Singapore
31.10.02
Urgent Interventions

Singapore: ill-treatment of opposition leader Chee Soon Juan

Case SGP 311002
Freedom of expression / Harassment / Fair trial / Ill-treatment

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Singapore.

Brief description of the situation:

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Asian Human Rights Commission, a member of the OMCT network, of the imprisonment and ill-treatment of opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, in response to him having organising a May Day rally in Singapore.

According to the information received, Mr. Chee Soon Juan was sentenced to a prison term of five weeks on October 8th, 2002 following a rally he organised on May 1 to promote workers' rights. Dr. Chee, who is due to be released on November 9th, 2002, is reportedly being kept in conditions which constitute ill-treatment and is showing signs of deteriorating health.

Mr. Chee Soon Juan, who is the Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party, was refused permission to organise the rally on the grounds that it presented potential law and order problems. In protest against a perceived act of censorship and a Singaporean law that impedes public gatherings and free speech, which he reportedly views as unconstitutional and unjust, Dr. Chee proceeded to hold the rally outside the gates of the presidential palace, where he was arrested along with another organiser, Ghandhi Ambalam.

He was sentenced by a Singapore court under the Public Entertainment and Meeting Act, to a fine of S$ 4,500 (US$ 2,540), which he refused to pay, or to a prison term of five weeks. Mr. Ambalam was released following the payment of S$ 3,000 by his family.

According to reliable sources, the prison conditions in which he is being held constitute ill-treatment, prompting his intention to file a complaint with the International Red Cross. He reportedly shares a poorly ventilated cell measuring only 7' by 15' with two other detainees, and sleeps on a straw mat, next to a bucket that serves as the prisoners’ toilet. As a result of this he is reportedly suffering from insomnia – sleeping only two to three hours per day – as well as nausea, back pains and is rapidly losing weight.

His wife has reportedly been allowed to make two short visits, and was reportedly harassed by the authorities, who threatened to withdraw her right to the second visit and repeatedly changed its date. Mrs. Chee claims that these difficult conditions constitute an attempt by the authorities to apply physical and psychological pressure upon Dr. Chee, in order to deter him from continuing with his political activities.

Furthermore, sources close to Dr. Chee assert that the trial in which he and Mr. Ambalam were convicted did not meet fair trial standards, as the judge was purportedly biased during the proceedings and showed unnecessary deference towards the public prosecutor. This reflects charges made by legal activists who claim that the judiciary as a whole is corrupt and controlled by the government.

According to the reports, Dr. Chee has regularly faced legal charges for speaking out about undemocratic practices in Singapore in the past, and has twice been imprisoned for speaking in public without a permit. He has also published a book denouncing state oppression of the population and faces two defamation suits for his criticism of the government.

This arrest takes place in a political climate in which those voicing opposition to the Singapore authorities are reportedly are being repressed; the Public Entertainment and Meeting Act (PEMA), under which Singaporeans must apply for a permit to speak or gather in public, is used in such a way that activists claim that the right to the freedom of expression, guaranteed under section 14 of the Constitution, is far from guaranteed.

Human rights groups claim that democracy in Singapore is further undermined by the Internal Security Act (ISA), which the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is reportedly using suppress opposition groups, as it allows for the indefinite detention without trial of anyone suspected of being involved in activities that may threaten national security, and is open to abuse as it does not comprise effective control mechanisms.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Dr. Chee Soon Juan and calls upon the authorities to release him immediately and cease the harassment to which he is being subjected, and more generally that of all opposition groups and activists, as well as to guarantee the right to the freedom of expression in line with the Constitution of Singapore and international laws and standards.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in Singapore urging them to:

i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Dr.Chee;
ii. guarantee access to legal counsel and his family as well as adequate reparation;
iii. order his immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges or, if such charges exist, bring him before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee his procedural rights at all times;
iv. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

· Professor S JAYAKUMAR, Minister of Law, 100 High Street #08-02 The Treasury Singapore 179434, Fax: 63328842; Email: mlaw_enquiry@mlaw.gov.sg

· S.E.M SEE Chak Mun, Ambassador of Singapore to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Singapore, International Centre Cointrin, Bloc G, Route du Pré-Bois 20, PO Box 1910, 1215 Geneva 15, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 929 66 58, Fax: singpmg@planet.ch

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

Geneva, October 31st, 2002

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