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Singapore
18.03.20
Urgent Interventions

Sentencing of Mr. Jolovan Wham

New information

SGP 002 / 1018 / OBS 127.2

Sentencing /

Judicial harassment

Singapore

March 18, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Singapore.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing of Mr. Jolovan Wham, social worker, human rights advocate, and former Executive Director of the NGO Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME)[1].

According to the information received, on March 16, 2020, Singapore’s Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s judgement issued on April 29, 2019, which sentenced Mr. Jolovan Wham to S$5,000 (around 3,290 Euros) or one week of prison, in case he could not pay the fine. In addition, the Court of Appeal ordered Mr. Jolovan Wham to remove his Facebook post in which he made comments about the independence of the Singaporean and Malaysian courts (see background information).

The Observatory condemns the sentencing and ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Jolovan Wham, which seem to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities and for the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression. The Observatory calls on the authorities of Singapore to put an immediate end to the harassment against Mr. Jolovan Wham.

Background information:

On October 9, 2018, the Singapore High Court found Mr. Jolovan Wham guilty of violating Article 3 (1) (a) of the 2016 Administration of Justice (Protection) Act (“scandalising the court”). Mr. Jolovan Wham’s prosecution and conviction stemmed from one of his Facebook posts published on April 27, 2018, in which he shared a news story about a constitutional challenge against Malaysia’s Anti-Fake News Act and commented that Malaysian judges were “more independent than Singapore’s for cases with political implication”. The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) reasoned that the post “did not constitute fair criticism of the court” and that it “posed a risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined”. Mr. Jolovan Wham’s sentencing hearing was first set for November 7, 2018 and postponed several times. Article 3 (1) (a) of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act provides for up to three years in jail or a fine of S$100,000 (around 62,740 Euros), or both.

This was the first conviction for “scandalising the court” under the 2016 Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, which came into effect on October 1, 2017. This crime is defined as “Any person who scandalises the court by intentionally publishing any matter or doing any act that —(i) imputes improper motives to or impugns the integrity, propriety or impartiality of any court; and (ii) poses a risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined”.

During a hearing on March 21, 2019, the Prosecutor asked the High Court to sentence Mr. Jolovan Wham to a fine of between S$10,000 (around 6,580 Euros) and S$15,000 (around 9,870 Euros).

On April 29, 2019, the Singapore High Court imposed on Mr. Jolovan Wham a fine of S$5,000 (around 3,290 Euros) following his conviction on charges of scandalising the court. Mr. Jolovan Wham was also required to pay S$5,000 in legal expenses to the Prosecutor and S$2997.82 (around 1,973 Euros) in disbursements to the Attorney’s General Chambers. Mr. Wham appealed the sentence.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Singapore asking them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Jolovan Wham and all human rights defenders in Singapore, and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

ii. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially Articles 1, 6(c), and 12.2; and

iii. Ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Addresses:

· Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, Fax: +65 6332 8983/6835 6621, Email: pmo_hq@pmo.gov.sg; Twitter: @leehsienloong;

· Mr. Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister of Law, Fax: +65 62546250/ 633 28842, Email: mha_feedback@mha.gov.sg;

· Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fax: +65 64747885, Email: mfa@mfa.sg;

· Mr. Lucien Wong, Attorney General, Fax: +65 6538 9000;

· H.E. Mr. Foo Kok Jwee, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Singapore in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41-22-796 8078, Email: mfa_geneva@mfa.gov.sg;

· H.E. Mr. Jaya Ratnam, Ambassador, Embassy of Singapore in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 660 8685; Email: singemb_bru@mfa.sg

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Singapore in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, March 18, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] Founded in 2004, the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics is a charity dedicated to assisting foreign workers in Singapore through welfare, empowerment and advocacy.

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