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Singapore must ensure fundamental rights for all after conviction of Jolovan Wham, say UN experts

GENEVA (29 January 2019) – UN rights experts* are urging the Government of Singapore to ensure fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly for all after the conviction of human rights defender Jolovan Wham.

“This is clearly neither a necessary nor a proportional response to the actions of Jolovan Wham. We are concerned that this is yet another conviction which targets the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Singapore, and we urge the Government to reverse its tightening of civic space,” said the UN experts.

Jolovan Wham was found guilty on 3 January for organizing an assembly without a permit. He was charged against the Public Order Act after a public discussion in November 2016 on civil disobedience and democracy. He was also convicted on a separate charge after refusing to sign a statement to the police because he was not being given a copy of it.

“Singapore should act to amend the Public Order Act with a view to ensuring that it is consistent with international human rights law and standards, particularly as they relate to the exercise of the rights to freedoms of expression and assembly,” the experts added.

Mr. Wham had previously been found guilty, in October 2018, of having criticized the judiciary in a Facebook post.

“We are alarmed that expressing an opinion about Singapore’s judiciary can be considered a criminal offence,” the experts said.

The UN experts have previously notified the Government of Singapore about their concerns.


(*) The UN experts: Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule (Togo), Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Singapore

For more information and media requests, please contact: Mr. Gotzon Onandia (+41 22 917 99 66 / gonandia@ohchr.org). 

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Mr. Jeremy Laurence (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org). 

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