AI Canada – Support Dr Chee and colleagues facing charges

1 Nov

Source: Amnesty International Canada

Singapore: Canadian support for Dr. Chee and colleagues facing charges
Posted: 28 October 2008

Dr. Chee (centre) protesting at a Singapore park, 18 September 2006

SINGAPORE: Singapore opposition politician Chee Soon Juan (centre) stands along with supporters at a Singapore park designated by the government as a free-speech area in Singapore, 18 September 2006. Chee had entered the third day of a standoff with police after he was prevented from marching to the venue of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in Singapore 16 September. Any protest of more than four people is deemed an illegal assembly in Singapore, a prosperous Asian financial hub that maintains strict controls on freedom of expression. Source: OSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images.


Government critics and human rights defenders, led by opposition leader Dr Chee Soon Juan, are facing criminal charges for participating in peaceful anti-poverty rallies. But important support for Dr Chee grows, as Canada’s National Post calls the Singapore government “a bully” and former Canadian High Commissioner to Singapore Michael Berry follows up with a letter commenting on the “relentless harassment of Dr Chee…aided by an accommodating judiciary”. And Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam is setting up an international group of lawyers to focus on Dr Chee.

The ruling People’s Action Party, in power for half a century, has increasingly brought ruinous defamation and other suits against critics who call for human rights and democracy. Dr Chee has been repeatedly imprisoned. He and others have been bankrupted, thus barring them from seeking parliamentary seats and from leaving the country without approval. Their party, the Singapore Democratic Party, faces possible closure.

Four trials are currently scheduled against the anti-poverty campaigners, including Dr Chee and his sister,Chee Siok Chin. All are charged with assembly and procession without a permit. Permits are required for public gatherings of more than four people. Eighteen people facing the first trial stated that they would walk into court “with our heads held high…It is a fight that all who wish to see democracy and freedom in Singapore must undertake”. Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam is providing legal advice from abroad. Singapore’s lawyers rarely defend the opposition, and foreign defence lawyers for government critics have found it difficult to gain entry into Singapore.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Singapore government to stop using restrictive laws and civil defamation suits to muzzle critics. Such actions impose restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly that violate international standards. The result is a climate of political intimidation and self-censorship in Singapore. Dr Chee Soon Juan and his colleagues resolutely state their determination to continue their campaign for human rights and democracy – at whatever the personal cost.

TAKE ACTION:

Please write to the President of Singapore
•    Call for an end to the use of restrictive laws and civil defamation suits against critics;
•    State that the stifling of criticism and debate is a clear violation of international law and standards on freedom of expression;
•    Express your understanding that the government has claimed to be building an ” open society” and ask the reason therefore for the continuing use of restrictive laws against peaceful critics and human rights defenders.

WRITE TO:

President S R Nathan
Office of the President of Singapore
Orchard Road
Singapore 238823
Fax: 011 65 6737 5522
Email: s_r_nathan@istana.gov.sg
Salutation: Dear President

COPIES TO:

His Excellency Mr Vanu Gopala Menon
High Commissioner for Singapore and Permanent Representative of Singapore to the UN
231 East 51st Street
New York, NY 10022, USA
Fax: +1 212 826 2964
Salutation: Your Excellency

Please Send Messages of Support to:

Dr Chee Soon Juan and colleagues
2A Jalan Gelenggang
Singapore 578187
Email: speakup@singaporedemocrat.org

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