IBA criticises human rights and judiciary in Singapore

International Bar Association



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IBAHRI expresses concern about human rights and the independence of the judiciary in Singapore

In a report released today, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) expressed concern about limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly, and the press, and of the independence of the judiciary in Singapore. The report,
Prosperity versus individual rights? Human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Singapore, makes 18 recommendations (pages 67-68), which the IBAHRI urges the Singapore Government to implement as a matter of priority.

“As one of the world’s most successful economies, Singapore should be a leader in human rights and the rule of law, and should now have the confidence and maturity to recognise that this would be complementary, not contradictory, to its future prosperity,” said Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association (IBA).

“The IBAHRI has identified a number of areas in which Singapore falls far short of international standards. In particular, democratic debate and media comment are extremely restricted and government officials have initiated numerous successful defamation suits against both political and media critics.”

The IBAHRI report examines Singapore’s record on a range of human rights issues identified by the IBAHRI as a priority. This includes freedom of expression (for example, the use of defamation legislation to hinder opposition activities, and restrictions on freedom of the press and the internet), the independence of the judiciary (there have been allegations of executive influence), and freedom of assembly.

Investigations for the report began in the lead-up to the IBA’s 2007 Annual Conference in Singapore. Strong debate between the government and its critics took place during the IBA’s inaugural Rule of Law Day; an open public forum on human rights which was the first such discussion at an international conference in Singapore.

Emilio Cárdenas, Co-Chair of the IBAHRI, stated: “The IBAHRI has conducted a very extensive review in preparing this report, and has sought the views of all the major stakeholders concerned, including the Singapore Government and the Singapore Law Society. The report is unprecedented in its efforts to understand, respond to, and reflect the views of all sides to the debate.”

Click here to download the full report: Prosperity versus individual rights? Human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Singapore from the IBA’s website at:


For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew – Daniel

International Bar Association

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