By Michelle Chang | Office Parrots

When cases involving Malaysian human rights come into the spotlight, they quickly become front page news. However, what news outlets sometimes fail to cover are the crusaders working behind the scenes, fighting for the rights of their respective clients.

Who are these unsung heroes who endure sleepless nights, hungry press – and even incarceration – fighting for the rights of Malaysians everywhere? Whilst there are many amazing and inspirational individuals to choose from, here are 7 Malaysian human rights lawyers that have made headlines.

1. N. Surendran s/o K. Nagarajan 

University: University of London (LL.B)

Qualification: Certificate of Legal Practice

Firm: Edwin Lim & Suren

Lawyer N. Surendran is never afraid to speak his mind when he feels that injustice has been done. He juggles three hats as a lawyer, a founder of an NGO, and a sitting Minister of Parliament in Malaysia — each an individually impressive feat.

His perseverance and stalwart character were shown in the recent case of the prosecuted activist Adam Adli. Despite facing sedition charges of his own, N. Surendran managed to uphold his duty as a lawyer, helping to mitigate his client’s sentence from a one-year custodial sentence to a RM5,000.00 fine.

2. Honey Tan Lay Ean

University : University of Buckingham (LL.B)

Qualification: Bar of England and Wales (Middle Temple)

Firm: Tan Law Practice

Despite her friendly face and a soft-spoken demeanour, Honey Tan is a woman of steel. Practising primarily in the area of family law, Honey Tan also actively engages in public interest litigation particularly in areas of equality and non-discrimination.

As the former Executive Director of the All Women Action Society (AWAM) and the current committee member in the Malaysian Bar (Chairperson of the Family Law Committee and Co-Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee), Honey also educates the Malaysian public about their rights and liberties through the committees she is part of.

3. Edmund Bon Tai Soon

University: University of London (LL.B)

Qualification: Bar of England and Wales (Lincoln’s Inn)

Firm: AmerBON, Advocates

No stranger to headlines, Edmund has cemented himself as a staunch advocate of human rights in Malaysia. He is also a co-founder of, a platform to fill the lacunae of political objectiveness in the mainstream media.

In addition to his activism, Edmund is also the current Malaysian representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, making him a Malaysian pride.

4. Andrew Khoo Chin Hock

University: King’s College London (LL.B)

Qualification: Bar of England and Wales (Gray’s Inn)

Firm: Andrew Khoo & Daniel Lo

Andrew Khoo is no stranger to the thorny landscape of public interest cases and civil litigation. He is a frequent columnist in various media outlets, not afraid to speak his mind. From giving his views on the ‘Allah’ case of 2009 to the recent case of the hanging of Kho Jabing where he stated his take on mandatory death sentencing, Andrew’s insights on the workings of justice are compelling and eye-opening.

Besides being the current Co-Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee with Honey, Andrew has also represented the Malaysian Human Rights Commissions (SUHAKAM), Bar Council Malaysia, Council of Churches and Bible Society of Malaysia in watching briefs before the courts of Malaysia.

5. Eric Paulsen

University: University of London (LL.B)

Qualification: Certificate of Legal Practice

Firm: Daim & Gamany

It seems that fighting for human rights has always been a calling for Eric Paulsen. From his humble start at Messrs Karpal Singh & Company — a leading firm in criminal and public interest litigation — to his work with the UN in third world countries in Asia, Eric is the unrelenting crusader of the downtrodden and the wronged.

As the current Executive Director of Lawyers for Liberty, a human rights organisation, Eric works with his co-founders to promote and also bring awareness of human rights and civil liberties in Malaysia.

6. Michelle Yesudas

University: University of London (LL.B)

Qualification: Certificate of Legal Practice

NGO: Consultant at Amnesty International

Have you heard about the Yellow Balloon girl (Bilqis Hijjis)? Or the activist Ali Abd Jalil? Well here’s a lawyer who is representing them! Behind those chic heels and amazing hair, lies a cool as cucumber, Twitter-eviscerating, kick-ass human rights lawyer. No stranger to tough cases and even tougher opponents, Michelle is a no-holds-barred woman who is willing to go through hell and high water for her client’s rights.

She is the legal/campaign coordinator for Lawyers for Liberty and together with Eric Paulsen, N. Surendran and Latheefa Koya, are akin to a Fantastic Four of human rights and civil liberties in Malaysia.

7. Syahredzan Johan

University: University of Cardiff (LL.B)

Qualification: Bar of England and Wales (Lincoln’s Inn)

Firm: RamRais & Partners

Do you know the lawyer that’s defending the graphic artist that depicted our Prime Minister as a clown? Well, Syahredzan Johan is the man behind the curtains. A well-spoken lawyer both on and off social media, Syahredzan is outspoken on many important issues in our society. He is also a frequent columnist in mainstream media, discussing topics ranging from politics to civil liberties in Malaysia.

As the former Co-Chairperson on the National Young Lawyers Committee in the Malaysian Bar, Syahredzan is also active in the education of future lawyers in Malaysia regarding human rights through various talks and workshops.