Singapore: Sentencing of Jolovan Wham for scandalising the court

29/04/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
SGP 002 / 1018 / OBS 127.1
Sentencing /
Judicial harassment
Singapore
April 29, 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, human rights advocate, and former Executive Director of the NGO Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) [1].

According to the information received, on April 29, 2019, the Singapore High Court imposed on Mr. Jolovan Wham a fine of S$5,000 (around 3,290 Euros) following his conviction on charges of scandalising the court. Mr. Jolovan Wham was also required to pay S$5,000 in legal costs to the Prosecutor and S$2,997.82 (around 1,973 Euros) in disbursements to the Attorney’s General Chambers. Mr. Wham will appeal the sentence.

The Observatory recalls that on October 9, 2018, the Singapore High Court found Mr. Jolovan Wham guilty of “scandalising the court” under Article 3(1)(a) of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act. The charges stemmed from one of his Facebook posts in which he made comments on the independence of Singaporean judges (see background information). During a hearing on March 21, 2019, the Prosecutor asked the High Court to sentence Mr. Jolovan Wham to a fine of between S$10,000 (around 6,580 Euros) and S$15,000 (around 9,870 Euros).

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

The Observatory recalls that this is not the first act of judicial harassment against Mr. Jolovan Wham. On February 21, 2019, Singapore’s State Court sentenced Mr. Jolovan Wham to a fine of S$3,200 (around 2,070 Euros) or a default imprisonment of 16 days for “organising public assemblies without a permit” (under Article 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act), and “refusing to sign [a] statement” (under Article 180 of the Criminal Code). These charges were related to Mr. Jolovan Wham’s involvement in the organisation of a public discussion entitled “Civil Disobedience and Social Movements” [2].

Background information:

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’s 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 was first set for November 7, 2018 and postponed several times. Article 3 (1) (a) of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act provides for up to three years in jail or a fine of S$100,000 (around 62,740 Euros), or both.

This was 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”.

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;

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.
 
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, April 29, 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 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 117.2, published on February 25, 2019.

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