Trial judge asked to take notice of UDHR on 60th anniversary

December 10, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Dr Chee Soon Juan brought the attention of District Judge Toh Yong Joo to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on this 60th anniversary of the Declaration. Dr Chee is charged together with Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Ms Chee Siok Chin and Mr Teoh Tian Jing for attempting to conduct a march and rally during the WB-IMF Meeting in 2006:

I’d like to wish this court and the Deputy Public Prosecutor a meaningful International Human Rights Day. Today is 10 December 2008, 60 years after which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came into being.

The UDHR is a declaration of the United Nations of which Singapore is a member. We signed on because we subscribe to its principles. We therefore have obligations — international obligations. Otherwise we would just be signing pieces of paper we didn’t believe in.

It is because we believe that the world needs to be governed, however minimally, by international laws that Singapore subjects itself to these laws. For example, we agree to abide by the decisions of the International Court of Justice when there is dispute over national territory.

So on this important occasion, I would like to make this appeal for Your Honour to take judical notice of the UDHR. The Declaration states that:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, therefore,

The General Assembly,

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

As a judge presiding over this case, as part of the state — the judicial arm of the government — you have an obligation to uphold this pledge that we have made in solemnity to “achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

These are the fundamental freedoms that give us the right to hold a procession and assembly, and to express ourselves freely. As a judge you have taken the oath not just to protect our freedom but to uphold the Constitution.

Because we have pledged together with other member states to promote these fundamental freedoms as enshrined in UDHR, it is important to ensure that the police do not desecrate the Declaration and Singapore Constitution.

If you do see the Executive or the police, through their actions, make a mockery of these principles, it is your duty to ensure that justice is done. In other words, that you do not go along with the prosecution’s case.

Thank you.