Conviction of three peaceful protestors condemned

Press release

(Paris, Bangkok) Today’s unfair conviction of three peaceful protestors marks the latest setback for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Singapore, FIDH said today.

The Singapore Supreme Court upheld the conviction of activist and blogger Ms. Han Hui Hui (25) and fined her SGD3,100 (US$2,179) under Article 290 of the Criminal Code (causing a public nuisance) and Regulation 23(2)(b) of the Parks and Trees Regulations. The court also upheld the conviction of Mr. Koh Yew Beng (61) and Ms. Low Wai Choo (57) and fined them SGD450 (US$316) each. Ms. Han was immediately detained and faces 34 days in prison for her failure to pay her fine.

“The determination displayed by the authorities in prosecuting and punishing the three protestors demonstrates that there is zero tolerance for the expression of peaceful dissent in Singapore. It’s time for the Singaporean government to initiate a serious and thorough reform of the country’s laws related to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly to bring them in compliance with international standards.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

The charges against the three stemmed from their participation in a peaceful demonstration organized by Ms. Han at Hong Lim Park’s Speakers’ Corner on 27 September 2014. The demonstration called for transparency in the Singaporean government’s management of its Central Provident Fund (CPF).

During today’s proceedings, Ms. Han, Mr. Koh, and Ms. Low represented themselves in court as they were not provided with any form of legal representation or legal aid prior to the hearing.

On 27 June 2016, a Singapore court fined Ms. Han SGD3,100 (US$2,179) for organizing an ‘illegal demonstration’ and causing a public nuisance. The court also fined Mr. Koh and Ms. Low SGD450 (US$316) each for causing a public nuisance. According to Article 45(1)(e) of Singapore’s constitution, any individual subject to a fine in excess of SGD2,000 (US$1,406) is barred from standing for election for five years. Three other participants involved in the demonstration pleaded guilty or had their charges dropped after making a public apology.

Ms. Han has been repeatedly denied permission by Singapore’s National Parks Board (NParks) to hold events at Hong Lim Park’s Speakers’ Corner. In the latest denial of her right to peaceful assembly and her right to freedom of opinion and expression, on 16 November 2016, NParks rejected an application made by Ms. Han to organize and speak at an event for Human Rights Day on 10 December.

During Singapore’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR), held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 27 January 2016, Singapore received six recommendations that urged the government to ensure the realization of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The government delegation responded by justifying the severe restrictions on the exercise of this right to ensure “society’s need for order and stability.” These criteria fall short of internationally accepted standards, which require that any restrictions to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly be necessary and proportionate. International standards also stress the principle that a peaceful assembly should be presumed lawful and not constituting a threat to public order.

Press contacts
FIDH: Ms. Audrey Couprie (English, French) - Tel: +33143551412 (Paris)
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