Forum-ASIA and Think Centre: Revisit positions on capital punishment and preventive detention

the following is a media release by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Think Centre at the 18th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council Item 6: Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Plenary on Singapore:

Thank you, Madam President. The government of Singapore’s central argument during the UPR Working Group session on 6 May 2011 was that a “balance” between economic prosperity and restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms are necessary in the Singaporean context,[1] yet the outcomes of the General and Presidential Elections held in May and August 2011 indicate that the Singaporean society no longer accepts this rhetoric. FORUM-ASIA and its member Think Centre welcome Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s editorial in the People’s Action Party magazine, Petir, which acknowledged that politics must “evolve to become more consultative and inclusive”.[2] As a concrete first step towards adjusting policies to serve the people better, we urge the government to genuinely and meaningfully engage with a broader selection of civil society in the UPR follow-up process.

In line with the growing sensitisation of Singaporean society with regards to promotion and protection of human rights, we urge the government to sincerely revisit its positions on capital punishment and preventive detention laws by engaging in open consultations with civil society and the general public. We reiterate the recommendations posed by Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland and France that the government impose an indefinite moratorium on the death penalty, with the view towards its complete abolition, to enable the time and space for Singaporeans to engage in open and robust debate on the application of the death penaltyand to explore alternate sentencing options which are in line with international human rights norms and standards. Furthermore, we maintain our call to repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), which impair the right to due processand judicial protection. These draconian laws are pointless since the Criminal Procedures Code as well as the Penal Code stipulate necessary measures for national security.

Madam President, while the government provided the UPR Working Group with assurances of its policies on migrant labour in Singapore, no efforts are being made to bring the current regulations fully in line with international standards to protect the rights of migrant workers in the country. We highlight the recommendation put forward by Indonesia and appeal to the government to ratify the International Convention of the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families (ICMW) without delay as well as to review and amend all applicable legislations in this respect, particularly the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, the Employment Agencies Act and the Employment Act. Though no recommendations were put forward by the UPR Working Group with regards to minimum wage for foreign and local workers in Singapore, we view it as an integral component of the rights of all workers to attain a decent and adequate standard of living. As such, FORUM-ASIA and Think Centre strongly urge the government to look beyond the pure economic perspective and adopt arights-based approach in the consideration of a minimum wage legislation. Thank you, Madam President.

[1] FORUM-ASIA and Think Centre,Press Release, “UN’s Human Rights Review of Singapore: All Rights AreDerogable Upon National Context?”, 7 May 2011

[2] People’s Action Party, Petir,“New Phase in Politics”, July/August 2011

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