Law Society sets up committee to promote human rights

The Law Society of Singapore (LSS) will launch its Public and International Law Committee (PILC) on 29 May 08. In conjunction with this, the LSS is organising a series of three public lectures on 29 May, 30 June and 8 July 2008

The PILC, a de facto human rights committee, is chaired by Dr Thio Su Mien and comprises of Mr Sundaresh Menon SC (Vice-Chairman and former judicial commissioner), Mr K S Rajah SC; Mr Peter Low; and Mr Cavinder Bull SC.

The Committee recognises that human rights in Singapore are found in three main areas:

a. the Constitution and other Singapore statutes;
b. principles of customary public international law which are recognized as such in Singapore; and
c. the various human rights treaties that Singapore is party to.

M Ravi and Chia Ti Lik delivering the human rights petition to the Law Society on 10 Dec 07

M Ravi and Chia Ti Lik delivering the human rights petition to the Law Society on 10 Dec 07

To commemorate International Human Rights Day on 10 Dec last year, lawyers Mr M Ravi and Mr Chia Ti Lik handed a petition to Mr Michael Hwang SC, president of the LSS, calling on the Society to establish a human rights committee (see here).

One may never know whether Mr Ravi’s and Mr Chia’s petition had contributed to the setting up of PILC. And whether PILC will promote human rights issues in Singapore in earnest or be such a committee in name only, time will tell.

It is noteworthy that under pressure from local and international groups following some high profile executions in 2005, the LSS formed a committee to study and review death penalty laws in Singapore. It subsequent made some recommendations to the Government which were not acted upon.

In any event, the upcoming PILC’s public lectures will be given by Dr Thio Li-ann, a legal scholar in Public and International Law:

Lecture 1 (29 May 2008) will discuss:

· The evolution of the ‘International Bill of Rights’
· The development of universal, regional and national human rights institutions
· What are the human rights issues relevant to Singapore stakeholders – the government, courts and citizens

Lecture 2 (30 June 2008) will discuss:

· The range of human rights and the difficulties associated with interpreting the content and scope of each right
· Scope and meaning of specific provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how it relates to Singapore public law

Lecture 3 (8 July 2008) will discuss:

· The general human rights policy of the government from a study of the relevant laws, policies and ministerial statements
· Singapore state practice in relation to the United Nations human rights system based on the UN Charter and the 3 treaties Singapore acceded to in 1995
· The human rights clause in the 2007 ASEAN Charter

Attorney-General Walter Woon will launch the Committee. For more information and to register click here. Admission is free.


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