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Amnesty International Report 1997 - Singapore

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1997
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1997 - Singapore, 1 January 1997, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
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.
At least 34 prisoners of conscience were held throughout the year for their conscientious objection to military service. A further 47 people were imprisoned for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. One former prisoner of conscience continued to be subject to government orders restricting his freedom of expression and association. Criminal offenders continued to be sentenced to caning. At least 38 people were executed and at least 19 death sentences were passed.

At least 34 conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned during the year. All were members of the Jehovah's Witnesses' religious group, which has been banned in Singapore since 1972. All refused to perform military service on religious grounds; they were prisoners of conscience. They included Edgar Chua, who was sentenced in October to 15 months' imprisonment. Young men who refuse to comply with military orders are court-martialled and sentenced to an initial 12 or 15 months' detention in military barracks. A second refusal to comply results in a further two years' imprisonment. There is no alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors to military service in Singapore.

Trials of other Jehovah's Witnesses (see Amnesty International Report 1996) took place during the year. Between November 1995 and July 1996, more than 60 Jehovah's Witnesses were convicted of membership of an illegal society or possession of banned literature. All were fined but most were imprisoned for up to four weeks after refusing to pay the fines on conscientious grounds. All were prisoners of conscience. They included Yu Nguk Ding, a 72-year-old woman, who was sentenced to one week's imprisonment in July under the Undesirable Publications Act.

Government restriction orders against Chia Thye Poh, a former prisoner of conscience, were partially amended but continued to curtail his freedom of association and expression.

In March, three prison officers were sentenced to between six and 10 years' imprisonment and to strokes of the cane for causing the death of a prisoner at Queenstown Remand Prison in July 1995. The court found that they had beaten Ghazali Abdul Manaf so severely that he sustained more than 120 injuries.

Caning, which constitutes a cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment, remained mandatory for some 30 crimes, including attempted murder, rape, armed robbery, drug-trafficking, illegal immigration and vandalism. It remained an optional penalty for a number of other crimes, including extortion, kidnapping and causing grievous injury. In August, Lim Chee Wei, aged 16, was sentenced to six strokes of the cane in addition to a prison sentence for rape.

At least 38 executions by hanging were reported to have been carried out, the majority for drug-related offences. Despite the lack of official information, there were reliable indications that the real figure was much higher. In March, five Thai migrant workers convicted of murder were executed despite appeals for clemency by Thai non-governmental organizations and Thai government officials. In September, two Malaysian nationals, Zulkifli Awang Kechik and Pauzi Abdul Kadir, sentenced to death in February for trafficking in cannabis, were executed.

At least 19 people were sentenced to death, of whom 15 were convicted of drug-trafficking, three of murder and one of discharging a firearm during an armed robbery.

Amnesty International urged the government of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to release all prisoners of conscience and to lift the restrictions on Chia Thye Poh. The organization also urged the authorities to end the punishment of caning and to commute all death sentences.

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