Singapore Human Rights

Government critics and human rights defenders continued to be penalized for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The media continued to be tightly controlled through restrictive censorship laws and legal actions against publishers. Arbitrary detention, judicial caning and the death penalty were retained.

Freedom of expression and assembly

Opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan remained bankrupt following defamation suits by current and former ministers, and was thus barred from seeking public office and from leaving Singapore. He and his colleagues faced fines and possible imprisonment for public speaking without a permit and holding illegal assemblies. Appeals against their convictions were ongoing and they remained free on bail at the end of the year.

  • In March, the International Herald Tribune newspaper apologized and paid fines for a defamation claim in relation to an article on political dynasties which included the names of former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a list of families occupying high positions in Asia.
  • In July, police arrested British journalist Alan Shadrake after he published a book on executions in Singapore. He was charged with contempt of court for statements in his book that allegedly impugned the judiciary's independence. He was convicted in November, and sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment and a fine of S$20,000.

Detention without trial

An unknown number of suspected Islamic militants were held under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which provided for detention without trial. One further arrest was known to have been made. Seven who had been held for up to nine years were released.

Death penalty

At least eight people were sentenced to death. No official information on executions was available.

  • Tens of thousands of Malaysians campaigned to have the sentence of Malaysian Yong Vui Kong commuted and the Malaysian government appealed to the Singapore authorities. He was sentenced to death in 2009 for trafficking drugs, a crime which carries a mandatory death sentence. Yong Vui Kong's lawyer appealed on the grounds that the mandatory death penalty was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeal rejected the appeal. Yong Vui Kong's lawyer also filed a petition for a judicial review of the clemency process.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Caning was imposed for some 30 offences, including vandalism and immigration violations.

  • In April, a man from Cameroon was caned for overstaying his visa.
  • In June, a Swiss man was caned for vandalizing a train carriage.

International scrutiny

The UN Special Rapporteur on racism visited Singapore in April. His recommendations included the need for action to protect migrant workers and steps to create a legal and institutional framework to fight racism. He stated that it was time to allow Singaporeans to share their views on ethnicity and work together to find solutions.

Prisoners of conscience

For the first time several former prisoners of conscience made public their experiences, including Teo Soh Lung who published a book about her two detentions under the ISA, in 1987 and again in 1990.

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Although 2013 saw more executions than in previous years and several countries resuming executions, there was also progress towards abolition in all regions of the world.
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The reduction of a death sentence to life imprisonment for a convicted drug trafficker in Singapore must now be followed by continued reforms, Amnesty International said.