Leong Sze Hian / Columnist

I refer to Dr Chee Soon Juan’s response to the Minister of Law’s remarks in conjunction with the opening of the legal year, that Singaporeans should not protest against the laws of Singapore.

How do we strike the right balance to Dr Chee’s call for more civil and political rights in Singapore?

Can  limitations  be  applied  to  Universal  Human  Rights?

Article  29 (2)  of  the  United  Nations  Universal  Declaration  of  Human  Rights  (UDHR),  makes  provision  for  the  limitation  of  the  Rights  enshrined  in  the  UDHR.

How  do  we  objectively  evaluate  whether  the  limitation  of  rights  is  justifiable?

Some  principles  that  may  be  considered  are  :-

How  necessary  is  the  limitation?

Is  the  limitation  “out  of  proportion”  in  the  context  of  the  extensiveness  of  the  limitation?

Is  it  for  a  legitimate  purpose?

For  example,  in  the  case  of  say  Freedom  of   Speech  and  Expression,  will  freedom  of  speech  and  expression  lead  to    violence?  Is  it  a  peaceful  advocacy  of  rights?  (How  necessary?)

Does  the  limitation  result  in  almost  a  total  silencing  of  the  masses    whether  by  intention,  perception  or  self-censorship?  (How  proportional?)

To  what  extent  is  the  intention  or  purpose  to  undermine  the  development  or  curtailment  of  democracy?  (How  legitimate  is  the  purpose?)

Perhaps  the  key  words  in article  29 (2),  is  “in  a  democratic  society”.

Where  a  society  (country)  is  generally  deemed  or  viewed  by  others  as  not  being  “a  democratic  society”,  then,  the  application  of  article  29 (2)  may  demand  much  greater  scrutiny.

In  addition,  the  UDR  should  be  viewed  not  just  in  its  original  form  in  1948  when  the  declaration  was  made,  but  in  the  context  of  developments  in  the  last  60  years,  such  as  the  International  Conventions,  like  the  ICCPR  (International  Convention  on  Civil  and  Political  Rights).

Human  Rights  is  not  about  particularity  versus  universality, but  rather  the  universal  need  for  everyone  to  respect  humanity  in  a  peaceful  manner.

What  we  must  never  allow  is  the  use  of  rights  and  their  interpretation  to  incite  violence  and  unrest  in  the  name  of  democracy.


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