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Singapore: Hocus Pocus Hides Rights Abuses

The following is an excerpt of an article published on Human Rights Watch

(New York) - Singapore's stated goal of updating its political system in time for the 2011 elections should include revamping laws, policies, and practices that fail to comply with international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2011.

British author Alan Shadrake arrives at the Supreme Court in Singapore on November 3, 2010. Shadrake was convicted of contempt of court and was sentenced on November 16, 2010 to six weeks' imprisonment and a US$15,375 fine. © 2010 Reuters

The 649-page report, Human Rights Watch's 21st annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizes major human rights trends in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide. In Singapore, during 2010, the government restricted freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly and frequently used defamation laws, and, in some cases, preventive detention, to silence political critics and human rights defenders.

"Behind the facade of a dynamic and open Singapore promoted by the government is a more sinister reality of serious restrictions on civil and political rights and determination to maintain one-party rule," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Behind the sunny Singaporean smile featured in tourism ads, there are iron teeth prepared to deal with those considered a challenge to the government."

The government's intolerance of criticism was on full display in the case of the author Alan Shadrake, who alleged in his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, that Singapore's judiciary was subject to economic and political pressures from the ruling party and others when deciding cases under mandatory death penalty laws. Shadrake, a British national, was convicted on contempt of court charges for "scandalizing the judiciary," and sentenced to six-weeks in prison and ordered to pay a significant fine. His case is on appeal.

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Click here to read the Human Rights Watch report on Singapore