18 Jan 2023
17 January 2023
Ms Mary Lawlor
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Mr Morris Tidball-Binz
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Ms Irene Khan
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Mr Clement Nyaletsossi Voule
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
Dear Special Procedures Mandate Holders,
I refer to your joint communication dated 17 November 2022 [Ref: AL SGP 11/2022]. I wish to clarify several misconceptions in it about the ongoing police investigations into Ms Kirsten Han and Mr Rocky Howe, as well as about Singapore’s approach to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Investigations into Kirsten Han and Rocky Howe
2 You had expressed concern that the police investigations into Ms Han and Mr Howe were “an attempt to criminalise and intimidate” both individuals.
3 Ms Han and Mr Howe are being investigated for possible offences under Singapore’s Public Order Act (“POA”). Under the POA, those organising or participating in a public assembly or procession must obtain a permit from the Singapore Police Force. Ms Han and Mr Howe had allegedly organised and participated in the following alleged public assemblies this year without the necessary Police permits:
4 These investigations are carried out in accordance with the law. I hope you can understand that in a country which upholds the rule of law, we would, and indeed should, investigate reports of possible offences. They are in no way an attempt to intimidate any individual.
5 You may also wish to note that at the time of the incidents, there were, and continue to be, avenues for Ms Han and Mr Howe to carry out demonstrations within the law. These include the Speaker’s Corner in Singapore – an outdoor park in the middle of the city where Singapore citizens like Ms Han and Mr Howe can hold public demonstrations without a Police permit. Demonstrations on a wide range of issues, including capital punishment, have taken place there.
Singapore respects the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly
6 Singapore fully respects the fundamental human rights enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”). Article 14 of the Constitution of Singapore protects the rights to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, and to form associations.
7 These rights, however, are not unqualified, even under international human rights law. These rights carry with them duties and responsibilities, and may be subject to certain restrictions as necessary, and as provided for by law. The POA ensures that individuals can exercise their right to peaceful assembly and political expression, while preserving public order in our delicately balanced multi-racial, multi-religious, and densely populated city state. The POA applies equally to all individuals and groups, in line with the rule of law, which is a fundamental principle that Singapore upholds.
No international consensus on capital punishment
8 There is no basis to assert that the imposition of capital punishment for drug offences is a breach of international law. There is no international consensus against the use of capital punishment when it is imposed according to the due process of law and with judicial safeguards. Every country has the sovereign right to determine its own criminal justice system, considering its own circumstances and in accordance with its international law obligations. This right should be respected.
9 I have reiterated Singapore’s position on capital punishment and its use against drug-related offences on numerous occasions to the Special Procedures, most recently in a reply dated 16 September 2022. You may wish to refer to those statements again.
Ambassador and Permanent Representative