected to make speeches, including DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and newly minted PAS deputy president Mohamed Sabu.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has been invited to the event, but may have to leave for an important overseas trip that day.
Other speakers include PKR vice-chief and Batu MP Tian Chua, as well as Gabriel, who will all speak in the Kuala Lumpur event on July 23.