Singapore: Jolovan Wham convicted for "scandalising the court"

19/10/2018
Urgent Appeal

SGP 002 / 1018 / OBS 127
Conviction /
Judicial harassment
Singapore
October 18, 2018

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.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment and 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 October 9, 2018, the Singapore High Court found Mr. Jolovan Wham guilty of violating Article 3 (1) (a) of the 2016 Administration of Justice (Protection) Act (“scandalising the court”). Mr. Jolovan Wham’s prosecution and conviction stemmed from one of his Facebook posts published on April 27, 2018, in which he shared a news story about a constitutional challenge against Malaysia’s Anti-Fake News Act and commented that Malaysian judges were “more independent than Singapore’s for cases with political implication”. The Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) reasoned that the post “did not constitute fair criticism of the court” and that it “posed a risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined”. Mr. Jolovan Wham’s sentencing hearing has been set for November 7, 2018. He faces up to three years in jail or a fine of S$100,000 (around 62,740 Euros), or both.

This is the first conviction for “scandalising the court” under the 2016 Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, which came into effect on October 1, 2017. This crime is defined as “Any person who scandalises the court by intentionally publishing any matter or doing any act that —(i) imputes improper motives to or impugns the integrity, propriety or impartiality of any court; and (ii) poses a risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined”.

The Observatory condemns the conviction and the 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 against Mr. Jolovan Wham.

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first act of judicial harassment against Mr. Jolovan Wham On November 29, 2017, the State Court charged Mr. Jolovan Wham with “organising public assemblies without a permit” (under the Public Order Act), “vandalism” (under then Vandalism Act) and “refusing to sign statement” (under Article 180 of the Criminal Code). These charges were related to three peaceful gatherings held between November 2016 and July 2017 [2]. The prosecution of Mr. Jolovan Wham in connection with this case is ongoing.

Actions requested:
 
Please write to the authorities of Singapore asking them to:
 
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity 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;

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

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

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Singapore in your respective country. 
 
***
Paris-Geneva, October 18, 2018
 
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 ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
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 the Observatory Urgent Appeal n° SGP 001 / 1217 / OBS 117, published on December 8, 2017.

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