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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.

Singapore Newsroom



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 guise of protecting the judicial system, the new law threatens to criminalise people for criticising the courts or the administration of justice in Singapore,” said …

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 • 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 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.

November 5, 2015 • Press Release

Singapore: Malaysian man given last-minute reprieve from execution must be granted clemency

A Malaysian man sentenced to death in Singapore on the basis of a disputed murder reconstruction remains at imminent risk of execution and must be granted clemency, Amnesty International said after he was given a last-minute reprieve today.

October 29, 2015 • Press Release

Singapore: Halt imminent execution of Malaysian national

The Singaporean authorities must immediately halt the imminent execution of 31-year-old Malaysian national Kho Jabing amid concerns his death sentence was re-imposed at the last stage and on the basis of a disputed reconstruction of the circumstances of the crime, Amnesty International said today.

March 26, 2015 • Press Release

Singapore: Death of Lee Kuan Yew

On the passing on Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said: “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family of Lee Kuan Yew and others who mourn his passing.” “Lee Kuan Yew more than anyone else built modern Singapore, and his …

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.