Latest: Singapore single mother awaits death row in Malaysia for drug trafficking. On the pretext of a business trip to China, Iqah was handed a suitcase containing heroin arranged by her Nigerian boyfriend and was arrested by Malaysian Immigration. A campaign is underway to raise funds for the appeal. To find out more, read

We have also heard that since Vui Kong's appeal started, there has been an unofficial stay of execution for all prisoners on death row in Changi Prison, pending the decision of the court on Yong's case. As the case has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal, we anticipate a Changi gallows bloodbath in a scale not seen since the Pulau Senang uprising in 1965 when 18 men were convicted of murder and hanged in a single Friday morning.

Singapore, which routinely persecute dissenters and critics, continue to hang young drug runners while at the same time work closely with Burmese military generals, and has invested billions in business ties with Burma, one of the biggest heroin manufacturing countries the world.


If you know someone who's charged in a capital case, received the death sentence, or is on death row in Singapore and if you have have your side of the story to tell, contact us at sgdeathpenalty [at]

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vignes Mourthi – seven years on

The Online Citizen: Vignes Mourthi – seven years on

Andrew Loh -

When the tears fell from her eyes, it broke my heart – and that of those who had come to pay her and her family a visit. Everyone was silent. Even I, who was interviewing her, could not bear to ask her the next question.

In all four years of being involved with The Online Citizen, I had never felt or experienced such pain up close.
I had not followed Vignes Mourthi’s trial back in 2003. I did not even know who he was. It was only seven years later that I started to read about him – how he was caught outside a mosque in Singapore, and how the family had sought help from the late Mr JB Jeyaretnam, who brought Mr M Ravi into the case.

Vignes had been convicted of trafficking 27.65g of heroin into Singapore in 2003. Accordingly, he was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty, as prescribed under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act.
Vignes, a Malaysian, was 23 when he was hanged.

Earlier this year when we – Vignes’s lawyer Mr M Ravi, Joshua Chiang and I – visited his family in Malaysia, I didn’t know what to expect. At the back of my mind, I kept wondering what I would say, or whether it was right for us to inquire – nah, intrude – into a family’s grief.

As the car pulls up to the house, I notice the number of motorcycles parked in the driveway. I later learned the family needed to use them when they go to work in the plantation, which was some ways away.
Mr Mourthi Vasu, Vignes’s father, is an energetic man, shaking our hands with some vigour as he welcomes us into his home.  The family had prepared lunch for us, for which we were late, having been delayed because we could not find the family’s house. Two of Vignes’s three sisters had to come to guide us on our way.
“I am still not satisfied because I want my son back,” Mr Mourthi says when I ask him if he has accepted the execution and death of Vignes, his only son. “He is an innocent boy! Why you want to hang my son?” he added.

Mr Mourthi describes what had happened after Vignes was hanged. The Singapore Prison Service [SPS] had given the family two photos of Vignes – taken by the prison, a day before Vignes was executed. “They told me to buy the shirt, the shoes, trousers, everything.. I give [them to Vignes], then they take the photos and [gave the photos to me],” Mr Mourthi said as he showed me the two pictures of Vignes seated in a chair.
Each picture had him in a different set of attire.

“Did they [the SPS] tell you why they gave you these pictures? Or what the pictures were for?” I ask.

Mr Mourthi shakes his head.

“And when you saw these pictures, how did you feel?”

“I was crying,” he replies.  “I was crying.”

“I gave the pictures to my wife… [she was also] crying.. all crying..”

In an adjacent open space to the kitchen stands an altar, a small space dedicated to Vignes, with a photo of him and offerings the family makes everyday.

“Vignes is always in my heart,” says his elder sister, Kohidam. “I’ve never forgotten about him. Wherever my family goes, Vignes is with us.”

She and her younger sister Shankari were the first to see Vignes’s body after his death. The two sisters had gone to Changi Prison at about 11am the day after the execution, after having been stopped at the customs checkpoint by Singapore immigration officers when they were entering Singapore at 8am. The sisters were told that there were problems with their passports. After some three hours, they were allowed into Singapore.
When they finally arrived at Changi Prison, Vignes’s body was in a box.  Some flowers had also been placed in it, apparently by prison guards of Changi. This provided some comfort to the sisters, although they were also told that they could not touch Vignes’s body then.

“I [felt like dying],” Shankari says when I asked how she felt when she first saw Vignes’s body. “I [had to] cry.”

They were then told that they had to take Vignes’s body away by 2pm that day, otherwise the prison would cremate his body. Knowing virtually no one in Singapore and not knowing where or how to make the necessary arrangements for the embalmment and the funeral, the sisters asked the prison service to give them more time. But this was rejected.

It was only when Vignes’s lawyer, M Ravi, intervened that the problem was resolved and Vignes’s family was able to plan a proper funeral for him.

“Do you miss your brother today?” I ask Shankari.

“I miss….” she says, unable to complete her sentence, as she wipes her tears.

Vignes now lies in a grave beside a frangipani tree, about a 15-minute walk from the family home. Sitting atop the tombstone are statues of two tigers. “Vignes loved these,” Mr Mourthi tells us. “So, I put them here.”
The headstone says simply: “Vignes s/o Mourthi. Born 21-3-1980. Departed 26-9-2003.”

Executions in Singapore are one of those things which are seldom talked about. The Government and the media do not provide many details about them. We do not even know how many people are executed or when these hangings take place, although it is believed they happen on Fridays, at dawn.

All we get are vague statistics, and never have the aftermath of these cases and those most affected by them, been told.

While we continue to defy international consensus where most countries have either abolished or are considering the abolition of the death penalty, we risk taking the lives of innocent men and women.
We have also hanged those as young as 18.

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides mandatory death for those convicted of drug trafficking. Our esteemed judges, selected and appointed for their vast experience, are deemed unable or incapable of meting out alternative sentences.

There are many flaws in our implementation of the mandatory death penalty which have been highlighted by politicians, lawyers, the Law Society of Singapore, academics, ordinary Singaporeans and the international community, including rights groups and most notably Amnesty International.

Yet, the Singapore Government has turned a blind eye and prefers to cover its ears to the exhortations to re-look the mandatory death penalty.

During Vignes’s trial, one Sergeant Rajkumar, who was also the investigating officer who arrested Vignes, was the prosecution’s key witness. However, Rajkumar was himself being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for rape, sodomy and bribery at the same time the trial of Vignes was taking place. This was not disclosed to Vignes’s lawyers.

Rajkumar’s own trial took place after Vignes had been hanged.

Rajkumar was eventually found guilty of bribery and sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Vignes Mourthi denied, till his last breath, that he had trafficked drugs. Moorthy Angappan, a family friend, was a dealer in incense stones back in Malaysia. It was Angappan who had asked Vignes to carry the drugs, which were packed as incense stones, to Singapore and to hand them over to a friend.

On the day of his final appeal, which was struck down by the court, Vignes had stood up in court and said that he was prepared to die.

He only wanted to know why.
Note: Vignes’s story is told in more detail in “Hung At Dawn”, a book by his lawyer, M Ravi. It is available in the bookstores. 

In August 2010, Mr Mourthi Vasu, together with Malaysian rights lawyers, issued a memorandum of protest at the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. (See video below and our report here.)
Support our call for a moratorium on the Mandatory Death Penalty. Click here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joint statement by Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) and Think Centre on the Alan Shadrake’s case


17 November 2010 – We are greatly disappointed and regret the heavy-handed sentence handed down to Alan Shadrake by the Singapore Judiciary. This is a major blow to Singapore’s international credibility as a country that respects the rule of law and has only served to emphasise the lack of compassion in our Judiciary.

Mr Shadrake should not have been persecuted for the publication of his book. His book should have instead been allowed to be publicly discussed and debated over.

The judgement had failed to consider that the book dealt with serious topics such as the death penalty as administrated by the Singapore justice system, no casual reader would or should read it with an uncritical mind as one would with a book of fiction.

The persecution of Mr Shadrake, a freelance journalist, confirms once again that freedom of expression in Singapore remains repressed. The freedom to express one’s thoughts and criticisms should be respected and the freedom to gain access to and share alternative opinions should also be allowed.

The lack of compassion on the part of the judiciary is especially compelling considering that Alan Shadrake is a 76 year old person who is sick and weak, with limited resources. Singapore’s authorities, much as they disagree with the publication of his book, should take it easy and treat Alan gently. The sentence passed is cruel and harsh on Mr Shadrake, who is vulnerable in health. This has put Singapore on the international spotlight once again for the wrong reason.

Sinapan Samydorai, Think Centre’s Director of ASEAN Affairs said, “They could have imagined Alan as a 76 year-old grandfather, vulnerable to poor health, yet stubborn to change while criticizing Singapore. The best course of action should then have been to talk to the poor old fellow, give him a hot meal, hold his hand and walk him home — and the world opinion will have appreciate and thank the act of kindness. Instead, this uncalled for bullying only earned more loud cries against unjust and unfair treatment of a 76 year old when Singapore sends him to 6 weeks in jail and a $20,000 fine as well as an additional court expense of $55,000. Moreover, he faces additional charges of criminal contempt of court that justify a 2 years jail term. Is the lack of compassion on the part of the judiciary a fair reflection of the policy of the Singapore Parliament?”

The Alan Shadrake case should not have gone to the court, he should have been kindly sent home.

For media enquires, contact Think Centre spokesperson at.

Mr. Sinapan Samydorai
Director of ASEAN Affairs
Think Centre

Ms. Rachel Zeng
Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

Alan Shadrake sent to prison by High Court in Singapore

17 Nov 2010
Capital Punishment - A Capital Mistake
British author jailed for claims made in Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore's Justice in the Dock

British author Alan Shadrake has been sentenced to six weeks in prison by the High Court in Singapore after being convicted over a book criticising the island's use of the death penalty.

Shadrake, 76, was also fined US$15,400 (£9,600) over allegations he made in Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore's Justice in the Dock, which discusses the republic's controversial use of capital punishment.

The book claims that well-connected defendants, particularly in drugs cases, often get off relatively lightly while the poor and less well-connected are sentenced to death.

It also questions the independence of the judiciary, and highlights criticisms levelled at Singapore's justice system by organisations such as Amnesty International.

In finding Shadrake guilty of contempt of court earlier this month, Singapore's high court judge, Quentin Loh, said the title contained "half-truths and selective facts; sometimes outright falsehoods."

Shadrake, who suffers from an irregular heartbeat and a serious colonic illness, offered a qualified apology last week but stood by the claims.

Loh dismissed Shadrake's last-minute apology as "nothing more than a tactical ploy to in court to obtain a reduced sentence."

Loh added that Shadrake would have to serve an additional two weeks in prison if he failed to pay the fine.

In a recent interview with the Guardian Shadrake, who was arresred on July 18, said the court had come down heavy on him because "they know the book is accurate".

He added: "This story is never going away. I'll keep it on the boil for as long as I live. They're going to regret they ever started this."

The case has cast further doubt on Singapore's commitment to freedom of expression.

Shadrake's lawyer, M Ravi, insisted his client had not intended to scandalise the conservative state's "hypersensitive" judiciary, adding that comments critical of the criminal justice system were "fair criticism.

The book features a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi prison, as well as interviews with human rights activists, former police officers and lawyers.

According to Amnesty International, Singapore, with a population of five million, has one of the world's highest per capita execution rates, putting to death more than 400 people over the past two decades.

ISBN: 9781425713010
By Jason Taylors

Singapore criminal lawyers call for abolition of mandatory death penalty

Title:   ACLS again urges Govt to abolish mandatory death sentence
Source:   TODAY
Author:   Conrad Raj

SINGAPORE - The Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore (ACLS) has again called for the abolition of the mandatory death sentence - this time in the latest issue of its newsletter, Pro Bono.
"The ACLS is in favour of the death penalty for the offence of murder. However, the ACLS is against the death sentence being mandatory," it said in an editorial.
In the run-up to changes to the Penal Code in 2007, the ACLS was among a number of groups advocating for discretion over the death penalty.
In its newsletter, it noted the imposition of a mandatory death sentence is arbitrary. The ACLS cited Sir Dennis Byron, Chief Justice of the Caribbean islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia, as saying: "If the death penalty is appropriate for the worst case of homicide, then it must surely be excessive punishment for the offender convicted of murder whose case is far removed from the worst case."
It also pointed out that a fair hearing is denied when no opportunity is given to the accused to offer mitigating circumstances before sentencing. Mitigation, the ACLS added, is "the normal procedure" in all other trials for non-capital offences.
Also, the ACLS said, sentencing is "a matter of law and part of the administration of justice which is the preserve of the Judiciary".
"Parliament should, therefore, only prescribe the maximum sentence and leave the courts to administer justice by sentencing offenders according to the gravity and circumstances of the case," it said.
The ACLS pointed out that under Article 93 of the Singapore Constitution, the judicial power is vested in the courts. It added that India, from which Singapore's Penal Code is derived, has since 1955 abolished the mandatory death penalty, as have the former British colonies of Kenya and Uganda.
"The ACLS urges the Government to abolish the mandatory death sentence for murder and to allow the courts discretion in sentencing convicted murderers. After all, our High Court judges have undergone a rigorous selection process to be chosen to exercise the judicial power of Singapore. And on their appointments, the judges have all affirmed or sworn to administer the law according to right and conscience."
Copyright 2010 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Alan Shadrake jailed 6 weeks and fined US$15,000

Photo credit: Reuters
Justice Quentin Loh sentenced British author Alan Shadrake to six weeks jail and a fine of $20,000 this morning for scandalizing the judiciary.
Calling the allegations in Shadrake’s book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice In The Dock “without precedent”, Justice Loh said that under such situations, the default punishment should be imprisonment.
Justice Loh said that the court had given Shadrake the possibility of making amends if he makes a sincere apology and also make efforts to withdraw either the publications or parts of the publications. However, the efforts had been in the ‘opposite direction’.
Shadrake’s lawyer M Ravi had said previously that Shadrake “would certainly apologize if he had offended the sensitivities of the judiciary.”
Justice Loh pointed out that the law was not concerned with the sensitivities of the judge” but whether there was risk in public confidence of the independence of the courts being undermined.
In deciding the sentence, Justice Loh referred to an article published in The Guardian on 7th November (clickhere for article)  in which Shadrake was quoted as saying among other things, “This story is never going away. I’ll keep it on the boil for as long as I live. They’re going to regret they ever started this.”
He also pointed out that Shadrake had stated his intent to publish a second edition of ‘Once A Jolly Hangman’ with new chapters.
“A clearer intent to repent his contempt it can’t be,” said the judge.
Shadrake’s apology was therefore “nothing more that a tactical ploy in court to obtain a reduced sentence while mounting a different stance elsewhere.”
Shadrake was given a week to consider if he wants to appeal the sentencing.
Speaking to reporters later, M Ravi revealed that Shadrake’s MP in England will be filing a motion in the House of Commons to condemn the outcome of the judgement on Alan Shadrake. The MP will ask the British Government to consider raising the issue at the International Court of Justice as a possible breach of customary international law.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Singaporean man sentenced to death for passion fueled murder

The Straits Times: 'Marsiling Baby' to hang for murder

He killed his girlfriend after finding her in bed with another man earlier

By Selina Lum
Pathip's claim that his mind went blank during the killing was not consistent with his actions, said the judge. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
A 24-YEAR-OLD man was found guilty yesterday of murdering his 18-year-old girlfriend in Ang Mo Kio more than two years ago.
Friends and family of Pathip Selvan Sugumaran who packed the courtroom wailed as the High Court passed the mandatory death sentence on him for the murder of Miss Jeevitha Panippan.
The body of Miss Jeevitha, a private student and kindergarten teacher, was discovered on July 8, 2008, behind an electrical substation opposite Block 154, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5. She had 15 external injuries, out of which three wounds were fatal blows.
Pathip, who is known to his family and friends as 'Marsiling Baby', did not dispute that he killed her on the night of July 7, 2008.
But he claimed that he had been provoked by Miss Jeevitha who had taunted him by saying her new beau was better in bed. He said he lost self-control and his mind was 'blank' during the stabbing.
Defence psychiatrist Tommy Tan said Pathip has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition associated with impulsivity and rage, and that this abnormal mental state reduced his responsibility for the killing.
But these defences were rejected by the High Court yesterday.
Pathip and Miss Jeevitha became lovers in April 2008. A month into their relationship, she reported him to the police for rape - they had unprotected sex after an argument and she was worried about getting pregnant. But they continued to date.
On the morning of July 7, 2008, Pathip went to her flat at Block 157. When he peeped into her bedroom from outside, he saw her in bed with a man.
That evening, he bought a kitchen knife. He later told police that he wanted to use the knife to threaten her into telling the truth about the man.
On the same day, he met Miss Jeevitha and her mother at Block 155 and he said he wanted to marry her.
After the older woman went off, Pathip pulled her to the back of the substation and confronted her.
He said that when she told him that her new beau was better in bed, he whipped out the knife and stabbed her while she shouted 'I love you'. After she collapsed, he kissed her and removed a gold chain he had given her.
Later, Pathip and his mother crossed the Causeway but she returned to Singapore alone. The next day, he decided to return after she told him over the phone that the police would take her to the police station if he did not.
In his written judgment, Justice Kan Ting Chiu said Pathip's claim that his mind 'went blank' was not consistent with his actions. If that had happened, he would have been alarmed to see her bleeding when he snapped out of it, and would likely have called for help. Instead, he just left her there.
He also said the defence has not established that Pathip had ADHD. Reports from Pathip's days in school and national service showed that he functioned normally.
Justice Kan added that Pathip talked about his mind going blank only when he saw Dr Tan in October last year.
The judge said it was clear that Pathip's mental processes did not cease during the attack.
Pathip's lawyer, Mr Subhas Anandan, said his client would be appealing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Human Rights Watch: Drop Charges Against Alan Shadrake

(New York, November 9, 2010) – The Singapore government should exonerate a British author who was convicted for contempt of court for his criticism of Singapore’s justice system, Human Rights Watch said today. On November 9, 2010, the Singapore high court will impose a criminal sentence against Alan Shadrake, a 76-year-old writer who was convicted on November 3 for “scandalizing the judiciary” in his book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, which criticizes bias in the application of Singapore’s mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking.

Singapore’s attorney general brought the contempt charges on the grounds that “public confidence in the Singapore Judiciary cannot be allowed, in any way, to be tarnished or diminished by any contumacious behaviour.” The defendant contended that the book amounted to “fair criticism on matters of compelling public interest,” as provided under article 14 of the Singapore Constitution. Shadrake faces possible imprisonment as well as fines.

“Singapore is further damaging its poor reputation on free expression by shooting the messenger bearing bad news,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Cases like this only strengthen the allegations that Shadrake made in his book.”

In his ruling, the high court judge rejected “fair criticism” arguments and disputed the contention that Shadrake’s conclusions were based on extensive research of case and court records and interviews with Singapore’s now-retired chief executioner, police officers, lawyers, and death-penalty opponents. He found 11 statements in Once a Jolly Hangman in contempt because, “These statements are made without any rational basis, or with reckless disregard as to their truth or falsehood.” His written judgment concluded that, “We [judges] are constitutionally bound to protect every citizen’s right to engage in such debate.… But when such debate goes beyond the limits of fair criticism the law will step in.”

Shadrake is also under investigation for criminal defamation following a complaint brought by the government-directed Singapore Media Development Authority.

“There is a long history of Singapore’s government using criminal defamation charges to gag and bankrupt critics,” Robertson said. “Criticism of the government should never be resolved in a criminal court – the authorities should drop the charges.”

In a statement this year to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression reiterated that governments should decriminalize defamation and “promote a culture of tolerance regarding criticism, which is essential in any democratic society.”

Shadrake’s treatment in custody raised due process concerns. At 6 a.m. on July 18, four plainclothes officers arrested Shadrake at his hotel room and took him away for two days of interrogation, during which he was denied access to counsel. Late in the day on July 19, he was released on bail.

Shadrake rejected an offer of mitigation from the Attorney General’s Office in exchange for an “unreserved apology in qualified terms.” The Attorney General’s Office said that it viewed the rejection as an “aggravating fact” against Shadrake. The offer of mitigation in return for an apology was repeated at the trial’s conclusion.

“Those facing the gallows in Singapore owe a great debt of gratitude to Alan Shadrake for exposing serious problems in the justice system,” Robertson said. “The government should be impartially and transparently investigating these problems, not the man who brought them to their attention.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Singapore, please visit:

Friday, November 5, 2010

The truth behind Darren Ng's death - not just simple staring

Darren Ng, left, died from a fatal wound to the neck on the night of 30th Oct
Pro death penalty advocates in Singapore have been calling for the hanging of the 4 suspects caught after the crime scene at Downtown East that saw a 19 year old Polytechnic student brutally stabbed to death in public.

The reason for the strong reaction is easy to understand. The stabbing happened close to home - Downtown East, a holiday resort which most Singaporeans visit. Plus, these teenage boys must be hanged to give a strong signal to people who have the tendency to stab any passerbys looking in their general direction. Many Singaporeans call out with ease for the hanging of these assailants because if it happened to Darren Ng Wei Jie, it could also happen to anyone else. Anyone could become the next target, so let's hang them all to send a strong deterrence signal.

But is the story really that simple?

According to news report, Darren Ng's father told reporters that his son "died because of love for his friends". Mainstream news have all but reported the real story behind the stabbing, which occurred on the fateful night of 30th October 2010, preferring to go along the lines of a simple "staring incident" that caused Darren Ng's premature termination of life.

According to reliable sources, the lead assailant had been serving time in prison prior to the incident. Whether he was the one who actually wielded the weapon used against Darren in not known, but being a member of a certain gang triad, there was animosity brewing with another gang's member in prison, which happened to be Darren's friend. The connection with a certain triad is evident from a picture showing a tattoo on one of the assailant, Tang Jia Min, which was reported in the news.

When the lead assailant came out of prison, he was unable to locate Darren's friend. On the night Darren Ng was assaulted and killed at Downtown East, he recognised Darren's group of 3 as the friends of the enemy he made in prison.

This lead to a confrontation which resulted in a purchase of knives from the nearby supermarket and a mad 500m chase inside the holiday resort. Darren Ng was mobbed and stabbed repeatedly, one of which was fatal - a stab to Darren's throat which ripped his jugular vein. Darren died in hospital hours after the attack.

There are many questions left unanswered from the incident:

  • Was Darren Ng murdered or mobbed (with weapons), which resulted in his death? (The implications are important as they decide the charge and sentence of the accused persons)
  • Was it really a simple random staring incident resulting in a cold blooded murder?
  • Did Darren try to stand up for his gang member friend, which resulted in a confrontation and the mob attack?
  • How many of the dozen or so assailants were carrying weapons?
  • Was there a real intention to murder Darren, or were the knives use with the intent to cause serous injuries?
  • How many other suspects are still at large?
  • If 10 men mobbed and caused the death of one person, should all 10 be charged for murder, a crime which carries mandatory death sentence?
  • Out of the 4 arrested and charged for murder, who attacked Darren, how many were doing so because their peers were doing it?

Before these important questions can be answered, the unfortunate thing is that the public would have already formed their conclusion to the fate of the 4 who were first arrested, with some even calling for public execution for the "cold blooded murderers".

 Such is the ease at which Singaporeans call for the execution of these teenagers when they feel that their security have been compromised, regardless whether murder was the real intent when the assault took place, and regardless whether the mandatory death sentence actually works to prevent these crimes in the first place. This is the reason why the debate on the application of mandatory death penalty and death penalty must not be swept under the rug. Like the court of law, Singaporeans should know both sides to the story before forming a judgment on capital cases.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

IFHR condemns Alan Sharake's conviction

Singapore: Conviction of British author is yet another assault on freedom of expression

3 November 2010
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) condemns the conviction of British journalist Mr. Alan Shadrake by the Singapore High Court today, which found him guilty of ‘scandalising’ the Singapore courts in 11 passages in his latest book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. Mr. Shadrake, 75, will be sentenced on 9 November 2010 and faces a custodial sentence, a fine, or both. At the same time, he is also being investigated for criminal defamation and faces a sentence of two years in prison and fines if convicted.
Mr. Shadrake was arrested on 18 July, 2000 in Singapore, one day after he launched his book. In writing Once a Jolly Hangman, the author combed through court case files from over the years and interviewed human rights activists, lawyers, former police officers and a former chief executioner at the Changi prison. The conclusions drawn from these sources are critical of the way death penalty is administered by the Singaporean judiciary. The book further suggests that there have been instances where the courts appeared to have bowed to foreign pressure, favoured the rich and privileged, and were used as a weapon to silence the opposition and other dissidents. Both the Government and members of the ruling party have successfully sued and obtained convictions of opposition politicians and a number of foreign media organisations for publishing articles or commentaries critical of the ruling regime.

In an open letter to the Acting Attorney-General of Singapore on 23 July 2010, FIDH expressed its deep concern that the judicial action against Mr. Shadrake “creates a climate of fear and restricts the openness of the public discussion on sensitive issues, such as the death penalty”. [1] In recent official submissions to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Singapore, scheduled for May 2011, civil society organisations in Singapore have all highlighted the severe restrictions of freedom of expression and the press, both in law and in practice.

FIDH considers Singapore’s handling of the case of Mr. Shadrake a measure of its willingness to uphold the human rights principles in the ASEAN Charter, the guarantee of freedom of expression in its own Constitution, as well as the rights guaranteed by the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

“ Singapore’s progress as an economic powerhouse stands in stark contrast to its government’s authoritarian tendency and the draconian measures it uses to muzzle the freedom of expression”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. “This case illustrates the on-going need for the Singaporean government to undertake the necessary reforms to truly protect fundamental freedoms and rights, including through decriminalizing defamation and ceasing its resort to legal actions as a knee-jerk response to criticisms of its courts”.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Breaking News: Legal history made in Shadrake trial verdict

But Shadrake found guilt of contempt

M Ravi and Alan Shadrake speaking to the
press after the judgement
The real risk test should be applied, said Justice Quentin Loh at the judgement of the Alan Shadrake trial this morning. His decision overturned over four decades of precedence where the Inherent Tendency Test had been applied for contempt cases.
Under the inherent tendency test, an act or statement is deemed contemptuous if it conveys to an average reasonable reader allegations of bias, lack of impartiality, impropriety or any wrongdoing concerning a judge (or the court) in the exercise of his judicial function.
The real risk test on the other hand requires the prosecution to show that there must be more than a remote possibility that the statements complained of would undermine the administration of justice. that the act or words created a real risk of prejudicing the administration of justice. Other common law countries such as Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have adopted this test.
Applying the real risk test to his decision, Justice Loh identified 11 out of 14 of the contentious statements as being in contempt of court. Out of these 11 statements, Judge Loh said that there was “more than a remote possibility that a significant number of people who have read Shadrake’s book would believe his claims.”
These 11 statements, he said, did not fulfill the three criteria of fair criticism, namely that they had to be made in good faith, they had to have a rational bias, and that the criticisms can be outspoken but respectful.
Judge Loh found three of the statements the Attorney General’s Chambers put forward were not in contempt this was despite the AG’s claim in court that the whole book was contemptuous and that the 14 statements complained of were the worst.
He further reinterated that the case was not about individual opposition to the death penalty, and anyone who held such views would be fully protected under the Constitution.
“The death penalty is the ultimate punishment under the law, ultimate both in its severity and its irreversibility. It is therefore not surprising that the application of the death penalty by the courts is closely scrutinized and vigorously debated; indeed, it would be profoundly disturbing if citizens adopted a bland and disinterested attitude to the ultimate punishment,’ he said.
However he drew the line between criticism of the death penalty has not serving any deterrent purpose, or saying that a judge erred in his judgement and saying that the judiciary based its decisions on political and economical considerations.
“It is no different from saying I based my decisions on a brown envelope stuff with dollar notes, “ he added.
Speaking to The Online Citizen after the verdict, Shadrake said that the judge’s verdict is “a very fair ruling.”
Lawyer for Shadrake Mr M Ravi said, “This judgment overturns more than four decades of bad law, and is a good sign that the judiciary recognizes the more mature society we live in. Still, we are disappointed that even applying this more stringent standard, Alan’s statements have been found in contempt. We will be considering whether or not to appeal”
Sentencing will be decided on the following Tuesday.

British Author Alan Shadrake Convicted of Contempt of Court in Singapore

Bloomberg: British Author Alan Shadrake Convicted of Contempt of Court in Singapore

British author Alan Shadrake was convicted of contempt of court for his book challenging the integrity and independence of Singapore’s judiciary.
High Court Judge Quentin Loh announced his decision today and reserved sentencing until Nov. 9, saying that the 75-year- old had a “final opportunity to make amends.”
Shadrake, who had previously refused to apologize, said after the ruling that he would “work out how to do this and satisfy the court.” The author of “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice in the Dock” accused the city state’s courts of dispensing “unequal justice” and bowing to political and economic pressures, the prosecution had said.
Contempt of court carries a jail sentence, a fine, or both. No maximum penalty has been specified under Singapore’s constitution, according to the attorney general’s office.
“This is an especially pernicious case of grave and aggravated contempt” and “cannot possibly come within any reasonable notion of fair criticism,” the attorney general’s office said during the three-day trial last month.
Shadrake’s lawyer M. Ravi has said that the writer had no intention of scandalizing Singapore’s courts and called the judiciary “hypersensitive.”
A Wall Street Journal editor was fined S$10,000 ($7,300) last year for the publication of three articles that the city- state’s government said showed contempt of its judiciary. In another contempt of court lawsuit, three activists were sentenced to between seven and 15 days in prison for wearing t- shirts with pictures of a kangaroo dressed as a judge.
Shadrake’s book isn’t banned in Singapore, according to the Media Development Authority. Retailers and distributors will have to seek legal advice on whether they can sell or distribute the publication, the regulator said.
The author is also being investigated for criminal defamation, Singapore authorities have said.
The case is Attorney-General vs Alan Shadrake OS720/2010 in the Singapore High Court.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Singapore: Four youths to be charged with murder over staring incident

 Downtown East in Pasir Ris

CNA: Police arrest four suspects over Downtown East murder

SINGAPORE: Police have arrested four Chinese male suspects, aged between 18 and 20 years old, in connection with the murder of a youth at Downtown East in Pasir Ris on Saturday.

Nineteen-year-old Darren Ng Wei Jie was attacked by a group. He sustained serious injuries and died in hospital.

In a statement issued on late Monday, police said they had followed up on all possible leads and conducted intensive round- the-clock investigations.

Officers from the Special Investigation Section of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) established the identities of the suspects aged between 18 and 20 years, and, with this lead, were able to swiftly round up the four men.

The case has been classified as murder, which carries the death penalty.

Police said investigations are still ongoing

Mr Ng, a Republic Polytechnic student, had been attacked and hacked several times by a group of men at about 6pm on Saturday.

He and two friends were believed to have been involved in a staring incident with the group earlier.

He was sent to Changi General Hospital with injuries and subsequently died at about 10.55pm on the same day.

Director of Criminal Investigation Department Senior Assistant Commissioner Ng Boon Gay commended the police officers for their extensive investigations and speed in apprehending the suspects.

He said, "Such violent behaviour and blatant disregard for the law will not be condoned. Police will see to it that those who perpetuate violence will be dealt with to the fullest extent of our laws."

The four suspects will be charged in court on Wednesday with murder. If convicted, they face the death penalty.