Head of state
Tony Tan Keng Yam
Head of government
Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore took steps to roll back the mandatory death penalty, but the media remained tightly controlled and dissidents continued to face political repression. Laws on arbitrary detention and judicial caning remained.

Death penalty

The government stated in July that it would review laws on the mandatory death penalty for murder and drug trafficking. In October, the government proposed amendments which would allow for discretionary sentencing in some drug trafficking cases, including where the suspect acted only as a courier or co-operated substantively with the Central Narcotics Bureau. Moreover, the Appellate Court would be required to review the legality of each death sentence before execution.

The government stated that executions were deferred during this review. There were at least 32 people on death row by the end of the year.

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Torture and other ill-treatment

Judicial caning – a practice amounting to torture or other ill-treatment – continued as a punishment for a wide range of criminal offences.

Drug traffickers sentenced to life imprisonment instead of the mandatory death penalty would be liable to caning under proposed amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

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Freedoms of expression and assembly

Opposition activists, including former prisoners of conscience, continued to voice their opinions online, in books and in public meetings, but repression of political dissidents was widespread.

  • In May, Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian human rights lawyer representing the Singapore Democratic Party and its leader Dr Chee Soon Juan, was denied entry to Singapore, thereby infringing his client’s right of access to his lawyer.
  • In July, the president of US Yale University’s new campus in Singapore told the Wall Street Journal, a US newspaper, that students would not be allowed to organize political protests. Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, this policy put the university’s governing body, the Yale Corporation, at odds with its responsibility to avoid causing adverse impacts on human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly.
  • In September, former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong accepted a settlement of US$30,000 from Singapore Democratic Party leader Dr Chee Soon Juan, allowing him to avoid bankruptcy and later, travel abroad and contest the next election. In August, for the first time in many years, his books were made available in local bookstores.
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