[Repost] Unpacking the AICHR Five-Year Work Plan: A Conversation with AICHR Members – Fri, 23 Oct 2pm

19 October 2020

Please click on poster above to access the livestream on YouTube on Fri, 23 Oct at 2pm (SG time).

Thank you.


Statement against International Monetary Fund’s promotion of austerity around the world

14 October 2020

MARUAH is one of 504 organizations which have jointly signed a statement calling on the International Monetary Fund to immediately stop promoting austerity around the world, and instead advocate policies that advance gender justice, reduce inequality, and decisively put people and planet first.

Please click on this link to read the statement in its entirety.

Thank you.


MARUAH’s Statement of Deep Concern on Actions Taken Against New Naratif’s Dr Thum Ping Tjin

12 October 2020

MARUAH expresses its concerns over the statement issued by the Elections Department (ELD) of the Singapore Prime Minister’s Office alleging that New Naratif (NN) had breached the Parliamentary Elections Act during the course of the General Elections 2020, the actions taken by the Singapore Police Force, the takedown order given by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to Facebook, and Facebook’s censorship of New Naratif through compliance on IMDA’s takedown order.

According to the press release of 18 September, the ELD alleges that NN’s boosting of five Facebook posts during the recent General Election, “amounted to the illegal conduct of election activity under S83(2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act.” The ELD further stated that NN did not have written authority to conduct election activity, that ELD’s previous press release of 3 July on NN’s activities was carried by various news outlets and yet despite this publicity and even after Facebook took down NN’s boosted post, NN continued to boost other Facebook posts. ELD also quoted, in its statement (Ref: https://www.eld.gov.sg/press/2020/Press_Release_-_Police_reports_filed_against_New_Naratif_for_breach_of_Parliamentary_Elections_Act.pdf), the definition of election activity under the Parliamentary Elections Act, which includes “any activity which is done for the purpose of promoting or procuring the electoral success at any election for one or more identifiable political parties, candidates or groups of candidates; or prejudicing the electoral prospects of other political parties, candidates or groups of candidates at the election”.

MARUAH still remains unclear over what constitutes internet election advertisements as qualified by ELD in its press statement. We note that there are studies, codes, and in some instances, legislation that frame criteria in this regard. The onus is on ELD to state how the advertisements breached the criteria that it observes, as well as justify how these criteria are also interpreted and thus applicable to satirical content, which was the nature of one of NN’s boosted posts.

MARUAH asks if a discussion with NN to seek clarifications from NN would not have sufficed? We wonder why ELD preferred to make a police report. We also ask how many other police reports ELD has filed on other breaches as were also reported to ELD, in the course of GE 2020? Is this then the process of governance that ELD uses, that is, to make police reports? Is there a better approach as we build up trust in election climates, which inevitably will get more complex as new social media forms develop and are used more often and offer many more possibilities to users and readers? Would not a system of transparently sharing the criteria on ‘promoting’, ‘prejudicing’, ‘procuring’ help all parties to become more self-evaluative?

We are also deeply concerned over the ethical principles with which Facebook is governing its platform. Facebook has been criticised severely for allowing its communication platform to be used by political parties to influence voters. We ask if Facebook operates with greater consistency, now, on material that is deemed to be prejudicial in elections, and what its principles are. MARUAH will also be raising these concerns to Facebook. Under such circumstances, what then would be the ELD’s and IMDA’s expectations of such operators like Facebook when we do see inconsistencies in its application in leaving up or taking down news items. More importantly, how does ELD also ensure consistency in making its judgements so that IMDA can be consistent in asking Facebook to take down news items — in this case, posts from other news organisations which were boosted during the election period?

Lastly, we are troubled at the actions taken by the Singapore Police Force, in its response to the police report made on NN. Besides an interrogation for more than four hours, there was also a confiscation of personal items such as the mobile phone and laptop and entering the home of Dr Thum Ping Tjin to remove his belongings for investigations. The evidence is entirely digital and available online, and New Naratif has not denied that the boosted posts in question belonged to them. There is thus no need for the seizure of Dr Thum’s belongings. Such unnecessary seizures have happened previously to Ms Teo Soh Lung and Mr Terry Xu. We ask if investigations have to be carried out in this intimidating and intrusive manner without a thought for the individual’s civil rights.

ELD and the Ministry of Home Affairs demonstrate a high-handedness in handling the allegations. It is akin to affirming that an allegation made as a police report, leads automatically to an interrogation and seizures of materials. If the criteria are clearly spelt out, an allegation made in the form of a police report, can then be assessed on such defined terms, and where deemed fit, further action is taken. MARUAH believes that the first step is to publicise the codes that can ascertain ‘prejudicial’ content in elections. It is also equally important to situate any assessment in an environment of multimedia technology, with many media organisations delivering news and a more critical and aware public. It is important that ELD finds a balance in this governance, without crippling a journalism that offers critical perspectives and satire as an expression. It would be naïve to think of the Singapore audience as being innocently and easily influenced by the media.

MARUAH states that such continued actions including these by ELD will only instill deeper fear into people. If restrictions continue in this way, people will still be driven to take risks in expressing themselves as there is just too little legitimate space given for expression. MARUAH states that it is always preferable for a country like Singapore to host a discussion and build up better understanding through dialogue so that people’s right to express themselves is not reduced to silence. 
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Should you require clarification, please email MARUAH Secretariat at maruahsg@gmail.com

Thank you.

MARUAH Secretariat
maruahsg@gmail.com


World Day Against the Death Penalty 2020

10 October 2020

Today is World Day Against the Death Penalty.

Sobering. Singapore hangs an average of 2 persons per month.

Mainly drug traffickers.

Of course, criminals need to be punished.

Longer prison terms and rehabilitation.

Killing them off –  No; Not Again; Never Again.

Abolish the Death Penalty.


MARUAH shares this video message in solidarity with lawyers who work hard to defend clients facing the Death Penalty, all activists who are lobbying against the death penalty, especially those in Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and for each of them who was hanged to death. 

 
MARUAH Secretariat, 10th October 2010.


[Repost] CALL FOR ENTRIES | #JusticeForWageTheft Poster Competition

5 October 2020

Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), together with the Cross-Regional Center for Migrants and Refugees (CCRM) and the Civil Society Action Committee (AC), is organizing the #JusticeForWageTheft Poster Competition as part of the Justice for Wage Theft Campaign. The competition aims to raise awareness and visibility on the issue of wage theft experienced by migrant workers who have been forced out of their jobs, forced to go on unpaid leave without being given their earned wages, salaries, and benefits, and forced to return home into situations of debt bondage.

THEME OF THE COMPETITION:  Wage theft against migrant workers and all related issues such as non-payment of wages and end of service benefits, forced unpaid leave or reduced wages, and lack of efficient and just redress mechanisms.

The competition is open internationally. All artists aged 18 and above are qualified to apply and submit an entry. A regional winner will be determined for all six regions across the globe while a global winner will be chosen from the regional winners and will be determined through a panel of judges and via online voting. The selected entries for both the regional and global level will win a cash prize.

You may access the full mechanics of the competition via this link: https://bit.ly/2EHgdbT

To join the competition, please submit your entry via our entry submission form: https://bit.ly/3mQ3Ye3

All entries must be submitted on or before 28 October 2020. Winners will be announced on 11 November 2020.

Please feel free to widely circulate information on the competition among your network, along with the mechanics and flyer of the competition.

Thank you and should you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact MFA.

Change is upon us, let us dare to make it a transformation towards justice and peace.


MARUAH’s Statement: Abolish the Death Penalty

1 October 2020

1 October 2020

MARUAH is relieved that an interim stay of execution had been granted to Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, and he was spared from being hanged to death on Friday, 18th September 2020. We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has ordered a subsequent hearing fixed on 6th October 2020 to hear further arguments on his case. MARUAH appreciates the appeal and the work of the pro bono team of lawyers and volunteers led by lawyer M Ravi which has led to this stay order, till the verdict at the hearing. Syed Suhail was sentenced to death on 2016 for drug trafficking.

Syed Suhail’s case has also brought to light that his personal correspondence including letters to his lawyer, had been sent by the Singapore Prison Service to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). There has been no statement from the AGC. But Ministry of Home Affairs had stated that, in 2018, there was “no legal prohibition’ to sharing correspondences. Numerous troubling questions have surfaced on what had happened in the past and the current legal prohibition that is available. Pertinently, MARUAH is concerned over the past practices as even if there was no legal provision, there is an inherent ethical code that correspondence on cases ought not be shared without approval of the inmate or the lawyer. We note that in a recent case in April this year, the Court of Appeal ruled that the prison service cannot pass to AGC the prisoners’ correspondences to lawyers or family members, without their consent or a court order. This chain of shared correspondences, inadvertently, raises questions related to the integrity of prosecutorial processes and prejudice. In the light of what Syed Suhail’s case is highlighting, MARUAH asks that an independent inquiry be held to ascertain breaches that have taken place in the past and to assess impact on the outcome against defendants in the court cases.

Singapore reviewed the Death Penalty in 2012 to review the charges that carried a mandatory death sentence for a person guilty of drug trafficking offence. It offered certificates of substantive assistance for drug traffickers who give assistance that enable broader investigations into the case for prosecution. The certificate offers an eligibility to be reprieved from capital punishment. MARUAH notes that Syed Suhail has not been given such a certificate. We ask what are the conditions that the accused persons have to fulfil in the process of offering assistance so that the prosecution will offer such certificates. There is a lack of transparency on the scoping of ‘assistance’, risking clarity on the certification.

MARUAH believes that death penalty is inconsistent with prevailing customary international law. Involved in a research with National University of Singapore, MARUAH has to accept that most Singaporeans still see the death penalty as a deterrent, keeping Singapore safe. To validate this belief, MARUAH asks that data on all forms of drug-related offences and number of executions be made public so that we can assess the co-relation between the death penalty and keeping Singapore drug-free. We agree that Singapore needs more debates and education on the death penalty so that citizens understand that this is an inhuman punishment as the death penalty constitutes a violation to the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Singapore and Singaporeans can do better and work on alternative punishments, such as longer prison terms, instead of executions. MARUAH reiterates its call along with many committed stakeholders, that Singapore ought to look at the practices in many countries,[1] and so Abolish the Death Penalty.

MARUAH


[1] As of 2017, 106 countries had abolished the death penalty and 142 were abolitionist in law or practice, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Capital punishment is meted out for drug-related crimes in 15 countries, but according to rights group Amnesty International only four countries recorded executions for drug offences in recent years – Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China.


Public Consultation by MARUAH – Singapore Universal Periodic Review 2021 [Fri 2 Oct, 8pm (SG time)]

27 September 2020

Please register at https://forms.gle/KL9dMieoWzu7P3Yb7 before 11.59pm on Thursday, 1 October 2020. We will be sending the video conference link via email to all those who have registered.

Read more about:

MARUAH’s UPR submissions to the UN Human Rights Council: https://maruah.org/upr/

Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs on UPR: https://www.mfa.gov.sg/SINGAPORES-FOREIGN-POLICY/Key-Issues/Singapore-Universal-Periodic-Review

UN Human Rights Council’s UPR process: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/BasicFacts.aspx

Thank you.


2020 International Day of Older Persons: “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?”

24 September 2020

The year 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons (UNIDOP). This year has also seen an emergence of  COVID-19, that has caused an upheaval across the world. Considering the higher risks confronted by older persons during the outbreak of pandemics such as COVID-19, policy and programmatic interventions must be targeted towards raising awareness of their special needs. Recognizing older persons contributions to their own health and the multiple roles they play in the preparedness and response phases of  current and  future pandemics is also important.

This year has also been recognised as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife”. UNIDOP 2020 will highlight the role of the health care workforce in contributing to the health of older persons, with special recognition of the nursing profession, and a primary focus on the role of women- who are relatively undervalued and in most cases inadequately compensated.

The UNIDOP 2020 event will also promote the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) and help bring together UN experts, civil society, government and the health professions to discuss the five strategic objectives of the Global Strategy and Action plan on Ageing and Health while noting the progress and challenges in their realization. The global strategy is well integrated into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while ageing issues cut across the 17 goals, especially Goal 3 which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being of all at all ages”. As stated by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General, WHO)  “acting on the strategy, is a means for countries to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensure that every human being regardless of age will have an opportunity to fulfill their potential in dignity and equality”

The objectives of UNIDOP 2020 are to:

  1. Inform participants about the strategic objectives for the Decade of Healthy Ageing
  2. Raise awareness of the special health needs of older persons and of their contributions to their own health and to the functioning of the societies in which they live
  3. Increase awareness and appreciation of the role of the health care workforce in maintaining and improving the health of older persons, with special attention to the nursing profession
  4. Present proposals for reducing the health disparities between older persons in the developed and developing countries, so as to “Leave no one behind”
  5. Increase understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on older persons and its impact on health care policy, planning, and attitudes.

The event is co-organized by the NGO Committee on Ageing, New York and DESA, and co-sponsored the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations, in collaboration with the Group of Friends of Older Persons. The event will bring diverse participants from NGOs, Member States, academia and civil society.

The commemorative event will be held virtually on, 1 October 2020 from 9am to 12 pm (New York time).

The International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics is also holding a companion event that will be held virtually on the same day from 1pm to 3pm (New York time).

For more information, please contact ageing@un.org  @UN4Ageing @UNDESASocial #UNUNIDOP2020


[Webinar] Online Forum on the Impact of Covid-19 on the Rights of Migrant Workers in ASEAN (18 September 2020 10am)

18 September 2020

[Update] Recording of the online forum is now available! Please click on link below to watch this on YouTube.


[Repost] Penang Institute Monographs – Human Rights Derogations in Southeast Asian Countries during the Covid-19 Pandemic

5 September 2020

We are pleased to share a publication published by the Penang Institute. The “Human Rights Derogations in Southeast Asian Countries during the Covid-19 Pandemic” was written by Braema Mathiaparanam (Visiting Senior Research Fellow, History and Regional Studies Programme).

The full publication can be found at: https://penanginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Human-Rights-Derogations-in-Southeast-Asian-Countries-during-the-Covid-19-Pandemic.pdf

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • The ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has issued a statement of concern and has reminded governments to continue observing human rights during the pandemic, and that even if some rights have to be restricted, this should not be done disproportionately.
  • All members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have pre-existing forms of restriction on the freedom of expression and press freedom as well as censorship, which intensified in this pandemic.
  • It is challenging to contain Covid-19 infections while ensuring that human rights are not derogated. However, the lockdown measures imposed in some countries in Southeast Asia during the containment period became opportunities to intimidate, detain and arrest opposition party members, activists and journalists.
  • Countries have also taken a strict stance on fake news and disinformation, leading to many arrests across countries. Increased surveillance was also used to track threats to authority figures and the government, alongside gaining evidence on criminal activities such as drug-trafficking and money laundering.
  • Certain communities were overlooked in government policies and assistance especially in terms of food and supply, economic aid and information sharing. Prisons and detention centres are overcrowded, leading to more outbreaks of Covid-19 infections.
  • Countries have national, regional and international obligations and responsibilities that they have agreed to and breaches of these state obligations need to be addressed, especially when the actions taken cannot be justified even as emergency measures.
  • Covid-19 will not be the last crisis, and governments can use lessons learnt from Covid-19 to improve their responses for the next crisis and take counter-measures that also adhere to human rights principles.