11 Nov 2005

Detention Without Trial?

What have the British ever done for us, I hear you ask. The Internal Security Act, a wonderful piece of draconian legislation. Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't being held under the ISA mean that no formal charges have been brought before the court? Having grown up in a certain less civilised state I am also aware of the possible unintended consequences of implimenting 'internment'.

Islamic militant detained in Singapore under Internal Security Act - govt
11.11.2005, 05:38 AM

SINGAPORE (AFX) - An Islamic militant has been detained under Singapore's Internal Security Act (ISA), bringing the total now arrested indefinitely for alleged terrorist links to 36, the government said.

Mohammad Sharif bin Rahmat was detained for alleged links to militant groups including the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the home ministry said.

Sharif is alleged to have been undergoing physical training with the JI, and was also found to be preparing for armed conflict during his involvement with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, it said.

Thirty-six people are now under indefinite detention here for their links to groups such as JI and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the main separatist group in the Philippines.

Under the ISA, detainees' cases are reviewed every two years and are only released when the authorities are sure they do not pose a significant security threat.

In a related development, the ministry also announced the release of Ali Ridhaa bin Abdullah, who had been involved in operational reconnaissance work for the JI prior to his arrest.

Ali, a converted Muslim whose original name is Andrew Gerald, was set free after responding positively to religious counselling, a home affairs spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse.

Seventeen others are under restriction orders that ban them from leaving the country without permission, latest figures provided by the ministry showed.


Anonymous said...

Hey, a question props up in my mind. Are all these terrorists more harmful than drugs or not? What would be the most suitable punitive laws to curb this terrorism? Death penalty or not?

patriot said...

I was thinking too. Drug trafficking gets death penalty. Terrorists get to live. Something is wrong.

That news report on CIA having overseas bases that detain terrorists, I'm sure S'pore is one such 'base'.

HongKonger said...

I'm sick of such treatment, such disproportional punishment and such contempt on human right and life by Singaporean Government.

NO holiday in Singapore, NO Singapore Airlines (even for transit to London), and absolutely NO Singaporean food.

Singapore - a "Disneyland with the death penalty"
Hong Kong - has a Disneyland which come without death penalty

I know where I want to live.

Think Singaporean said...

Exactly, it was reported one of the detainees, Andrew Gerard, was released bec he is no longer a threat to sg. How exactly sure is the govt? Terrorists could plant bombs and kill many innocent people (one person, one action but collective effect) whereas drug could only be consumed by people are willing to try and then get addicted to it and will only die when consumed on high dosage (one person, one action leading to one effect). But the punishment is on the contrary. Very strange.

HongKonger said...

Sorry I've post my comment in the wrong thread, it should be for Nguyen's case instead...

Mr Wang Says So said...

As usual, the ever-reliable and charming Mr Wang will clarify.

Suppose a person is caught at Changi Airport with packs of heroin hidden in his underwear. He is prosecuted. The case is heard in open court. Evidence is adduced. He has his defence lawyers. The prosecution presents its own case. A judge hears the case. Everything is placed on public record (available from the Supreme Court). Members of the public can walk to hear the case. At the end of it all, the judge applies the necessary laws and according to those laws, then decides whether he believes, beyond reasonable doubt, that this person is guilty or not. And the person is convicted or not, and if convicted, he might be sentenced to death (depending on type of drug, weight of drug etc). And all this is possible because the law says that drug trafficking is (or can be) a capital offence.

An ISA case is different. Firstly, there is no court process. It never goes to court. Very little needs to be made public. Very little can or should, because sensitive info may be involved.

Suppose for example the authorities find that there is this Singaporean man who keeps going to Pakistan. He keeps meeting people who are believed to have terrorist connections. We discover that in Singapore, he keeps taking photos of certain public places such as office buildings and reservoirs - we have the feeling that these could be future terrorist targets.

So you see that there is reason to believe that he could be up to something quite evil. However, so far he has not committed a crime. It is not a crime to visit Pakistan frequently. It is not a crime to talk to people believed to have terrorist links. It is not a crime to take photos of office buildings and water catchment areas.

Therefore you can prosecute him for nothing. If he has actually blown up a building in Singapore and killed people, no doubt you could prosecute him for murder. And if you succeed, then he hangs. But he has not blown up any building yet. He may never blow up any building, or help in any way to do so. So obviously you cannot prosecute him and hang him. If you prosecute him, you would fail in court, because the evidence is just too weak to prove anything beyond reasonable doubt. Indeed for all you know, he is truly innocent - he just likes to visit Pakistan, he just happens to have friends who are believed to have terrorist links, and he just happens to like taking photos of office buildings and reservoirs.

So this is where the ISA might come in. The authorities cannot prove anything, but the Minister decides that based on what they know, it is too serious a potential threat to internal security to continue to allow this man to walk around freely, continue meeting his terrorist friends and continue taking photos of potential targets in Singapore. So they detain the man under the ISA. We don't want to wait for him to actually blow up a building and kill 200 people, before we actually arrest him.

That's the basic idea.

We don't hang him because he hasn't actually committed any crime yet. Any crime that we could prove, at any rate. Yet he is too big a risk to be allowed to walk around freely.

And one day, the authorities may take the view that he is no longer a threat. We don't know the full story. The authorities know more than us. So they decide. And in the Gerard case, they decide that he can be released. Perhaps he was never a real threat at all? Who knows. It's all intelligence stuff, hush hush, James Bond type of thing.

soci said...

"So this is where the ISA might come in. The authorities cannot prove anything, but the Minister decides that based on what they know, it is too serious a potential threat to internal security to continue to allow this man to walk around freely, continue meeting his terrorist friends and continue taking photos of potential targets in Singapore. "

They know yet they have no evidence, so what is this knowledge based on - theory? It isn't all hush hush James Bond, its Hush Hush Gestapo - KGB - Conviction without trial or evidence.

Just because it happens in the UK, US and Singapore it is never right, it is repugnant in any state and is proven to have negative consequences within the state that impliments it.

Internment doesn't improve security it makes it worse. During the 70's the British had internment for suspected IRA. They imprisoned innocent men and women without trial, and was the biggest tool for recruitment for the IRA. Denying people's freedom creates greater levels of insecurity.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Of course we all know how the ISA can go wrong. It is an imperfect system.

But let me tell you something - if Osama Bin Laden himself walked straight into Singapore and round and round Orchard Road in broad daylight surveying potential targets for terrorist attacks -

the Singapore authorities would have no recourse, under our conventional laws, of stopping him. You would not even be able to arrest him. After all, (a) no terrorist attack has occurred in Singapore, and (b) you have no prood beyond reasonable doubt that he has ever been involved in planning any terrorist attack in Singapore.

And the only way you can stop Osama from personally walking around inspecting Orchard Road buildings and planning where and when are the best places and times to plant a bomb ....

... is the ISA.

You see, Steve, in the end, it does ALL come down to balancing competing interests and priorities. After all, the best way to ensure that no innocent person ever gets convicted of anything is to simply abolish the courts; do away with the police force; and let the criminals just do absolutely whatever.