At least 40 conscientious objectors to military service were held throughout the year; all were prisoners of conscience. A further 46 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 50 people were executed and at least 32 death sentences were passed. At least 40 conscientious objectors to military service were held throughout the year. All were reported to be members of the Jehovah's Witnesses' religious group, which has been banned in Singapore since 1972. They all refused to perform military service on religious grounds and were prisoners of conscience. They included Ho Li Sing who was sentenced in September to 15 months' detention. 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. In February, 69 other Jehovah's Witnesses, including four foreign nationals, were arrested and charged with membership of an illegal society or possession of undesirable literature. The four foreign nationals had the charges against them dismissed and were allowed to leave the country. The others, including two juveniles, were released on bail. During the first series of trials held in November and December, all were found guilty and fined. Forty-six members of the group who were unwilling on conscientious grounds to pay the fines were imprisoned for up to four weeks. They were prisoners of conscience. Further trials were due to continue in early 1996. Restriction orders limiting freedom of association and expression continued to be imposed on Chia Thye Poh, a former prisoner of conscience. The restriction order imposed on Vincent Cheng was reported to have been lifted during the year (see Amnesty International Reports 1991 to 1995). 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 May the Court of Appeal upheld lawyer Ramanathan Yogendran's conviction and sentence of 12 strokes of the cane for five criminal offences, including fabricating evidence and criminal intimidation (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Ramanathan Yogendran's defence lawyer had reportedly argued that he should be spared the caning on grounds of ill-health. It was not known whether the sentence had been carried out by the end of the year. In July Ng Chun Hian, aged 17, was sentenced to 18 strokes of the cane in addition to a prison sentence for attempted rape and armed robbery. The caning was carried out in Changi Prison in October. At least 50 executions were carried out by hanging, the majority for drug-related offences. Despite the lack of official information, there were reliable indications that the real figure was much higher. In May the Ministry of Information and the Arts revealed that 76 prisoners had been executed in 1994. In March Flor Contemplacion, a Filipina domestic worker, was executed for murder despite international concern about the fairness of her trial and last-minute claims that fresh evidence proved her innocence. Three other people – Thai nationals Don Promphinit and Krishna Maikham and Malaysian national Nasrul Esyam bin Shamsudin – were executed on the same day. They had been convicted of drug-trafficking. At least 32 other people were sentenced to death, of whom 23 were convicted of drug-trafficking and nine of murder. They included Mohamed Ahmed, a 60-year-old drug addict, who was sentenced to death in August for trafficking in heroin after he failed to convince the judge that the drugs were for his own consumption. 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. It also urged the authorities to end the punishment of caning and commute all death sentences.

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