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UN Experts on Jolovan Wham conviction: “Singapore should act to amend the Public Order Act”

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According to United Nations’ experts on human rights, Singapore’s Public Order Act needs to be amended in order to assure individuals their freedom of expression.

The United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement on Tuesday, January 29, in connection to the case of Singaporean Human Rights activist Jolovan Wham.

Earlier this year, on January 3, Wham was convicted of organizing an assembly without a permit. After a public discussion on civil disobedience and democracy in November 2016, Wham was charged under the Public Order Act.

Wham was separately charged for declining to sign a police statement of which he was not given a copy. The activist was convicted on this charge as well.

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The following UN experts weighed in on the case: the US’ David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; France’s Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Togo’s Clément Nyaletsossi Voule Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

The experts wrote: “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.”

The experts, therefore, recommended that Singapore amend its Public Order Act. “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.”

In another case, Wham was found guilty of criticizing the jury in a Facebook post He wrote in October 2018.

To this, the UN OHCHR experts wrote, “We are alarmed that expressing an opinion about Singapore’s judiciary can be considered a criminal offense.”

This is not the first time that rights experts from the UN have expressed their concerns to Singapore’s Government.

Here is the UN OHCHR statement in full:

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.

Read related: Prominent activist Jolovan Wham found guilty of organising illegal assembly via Skype

Prominent activist Jolovan Wham found guilty of organising illegal assembly via Skype

 

 

 

 

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