Singapore: Jolovan Wham sentenced for illegal assembly

Urgent Appeal

New information
SGP 001 / 1217 / OBS 117.2
Sentencing /
Judicial harassment
February 25, 2019

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the sentencing of Mr. Jolovan Wham, social worker and former Executive Director of the NGO Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) [1].

According to the information received, on February 21, 2019, Singapore’s State Court sentenced Mr. Jolovan Wham to a fine of SGD 3,200 (around 2,070 Euros) or a default imprisonment of 16 days: SGD 2,000 (around 1,295 Euros) or 10 days of imprisonment for “organising an illegal assembly without a police permit” (Article 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act), and SGD 1,200 (around 777 Euros) or six days of imprisonment for refusing to sign a police statement. The sentence follows Mr. Jolovan Wham’s conviction by the same court on January 3, 2019. Mr. Wham chose not to pay the fine and opted for the 16 days’ imprisonment, and appealed the sentence. He was released pending appeal on the same day, on SGD 8,000 (around 5,180 Euros) bail.

The charges stem from Mr. Jolovan Wham’s involvement in the organisation of a public discussion entitled “Civil Disobedience and Social Movements”, which was 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. Police had previously told Mr. Jolovan Wham that he needed a permit to organize the event, as Mr. Joshua Wong was a foreigner – even if he was only participating via Skype.

The Observatory condemns Mr. Jolovan Wham’s sentence and the ongoing judicial harassment against him, 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 and his right to peaceful assembly. 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 (see background information).

Background information:

In November 2016, the police began 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.

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.

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 Court first scheduled the hearing for his sentencing for January 23, 2019, and then postponed it to February 21, 2019.

Actions requested:
Please write to the authorities of Singapore asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being 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 for 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, February 25, 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.

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