9 Dec 2005

International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2005

Let us be clear: torture can never be an instrument to fight terror, for torture is an instrument of terror. [...]

Today, on Human Rights Day, let us recommit ourselves to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and let us rededicate ourselves to wiping the scourge of torture from the face of the earth."

Kofi Annan,
United Nations Secretary-General

Let us not just shrug our shoulders this year on International Human Rights Day and instead take time to get familiar with one Convention protecting aspects of human rights. Good to read:UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment

Sadly, it is unsurprising that Singapore has not ratified the Convention. Our Singapore did not even sign the Convention and give reservations. Below is a past US Deparment of State observation of Human Rights practices in Singapore related to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them during the year. In previous years, there were a small number of cases involving alleged police mistreatment of detainees. Persons who alleged mistreatment were permitted to bring criminal charges against government officials suspected of involvement in such abusive behavior. The media reports fully on allegations of police abuse, and the Government has taken action against abusers. In July, a court overturned a dismissal of a former police officer who was fired in 2001 for allegedly slapping three women detainees in 1999; the Government is appealing the decision.

The Penal Code mandates caning, in addition to imprisonment, as punishment for approximately 30 offenses involving the use of violence or threat of violence against a person, such as rape and robbery, and for nonviolent offenses such as vandalism, drug trafficking, and violation of immigration laws. Caning is discretionary for convictions on other charges involving the use of force, such as kidnapping or voluntarily causing grievous hurt. Women and men over age 50 or under age 16, and those determined medically unfit are exempt from punishment by caning. Although statistics for the year were not available, caning was a commonly administered punishment.

Prison conditions, while Spartan, generally were believed to meet international standards. However, a member of an opposition party who served a 5-week prison sentence in 2002 said after his release that he and other sick bay inmates had been chained to their beds at night. The Government responded that the inmates were restrained to minimize the risk of hurting themselves, medical staff, or other inmates. The Government did not allow human rights monitors to visit prisons; however, diplomatic representatives were given consular access to citizens of their countries.

Male and female prisoners are held separately, and juveniles are held separately from adults. Pretrial detainees are held separately from convicts. It is unknown where persons detained under the ISA are held."

An apt description of the current regime's questionable refusal to sign and ratify the Convention and indirectly reserve the right to use torture?

Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

No comments: