38th Session of the Universal Periodic Review – Review of Singapore [Wed 12 May 3 – 6.30pm (SG time)]

9 May 2021

The Review of Singapore will be broadcast live at http://webtv.un.org/.

Please click here to add a reminder to watch the review live on UN Web TV.


What is the Universal Periodic Review?

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. 

As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists.

Please click here for more information on the UPR.


IN SOLIDARITY: A CALL FOR ALL PEOPLE IN ASEAN

22 March 2021

(Update – 27 March) – Thank you to everyone who have shared the word, contributed to the collage or are doing your part to spread the word and show support for the people in Myanmar.

We have created a collage based on submissions from our readers. Please do share this video collage with those around you.


THIS CHAPTER: A IN SOLIDARITY CALL TO ALL PEOPLE IN SINGAPORE

Dear Everyone,

We are trying to get MANY, MANY people in Singapore to show their support for the people in Myanmar.

These are the details:

  • February 1st the military (Tatmadaw) in a coup d’état took over rule from an elected government, disregarding the results, the positive comments made by international elections observers or the work done by the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)
  • They arrested many elected political leaders, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Millions of Myanmarese protested, many stopped work to join the civil disobedience movement (CDM) to fight for their democracy, freedom and justice. Many young and older persons have said that they are ready to die for their country and freedom.
  • To date (March 21st) 235 people have been killed, mainly from shots to their heads.  Many more injured. More than 2,330 people have been arrested. Myanmar is under martial law set by the military
  • The military is relentless in targeting people, communities, killings, destroying the CDM’s barricades in the many cities around the country and in forcing threatening people to be their human shields in the work against protesters.
  • Some countries have stated they are not recognising the Tatmadaw as the government of Myanmar. Some have imposed sanctions. United Nations has issued statements. So has ASEAN. Some ASEAN member countries have issued stronger statements on this situation. But thoughtful and concerted action remains limited.
  • Some Links given below give a clearer picture of the situation.

What we are asking from you:

A call has been made to people in ASEAN to show solidarity with the people in Myanmar.

As people living in Singapore, we hope you will believe in supporting the people in Myanmar. If so, please do this:

  • take a photo of yourself, holding up the 3-finger salute that Myanmarese are using.
  • Do not make the photo larger than 1megabytes
  • Please send it to maruahsg@gmail.com with the subject – In Solidarity with Myanmar (Photo collage)
  • Please indicate a name in English, if you like, otherwise, the subtitled image will be left anonymous.
  • MARUAH Singapore reserves the right to reject images that are offensive and prejudicial to the intent and spirit of this request.
  • Please submit your photos  by Thursday 25th March by 10.00 pm.
  • Sample image (taken from the Internet)

The collage will be created with some of the following statements:

From Singapore: IN SOLIDARITY With The People In Myanmar

WE ARE:

# AGAINST the Coup d’état and Military takeover in Myanmar

# AGAINST the escalating armed violence by the military

# AGAINST people being killed and injured

#AGAINST Imprisonment, Tortures, Deaths of political leaders, activists, journalists, protesters

# AGAINST THE LACK OF ACTION by International, Regional communities

# FOR Democracy

# FOR Rule of Law

# FOR Humanitarian Aid for the injured and food for the people

# FOR China and Russia to not veto and join the UN Security Council to denounce the military takeover and support action against the military for the coup and the violence

# FOR Targeted Economic Sanctions, Global Travel Bans and Asset Freezes by Governments, Banks and the Private Sector when it comes to military personnel, military-owned companies within the Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Companies and Myanmar Economic Corporation

# FOR a global arms embargo to block supplies and sales of weaponry to the military and other armed groups

Sources:
https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-regime-issues-arrest-warrant-crph-intl-envoy-treason-charge.html
https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/how-the-cdm-can-win/
https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2021/march/what-next-for-burma
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdEyuic_SrM&t=3232s
https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/15/targeted-sanctions-needed-against-myanmars-coup-leaders
https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2021-03-15/statement%C2%A0attributable-the-spokesperson-for-the%C2%A0secretary-general-myanmar
https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086962
http://www.asean2021.bn/Theme/news/iamm-02.03.21.aspx
https://thediplomat.com/2021/03/asean-foreign-ministers-meet-to-discuss-myanmar-crisis/
https://www.mfa.gov.sg/Newsroom/Press-Statements-Transcripts-and-Photos/2021/03/20210322-Min-visit-to-Brunei
https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/un-security-council-agrees-to-condemn-myanmar-violence-urge-military-restraint
https://maruah.org/2021/02/11/statement-of-foreboding-over-the-military-takeover-of-the-government-of-myanmar/

MARUAH is coordinating this In Solidarity action. About MARUAH: https://maruah.org/about/


[Repost] Article by MARUAH Secretary Braema Mathi in Q1 2021 edition of “Directors Bulletin” published by the Singapore Institute of Directors

6 January 2021

This article first appeared in the Q1 2021 issue of the SID Directors Bulletin published by the Singapore Institute of Directors. Please click on the excerpt below for Braema’s full article.


(Updated with slides) The Public Order Act and its disempowering effect on Singapore – Sunday, 20 December 2020

10 December 2020

Please click on the links below to access a copy of the slides used by the speakers during their presentation.

Presentation by Priscilla Chia – “Public Order Act – Criminalising civil disobedience?”

Presentation by Howard Lee – “The Public Order Act – Media Analysis & Impact”

Once again, we thank our speakers, Ms Priscilla Chia and Mr Howard Lee, and all participants for making time this afternoon to discuss the impact of the misuse of the Public Order Act on political and social discourse in our country.

We look forward to having you join us again at our next event. Please keep a lookout on our Facebook page or here on this website for updates.

MARUAH Secretariat


[Repost] Southeast Asian Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief – Newsletter | July – December 2020

10 December 2020

MPs call for ASEAN’s joint action on freedom of religion or belief in Southeast Asia

On 2 December, parliamentarians from Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand came together to discuss ways to increase collaboration to advance freedom of religion or belief in Southeast Asia. The parliamentarians are part of the Southeast Asia Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (SEAPFoRB), a working group of parliamentarians committed to improving freedom of religion or belief in the region. 

Among the many issues, parliamentarians discussed the rise of religious intolerance, hate speech and violent extremism, the discrimination and persecution of religious minorities, increased ethnoreligious nationalism, and the politicization of religion. Some challenges have worsened during the COVID-19, particularly scapegoating and hate speech against religious minorities, and increased restrictions on religious worship under the pretext of social distancing, SEAPFoRB members said. 

The SEAPFoRB virtual meeting 2020 was hosted by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) 

Read the statement here.

For the rest of the newsletter, please click here.


Statement on death row cases and the harassment of lawyers

26 October 2020

We, the undersigned, call for a comprehensive review of the death penalty and death row inmates’ rights in Singapore, made more urgent by the following points that have surfaced in relation to recent death penalty cases.

An overly high threshold for review applications 

On 19 October 2020, the Court of Appeal set aside 32-year-old Malaysian Gobi Avedian’s death sentence, reinstating the original sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane given to him by the High Court in 2017. 

The Court of Appeal reviewed Gobi Avedian’s case after the application filed by his counsel cleared the threshold as set out in Section 394J of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). However, we are nevertheless concerned that the threshold to review cases that have already been through the appeals process is extremely high, and would preclude the possibility of many other death row cases being reviewed, even if there are still outstanding questions and doubts.

For example, under s394J of the CPC, a case can only be reviewed if there is material that could not have been adduced earlier. Furthermore, in the latest Court of Appeal judgment for Gobi Avedian, it was made clear that it is not enough for there to be a “real possibility” that the court’s earlier decision was wrong — there has to be a “powerful probability”. 

It is very alarming, in the context of the death penalty, that it is insufficient for there to be a real possibility that the court was wrong. Our position is that this is a matter of life and death, so any possibility that a mistake has been made should be closely scrutinised and reviewed.

Given that the death penalty is an irreversible punishment, it is important that every opportunity is given to the inmate to seek legal counsel and bring up matters before the court, regardless of what stage their case is at. Inmates might also be represented by different lawyers at different stages of their case, who might have advised them differently. They should not be prevented from submitting material for a review simply because their counsel had failed to present it to the court at an earlier stage.

A need for automatic review of death row cases following changes in law

Gobi Avedian’s death sentence was able to be set aside because of, among other things, developments in case law from a Court of Appeal ruling in 2019. It is unknown how many other death row inmates’ cases could be impacted by such developments.

In Gobi’s case, he was fortunate to have had a lawyer take another look at his case at a very late stage, and identify how developments in the law have made his case worth reviewing. This is very unusual: after their initial appeals have been exhausted, it is difficult for death row inmates to find lawyers to represent them or review their case.

If there are changes or developments in the law, it should not be left to a death row inmate’s fortune in finding legal counsel before their case is reviewed.

The need for accountability for breaches in lawyer-client privilege

In dismissing Syed Suhail’s criminal motion, the Court of Appeal said that M Ravi had failed to show any evidence that there had been any prejudice against his client even after it was revealed that the prison had forwarded letters that Syed had written to his then-defence counsel and his uncle, to the prosecution. 

We are deeply concerned that the Singapore Prison Service breached lawyer-client privilege in such a way. Even though inmates are under the prison’s custody, it is highly unethical to copy and forward their privileged and personal communications on to a third party, much less the prosecution. Prisoners also have an expectation of privacy, and this right should be respected.

Although the deputy prosecutor had declared to the court that he had not read the letters, there has been no independent investigation into the matter. 

We hope that there will be a clear accounting to the public of how something like this could have happened, and why the Attorney-General’s Chambers did not recognise that this was a breach right away, instead waiting two years to bring this matter to light. 

Threats against lawyers representing death row inmates at a late stage

In dismissing a criminal motion filed by death row inmate Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, the Court of Appeal warned against invoking the review process too “lightly”, adding that defence counsels could be sanctioned for abusing the court process if they do so. The Attorney-General’s Chambers is also applying for a cost order against Syed’s lawyer, who is also M Ravi.

Following Gobi Avedian’s acquittal from his capital charge, the AGC has also taken issue with M Ravi expressing his opinions on the prosecution’s conduct in his client’s case, demanding that he apologise and retract his comments. They have since lodged a complaint against him to the Law Society. 

We strongly condemn harassment and threats against lawyers who represent death row inmates, particularly M Ravi, who has taken on multiple death row inmates at a late stage. Death row inmates already face great barriers in looking for lawyers who will review their case and advise them at a late stage. Imposing the threat of penalties, or actual penalties, against lawyers who are merely doing their best to lobby for their clients raises those barriers further by deterring lawyers from wanting to take on late-stage capital cases. 

We are relieved that a man has been saved, but are alarmed by how close we have come to a wrongful execution. We note that Gobi Avedian had already exhausted his legal appeal as well as the clemency process, and was at risk of imminent execution. If not for M Ravi’s intervention at a late stage, Gobi could have been executed without anyone realising that a miscarriage of justice had occurred. 

In the case of Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi as well, his team of pro bono lawyers fought for him to be acquitted of a capital drug trafficking charge, which he was convicted of by the Court of Appeal in 2015. Ilechukwu is now able to return home to Nigeria after living on death row in Singapore for years, only because his lawyers didn’t give up even at a late stage. 

This highlights a serious problem with capital punishment. It is a harsh and irreversible punishment, and a life, once taken, cannot be returned. One innocent life taken by the state is one too many — this is why the death penalty should be abolished as soon as possible.

Our recommendations:

  • Repeal Section 394J of the Criminal Procedure Code that sets a high threshold for cases to be reviewed
  • When there are changes to laws or case law that will affect death row inmates, their cases should be automatically reviewed
  • Launch an independent investigation to look into how often the prison might have forwarded inmate correspondence, including privileged communication, to the AGC
  • Put an end to the harassment and threats against lawyers who represent death row inmates
  • An immediate moratorium of the death penalty, with a view to abolish capital punishment
Signatories

Transformative Justice Collective
Community Action Network
Function 8
Post-Museum
No Readgrets Book Club
Crit Talk
Penawar
Beyond the Hijab
SG Climate Rally
We Who Witness
MARUAH
The Bi+ Collective
soft/WALL/studs
Tow Ying Xiang
Rachel Lim


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.


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.


Post GE2020 Webinar: “Our Youth, Our Future” on 5 September 2020 (via Zoom)

5 September 2020

MARUAH hosted the GE2020 Post election webinar entitled “Our Youth, Our Future” this morning (5 September).

We would like to thank all our speakers, Discussant Prof Kenneth Paul Tan and Moderator Ms Braema Mathi for taking time to share their thoughts and contributing to a lively discussion. We also would like to thank all Zoom participants and viewers who watched the webinar via the Facebook livestream.

The video from the webinar has been uploaded to MARUAH YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/glRSVAvrdqE, please feel free to share this with all your contacts.

If you would like to join MARUAH as a volunteer, please fill in this form – https://bit.ly/3jLdqx6.

Thank you and we look forward to having you at our next online discussion. 

MARUAH Secretariat