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.