Singapore: Jolovan Wham convicted for "organising an illegal assembly"

Urgent Appeal

New information
SGP 001 / 1217 / OBS 117.1
Conviction /
Judicial harassment
January 10, 2019

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the conviction 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 January 3, 2019, the Singapore Court found Mr. Jolovan Wham guilty of “organising an illegal assembly without a police permit” under Article 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act) in November 2016. The charge stems from Mr. Jolovan Wham’s involvement in the organization of a public discussion held at an indoor event in Singapore on November 26, 2016. The event saw the participation via Skype of Mr. Joshua Wong, a human rights defender from Hong Kong, who spoke about civil disobedience and social movements. The Court also convicted Mr. Jolovan Wham for refusing to sign a police statement. The Court scheduled the hearing for his sentencing for January 23, 2019.

Under Article 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act, organising a public assembly without obtaining police permit is an offense that is punishable with a fine of up to SGD 5,000 (approx. 3,140 Euros). Repeat offenders can be fined up to SGD 10,000 (approx. 6,280 Euros) or imprisoned for up to six months, or both. For refusing to sign the police statement, Mr. Jolovan Wham can be jailed for up to three months, fined up to SGD 2,500 (approx. 1,570 Euros), or both.

Mr. Jolovan Wham faces two additional charges of organising a public assembly without a police permit and two more charges of not signing the police statements (see background information).

The Observatory condemns the conviction and the 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 judicial harassment of Mr. Jolovan Wham.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first act of judicial harassment against Mr. Jolovan Wham. On October 9, 2018, Mr. Wham was found guilty of “scandalising the court” (Article 3 (1)(a) of the 2016 Administration of Justice (Protection) Act) for a Facebook post in which he alleged that Malaysia’s judges were more independent than Singapore’s regarding cases with political implications [2].

Background information:

In November 2016, the police started investigations against Mr. Jolovan Whan for organising a public discussion entitled “Civil Disobedience and Social Movements” at an indoor event space in Singapore on November 26, 2016.

On December 20, 2016, Mr. Wham recorded his statement at a police station. After learning that he would not be given a copy, he refused to sign it.

On November 28, 2017, Mr. Jolovan Wham was detained at the Central Police Station in Singapore in connection with the November 26, 2016 event. He was released on bail later that day.

On November 29, 2017, the State Court charged Mr. Jolovan Wham with: 1) “organising public assemblies without a permit”, under the Public Order Act (three charges); 2) “vandalism”, under the Vandalism Act (one charge); and 3) “refusing to sign statements”, under Article 180 of the Criminal Code (three charges). The seven charges were related to three peaceful gatherings held by various activists, including Mr. Jolovan Wham, in Singapore between November 2016 and July 2017 without obtaining prior permission from the police. One of those three gatherings was the event held on November 26, 2016.

Actions requested:
Please write to the authorities of Singapore asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological wellbeing of Mr. Jolovan Wham and all human rights defenders in Singapore;
ii. 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;

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

Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, Fax: +65 6332 8983/6835 6621, Email:; Twitter: @leehsienloong;
Mr. Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister of Law, Fax: +65 62546250/ 633 28842, Email:;
Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fax: +65 64747885, Email:;
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:;
H.E. Mr. Jaya Ratnam, Ambassador, Embassy of Singapore in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 660 8685; Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Singapore in your respective country. 
Paris-Geneva, January 10, 2019
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, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[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.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal SGP 002 / 1018 / OBS 127, published on October 19, 2018.

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