Laws were tightened to limit freedom of expression and assembly, and used to intimidate and punish increasingly outspoken critics and opposition activists. Information about the application of the death penalty was very limited. Criminal offenders were sentenced to caning.
Freedom of expression and assembly
Numerous lawsuits by the authorities created a climate of fear for people with dissenting views. Government critics and human rights defenders, including former prisoners of conscience, remained undeterred and held public gatherings, wrote articles and challenged the ruling People’s Action Party’s dominance.
- Dr Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), faced several charges, including two counts of speaking in public without a permit. He was fined S$10,000 (US$7,100) or 10 weeks’ imprisonment under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (PEMA).
- SDP member Yap Keng Ho faced charges relating to the sale of the SDP newspaper during the 2006 elections. He opted to serve a 20-day jail sentence after refusing to pay a S$2,000 (US$1,400) fine.
Both men also faced multiple charges of illegal assembly and illegal procession.
In April, the authorities announced the Public Order Act 2009 (POA). The POA imposed further controls on freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to form associations. It was first used against five Falun Gong protesters who were charged with illegal assembly. The POA complements and strengthens provisions of existing legislation, including PEMA and the Miscellaneous Offences Act, which have been used previously to suppress peaceful demonstrations.
The POA also empowers law enforcement officers to stop people filming and exhibiting films of law enforcement activities. Amendments to the Films Act limit the filming of unauthorized protests and of anyone not authorized to seek election.
Detention without trial
Approximately 20 suspected Islamist militants continued to be held under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Two individuals, held since 2002 under the ISA, were released.
The government announced that 366 individuals had been held without trial over the past five years under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, but 272 were released over the same period.
Reporting of death sentences, executions and other related information was limited. At least one person, Tan Chor Jin, was executed in January, and at least six others were known to have been sentenced to death by the courts. The actual number of executions and death sentences is believed to be much higher.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Caning remained a form of punishment for a number of offences under Singapore law, including immigration offences. At least five individuals were sentenced to caning, mostly for sexual offences such as rape. Military service remained compulsory, and under military regulations conscientious objectors and others who failed to comply could be caned and imprisoned for offences such as non-compliance with lawful orders and insubordination.
One quarter of Singapore’s population were migrants.
- Work permits for two Myanmar nationals, who had worked in Singapore for 11 years, were not renewed, following their active support for Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement.