Urgent Interventions

Singapore: Liberation of opponent Soon Juan Chee.

Case SGP 311002.1
Follow-up of Case SGP 311002
Release / Fair trial / Ill-treatment

Geneva, November 15, 2002

The International Secretariat of OMCT has received new information regarding the following situation in Singapore.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by a reliable source that the opposition leader Chee Soon Juan has been released on November 9, 2002, after serving a 5-week prison sentence in Singapore.

According to the information received, Mr. Soon Juan Chee was released at the end of his prison term which he served for organising a peaceful workers'-rights rally after being refused the required authorisation. He reports that he lost weight in prison but is otherwise in good health.

According to Dr. Chee, his prison conditions constituted ill-treatment; he shared a poorly-ventilated cell measuring only 7' by 15' with two other detainees, sleeping on a straw mat, which was next to a toilet bucket. He reportedly suffered from insomnia, nausea, back pains and weight loss and spent time in a sick bay where he was chained to a metal plate without a mattress which served as a bed. His wife was allowed two short visits, but was allegedly harassed by the authorities, who threatened to withdraw her right to the second visit and repeatedly changed its date.

Brief reminder of the situation

The secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party, Chee Soon Juan, was sentenced to a prison term of five weeks on 8 October 2002 following a rally he organised on May 1 to promote workers' rights.

Dr. Chee was refused permission to organise a rally in favour of international workers' human rights on the grounds that it presented potential law and order problems; in response to what he saw as an act of censorship and to a Singapore law impeding public gatherings and free speech which he views as unconstitutional and unjust, Mr. Juan 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 to a fine of S$4,500 (USA$2,540), which he refused to pay, or to a prison term of five weeks by a Singapore court under the Public Entertainment and Meeting Act. Mr. Ambalam was released on the payment of S$3,000 by his family.

Sources close to Mr. Juan assert that the trial in which he and Mr. Ambalam were convicted was unfair, as the judge was purportedly biased during the proceedings and showed unneccessary deference towards the public prosecutor. This reflects charges of legal activists who claim that the judiciary as a whole is corrupt and controlled by the government.

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

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

The OMCT is pleased to learn of the release on bail of Dr. Chee Soon Juan, and wishes to thank every individual, organisation and institution that intervened on his behalf.

Geneva, November 15, 2002
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