A 2008 Summary of human rights situation in Singapore

13 Mar

I came across this on Singabloodypore, entitled, ‘Amnesty International: Singapore Notes’ and while I cannot vouch for the credentials of this blog posting (whether it really came from Amnesty International), it does provide a window to the human rights situation in Singapore. Below are some excerpts (emphasis mine):

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Law Society of Singapore: As part of a consultation process, the LSS submitted a 77-page report to the authorities. Its recommendations included: an end to the death penalty; more detailed rules on police interrogation of criminal suspects such as taping of sessions involving serious offences; and a guarantee of the right of access to legal counsel. In an article in the Law Gazette, LSS President Michael Hwang underlined that the purpose of criminal law was to preserve public order and decency, protect the citizen and safeguard against exploitation and corruption. He called for a re-examination of the reason for certain offences remaining on the statute books. Rigorous research into penalogical questions, including the effectiveness of the death penalty and corporal punishment as deterrents. needed to be undertaken. The Minister said LSS President Michael Hwang had mounted “theoretical arguments” on crime and punishment that lacked “any real merit” and called for Law Society views that are “well thought through and substantiated by the facts”. (cheekong@mediacorp.com.sg 3/3) See under DEATH PENALTY — AI Australia death penalty blog below.

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Trials:

*** World Bank/IMF March 16 September 2006: Dr Chee Soon Juan, Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Siok Chin, Tan Teck Wee and Teoh Tian Jing are being charged with attempting to take part in a procession during the WB/IMF meeting in Singapore 2006. The defendants called for the Prosecution’s video of their assembly to be produced in court. The judge refused to make such an order, though the Evidence Act states that judges have the power to do so. (yoursdp.org 7/1, 23/2) The SDP reported that prosecution witness, Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohd Hassan testified in court that the charge written in the Attorney -General’s Chambers was incorrect. (yoursdp.org 22/2) A clip of Dr Chee challenging the charge is available on http://www/youtube.com/user/wendyneow

***”Kangaroo T-shirt” trial: The Times (UK) reported as ” Weird Cases” the trial of three individuals prosecuted for wearing the T-shirts in question and charged with ” scandalising the judiciary”. They had worn them at a defamation hearing involving Dr Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin. (15/12/08) .Muhammad Shafi’ie, 20, refused to apologise for wearing a T-shirt bearing a kangaroo design. He and Mr Isrizal were convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to seven days in prison. Dr Hwang Chih Mei wrote to Shafi’ie’s concerned mother that “he is doing what he can…to seek democracy, justice and equality….you have a brave and precious son who is also a good citizen”. ( yoursdp.org 11/12/2008 ) John Tan (SDP Assistant Secretary-General) was sentenced to 15 days and fined $5000 (ST 16/12/08, ABC 1/1). A candlelight vigil was held 17 December to mark the last day of the imprisonment of Isrizal and Shafi’ie. A video is accessible on http://www.yoursdp.org.

***Gandhi Ambalam, Chee Siok Chin, Chong Kai Xiong, John Tan, Charles Tan, Teck Wee and Yap Keng Ho have all been charged under the Miscellaneous Offences Rules with participation in an illegal procession 16 September 2007. The procession was intended to commemorate the first anniversary of the 11 September World Bank/IMF protest. (yoursdp.org 2/2) Chee Siok Chin asked the trial judge to prevent police witnesses from conferring with one another in court, especially when a witness was in the process of giving his testimony. Judge John Ng replied:” we are all free citizens”, to which John Tan took issue, saying that if they were ” free citizens” they would not be on trial. (www.yoursdp.org 4/2)

***Tak Boleh Tahan anti-poverty rally 15 March 2008: A group of peaceful demonstrators was charged with assembly without a permit and illegal procession. They were protesting rising living costs and their effect on the poor. The accused are: Dr Chee Soon Juan, Gandhi Ambalam, Chia Ti Lik, Ng E-Jay, Seelan Palay, Chong Kai Xiong, Yap Keng Ho, Govindan Rajan, Jufrie Mahmood, Surayah Akbar, Jufri Salim, Mohd Shafie, Jaslyn Go Hui Leng, Sylvester Lim, John Tan, Jeffrey George, Carl Lang, Francis Yong and Chee Siok Chin. The judge disallowed the defence to submit video evidence of a Consumer Association of Singapore protest that, in contrast, had been allowed the day after the Tak Boleh Tahan rally had been ended by police. (yoursdp.com 3/3, 4/3) Because of time pressures and work schedules, Ng E-Jay and Jeffrey George had pleaded guilty in October and were fined S$600 and S$1,200. In February, Jufri Salim pleaded guilty to two charges and was fined a total of S$1,200, saying he could not get more time off work and the trial looked as though it would drag on. He refused to pay the fine because he said he had done no wrong. He was therefore sentenced to eight days in prison, starting 18 February. He is married with three children. Wearing his Tak Boleh Tahan T-shirt, he read out a statement in court: ” [W]hat I did…is very noble and no one can take those rights away from us, citizens of Singapore….I hope that my fellow citizens will wake up one day to the fact that we have been oppressed for too long. Join us in our call for freedom and democracy in Singapore”. AI Canada sent a messages to Jufri and his wife, Surayah Akbar, who was also charged. On his release from prison, A group of supporters greeted him as he came out of prison — wearing his Tak Boleh Tahan T-shirt.

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Ravi, a human rights lawyer who has defended Dr Chee and others: was facing possible suspension by the Law Society of Singapore after being charged with disrupting a mosque service. He had been placed for treatment in the Institute for Mental Health. His own doctor certified that he was medically fit. Malaysian human rights lawyer Charles Hector viewed the possible suspension as repressive. Ravi is an active member of the Anti- Death Penalty Asia Network (AI is also a member.). AI alerted lawyers’ organizations concerning his possible suspension as a lawyer.

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AI issued a public statement Executions since December defy global trend (Index 36/002/2009 , 13/1) Since 18 December, three death sentences have been handed down, and two people executed.

AI reiterated its call for an end to the death penalty in Singapore, in line with the worldwide trend to have a moratorium leading to its complete abolition, in accordance with the UN’s 2007 resolution to this effect. AI urged Singapore to join the 138 states that have ceased executions in law or in practice. Singapore is believed to have one of the world’s highest per capita execution rate. At least 420 executions have been carried out since 1991. The Singapore government continues to defend its use, claiming it as a deterrence against drug trafficking. AI has requested “comprehensive information” on its use and points to lack of annual statistics from 1993 to the present. The government said in 2004 that there had been 138 executions in the previous five years, most of them related to drug trafficking. An unconfirmed report stated that the Home Affairs Minister had provided information that 19 executions had taken place in 2003 and eight in 2005. The UN Special Rapporteur on executions has argued that the penalty of execution be eliminated for drugs offences. The most recent victims were:

Mohammad Ali Johari: was executed 19 December for the murder of his two-year-old step-daughter. (Also http://newspaper.asia1.com.sg 27/12/08)

Tan Chor Jin: was executed 9 January for the fatal shooting in May 2007 of Lim Hock Soon. The motive was said to be unclear, apart from a possible money dispute. (ST 6/1, http://www.asiaone.com 8/1, http://www.channelnewsasia.com 9/1, http://news.sg.msn.com 6/1. AFP 6/1) . Reuters (10/1) reported an ailing Singapore tycoon, jailed briefly in 2008 for trying to buy a kidney, received a transplant from Tan, who had offered it to him.

Chijioke Stephen Obioha, 20: a Ghanaian national, was sentenced to death for trafficking over 2.6 kilos of cannibis. A Zambian woman, Daka Guinea, had been caught in June 2007 allegedly handing the drugs over to him. She has not been mentioned in recent media reports, but it is feared she too will receive a death sentence. The Daily Triumph in Nigeria (17/2) urged examination of the reasons for the desperate situation of Chijioke, stating that the blame lay squarely on his (Chijioke’s)) government and a system that put down people and provided little chance to develop with dignity. There was no infrastructure, housing, water, good roads, despite millions of dollars spent, yet governors, ministers etc loot or mismanage the commonwealth, and government officials buy expensive mansions. The paper charged that such leaders are also responsible if Chijioke is hanged.

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2 Responses to “A 2008 Summary of human rights situation in Singapore”

  1. Townsville Talk Forum March 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    Hey Everyone,

    I’m really enjoying this site.

    Keep Up the good work.

    Love Always

    Sky

  2. soci March 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    The original update was received from Margaret John via email. She is the Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia and the email was received on the 9th of March. It is from AI.

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