Singapore


Share
Share

Singapore Human Rights

Background

The Southeastern Asian country, the Republic of Singapore, is a parliamentary republic.  In 1819, the British founded modern Singapore as a trading colony.  In 1963 it joined the Malaysian Federation but was ousted two years later and became independent on August 9, 1965.  In 2017, HALIMAH Yacob became President.  Prime Minister LEE Hsien Loong of the People’s Action Party (PAP) has held the office since 2004, reelected in 2020.  The PAP and the Lee family have dominated politics in Singapore since 1959. The island of Singapore is located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula with a cluster of about sixty small islands. Between Malaysia it is separated by the Strait of Johor and from Indonesia by the Strait of Singapore and the South China Sea.  Singapore is the capital. Its geographic coordinates are 1 22 N, 103 4E.  Singapore’s totally urban population is comprised of three main ethnic groups: Chinese 74.3%, Malay 13.5%, Indian 9%, other 3.2% (2020 est.)  The four official languages are English 48.3% , Mandarin 29.9% (with other Chinese dialects), 8.7%, Malay and 9.2%, Tamil 2.5%.  Religious beliefs include Buddhist 31.1%, Christian 18.9%, Muslim 15.6%, Taoist 8.8%, Hindu 5%, other 0.6%, and none 20% (2020 est.)

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.  The rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were further curtailed,including via the use of a “fake news” law.

Freedom of expression and assembly

Throughout 2020-21, directives under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) – a so-called “fake news” law – were issued against government critics. In January, authorities claimed it was a “coincidence” that the first cases under POFMA involved politicalopponents. In February, Facebook expressedconcerns over being forced to block a news site page under POFMA.1 Independent media outlets, including The Online Citizen (TOC) and New Naratif, were repeatedly hit with POFMA orders. In September, the Court of Appeal reserved judgement on the first legal challenges to POFMA.

Migrant workers

In April over 300,000 migrant workers were quarantined in overcrowded dormitories due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all of Singapore’s cases of infection were among migrant workers. Heavy restrictions on their movement remained at the end of the year.  In September the acquittal of a domestic worker accused of theft from her employer drew attention to access to justice and inequality for migrant workers.

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL,TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX (LGBTI) PEOPLE

Laws continued to discriminate against LGBTI people. A constitutional challenge to the law criminalizing consensual sexual relations between men was dismissed by the High Court.

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

In March, police investigated human rights lawyer M Ravi and TOC editor Terry Xu for contempt of court under the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act. The investigation followed the publication of articles on TOC’s website regarding Mohan Rajangam, a Singaporean who challenged his extradition to Malaysia in 2015. Also in March, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of human rights defender Jolovan Wham for a Facebook post allegedly “scandalising the judiciary” in 2018.  Wham served one week in jail.2  In August, Wham spent 10 days in jail for organizing a 2016 event at which Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong spoke. In September, media outlet New Naratif and editor PJ Thum faced police investigation for the publication of paid advertisements on Facebook during the July elections. In November, Jolovan Wham was charged with “illegal assembly” after posing on his own for a photo with a smiley facemearlier in the year.3

Death penalty

Death sentences continued to be imposed, including for drug trafficking. In May, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a man was sentenced to death in a hearing held online, sparking international attention.4

Torture and other ill-treatment

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

International scrutiny

The UN Special Rapporteur on racism visited Singapore in 2010. 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.  https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/700115?ln=en

1. Singapore: Social media companies forced to cooperate with abusive fake news law (News story, 19 February)
2. Singapore: Drop investigations under abusive contempt of court law (Public statement, 25 March)
3. Singapore: Drop charges against peaceful activist (Public statement, 27 November)
4. Singapore: Man sentenced to death on Zoom call (News story, 20 May)
Singapore Newsroom



February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 23, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Singapore 2013

Republic of Singapore Head of state Tony Tan Keng Yam Head of government Lee Hsien Loong Singapore took steps to roll back the mandatory death penalty, but the media remained …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Singapore 2010

Head of state S. R. Nathan Head of government Lee Hsien Loong Death penalty retentionist Population 4.7 million Life expectancy 80.2 years Under-5 mortality (m/f) 4/4 per 1,000 Adult literacy …

April 7, 2020 • Press Release

Over 20,000 Migrant Workers in Quarantine in Singapore Must be Protected from Mass Infection

Responding to reports that two dormitories for migrant workers in Singapore have been designated as “isolation areas” and that over 20,000 of them have been put under quarantine there, Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Singapore Researcher said:

August 16, 2016 • Press Release

Singapore: Contempt of court bill is a threat to freedom of expression

Singapore’s Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill is a broad and vaguely worded law that will impose yet another undue restriction on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today. “Under the …

May 20, 2016 • Press Release

Singapore: Disgraceful execution of Kho Jabing

Amnesty International condemns the execution of Kho Jabing, a Malaysian national convicted of murder, mere hours after his last chance for a reprieve was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

May 19, 2016 • Press Release

Singapore president must act now to stop execution

The Singapore authorities should immediately halt the execution of Kho Jabing, a Malaysian national convicted of murder, Amnesty International said today.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.

February 18, 2016 • Press Release

Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

DONATE