The imposition of a criminal punishment that stems solely from the peaceful exercise of the right to peaceful assembly directly contravenes international human rights law and standards and is a blatant attempt to silence an outspoken human rights defender. 

Activists and human rights defenders in Singapore regularly face harassment, investigation, and unfounded charges for no other reason than expressing their views and organising peaceful gatherings. The sentencing of Jolovan Wham on charges violating his fundamental rights is emblematic of the lengths to which the Singaporean authorities are willing to go to silence and punish peaceful dissent. …

Wham’s sentencing and the further charges he is facing for peaceful expression and assembly, reflect Singapore’s ongoing crackdown on these rights, which looks set to worsen ahead of possible elections. The cases below underscore the breadth of the crackdown.

  • In October 2018, the State Court of Singapore convicted artist and activist Seelan Palay for carrying out an “illegal assembly” under the Public Order Act, imposing a fine US$1,849.
  • In December 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong filed defamation charges against blogger Leong Sze Hian, after he shared an article on his Facebook page, which alleged that the Prime Minister had links to the Malaysian 1MDB financial scandal.
  • That same month, the Attorney General’s Chamber charged Terry Xu, the editor of the internet news outlet The Online Citizen, with defamation for publishing an article in September 2018 that linked the government to corruption allegations.

These examples show the systematic harassment and intimidation faced by a wide spectrum of actors, including artists, journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and political activists simply for the peaceful expression of their views.

In hope of reversing this alarming trend, we call on the Singaporean authorities to:

  • Quash the convictions against Jolovan Wham and Seelan Palay, who were prosecuted solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
  • Drop the defamation charges pending against Leong Sze Hian, Terry Xu, and Daniel Augustin De Costa.
  • Repeal or substantially amend all repressive laws that unduly curtail the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and put in place adequate legal mechanisms and procedures to ensure that these rights are enjoyed by all and not subject to unlawful restrictions.
  • End the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, including through the misuse of the criminal justice system, and ensure they can pursue their human rights work without fear of reprisals.

Amnesty International


ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Human Rights Watch