Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

Singapore: Types and frequency of sentences imposed on individuals found guilty of desertion from the Singapore Armed Forces; procedures followed by the authorities in cases of desertion (2000-2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 25 August 2006
Citation / Document Symbol SGP101682.E
Reference 5
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Singapore: Types and frequency of sentences imposed on individuals found guilty of desertion from the Singapore Armed Forces; procedures followed by the authorities in cases of desertion (2000-2006), 25 August 2006, SGP101682.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147a27.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Penalties for desertion

According to Section 23 of the Singapore Armed Forces Act, passed in 1972 and last revised in 2000,

1) Every person subject to military law who deserts shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction by a subordinate military court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or any less punishment authorised by this Act.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person deserts if he -

(a) leaves or fails to attend at his place of duty in the Singapore Armed Forces with the intention of remaining permanently absent from duty without lawful authority, or, having left or failed to attend at his place of duty in the Singapore Armed Forces, thereafter forms the like intention; or

(b) absents himself without leave with intent to avoid service or any particular service before the enemy,

and references in this Act to desertion shall be construed accordingly.

Any person who is absent without official leave (AWOL) from service in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) could face a prison term of up to two years (Singapore 15 June, Sec. 22; The Straits Times 6 Oct. 2003); however, if it is proven that the person did not intend to return to SAF service, he could be imprisoned for up to ten years (ibid.). Under the Singapore Armed Forces Act, persons who fail to report military deserters and "absentees" could be penalized with a prison term of up to two years (15 June 1972, Sec. 24).

In January 2006, The Straits Times, an English-language Singapore daily newspaper, reported that members of the SAF who commit certain offences, such as desertion, may also have to pay a fine (18 Jan. 2006). According to the same article, fines vary depending on the rank of the officer and the seriousness of the offence committed (The Straits Times 18 Jan. 2006). As of January 2006, fines given to SAF officers range from 300 to 10,000 Singapore dollars [approximately CAN$213 (XE.com 21 Aug. 2006a) to CAN$7,115 (XE.com 21 Aug. 2006b)] (The Straits Times 18 Jan. 2006). Prior to this, SAF officers were fined between 100 and 2,000 Singapore dollars [approximately CAN$71 (XE.com 21 Aug. 2006c) to CAN$1,423 (XE.com 21 Aug. 2006d)] (The Straits Times 18 Jan. 2006). A new recruit to the SAF reportedly earns SGP$350 per month [approximately CAN$249 (XE.com 21 Aug. 2006e)], while a third sergeant earns SGP$560 [approximately CAN$398 (XE.com 21 Aug. 2006f)] (The Straits Times 18 Jan. 2006).

Information on the number of SAF deserters and the frequency of sentences imposed from 2000 to 2006 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate; however, according to Defence Ministry statistics cited in The Straits Times, the most common offence of SAF members is being absent without official leave (6 Oct. 2003).

Regarding the severity of punishments handed down by SAF martial courts, a 7 October 2003 article in The Straits Times indicates that although the court can impose the death penalty for treason,

[t]he heaviest punishment the court has given in more than three decades is three years' imprisonment in a civilian jail for desertion and repeated drug use.

Corroborating information on this topic could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Procedures followed by authorities

Minor offences committed by members of the SAF are reportedly tried in "summary trials" by officials in individual military units (The Straights Times 7 Oct. 2003). Serious offences, such as repeated AWOL and desertion, are tried by courts-martial (ibid.; ibid. 22 Oct. 2000). A 7 October 2003 article in The Straits Times reports that cases tried in courts-martial in Singapore are heard by "NSmen [National Servicemen] who are magistrates, district judges or registrars in the civil courts," along with two other regular military officers. According to the article, decisions on cases tried in courts-martial are made by consensus (The Straits Times 7 Oct. 2003). Martial court trials in Singapore are reportedly open to the general public (Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 1.e; The Straits Times 7 Oct. 2003; ibid. 22 Oct 2000).

SAF members on trial are allowed legal representation (ibid. 7 Oct. 2003; see also Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 1.e) and are also able to appeal their sentence (The Straits Times 7 Oct. 2003). Appeals are heard by the Military Court of Appeal (ibid.; see also Country Reports 2005 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 1.e) or by a review committee of the SAF Council (The Straits Times 7 Oct. 2003).

Once a sentence has been passed, the convicted SAF officer is escorted by a military police officer to the SAF detention barracks (ibid.), where the sentence is carried out (ibid.; ibid. 6 Oct. 2003).

In 2000, the SAF detention barracks implemented a rehabilitation program targeting repeat offenders (The Straits Times 7 Oct. 2003; ibid. 6 Oct. 2003). The program reportedly permits SAF detainees to study, receive visits from girlfriends and carry out less strenuous physical activity (ibid.; ibid. 7 Oct. 2003). A 7 October 2003 article in The Straits Times explains that repeat "[d]etainees carry out lighter physical exercises twice a week instead of a daily march with an 18kg load on their backs, a form of deterrence now reserved for first-timers."

No further information on procedures followed by the authorities in cases of desertion by members of the SAF could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. 8 March 2006. "Singapore." United States Department of State. [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]

Singapore. 15 June 1972 (last revised in 2000). Singapore Armed Forces Act. [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]

The Straits Times [Singapore]. 18 January 2006. David Boey. "Singapore Getting Tough." (Factiva)
_____. 7 October 2003. Goh Chin Lian. "I Wasted 7 Years Fleeing National Service." (Factiva)
_____. 6 October 2003. Goh Chin Lian. "Soldiers Absent Without Offical Leave." (Factiva)
_____. 22 October 2000. Chan Kay Min. "New Home for SAF Courts." (Factiva)

XE.com. 21 August 2006a. "Universal Currency Converter Results." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]
_____. 21 August 2006b. "Universal Currency Converter Results." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]
_____. 21 August 2006c. "Universal Currency Converter Results." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]
_____. 21 August 2006d. "Universal Currency Converter Results." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]
_____. 21 August 2006e. "Universal Currency Converter Results." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]
_____. 21 August 2006f. "Universal Currency Converter Results." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: ThinkCentre did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI.net), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Singapore – Ministry of Defence, ThinkCentre, United Kingdom Home Office, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United States Department of State, War Resisters' International (WRI).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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