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Singapore 2023

Restrictive laws were used to silence government critics. Executions continued, including of the first woman known to have been executed in 20 years.

Freedom of expression

The authorities continued to crack down on human rights activists and government critics.1

In November, a court sentenced human rights lawyer M Ravi to 21 days in prison and fined him SGD 10,000 (USD 7,453) over nine instances of contempt of court. In March, a court also suspended his licence for five years in relation to his defence of a death row inmate in 2020. In May, the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered M Ravi, Kirsten Han and the anti-death penalty group Transformative Justice Collective of which she is a member, and others to issue “corrections” under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). These related to their social media posts and online articles raising fair trial concerns in the case of Tangaraju Suppiah who was executed in April.2

In June, the government ordered the blocking of US-based news website Asia Sentinel for its refusal to comply with a POFMA order “to correct” an article about the use of government power against dissenters.

Judicial harassment of Terry Xu, editor of independent media outlet The Online Citizen, continued. In April, the High Court fined him and ordered him to pay costs amounting to SGD 30,000 (USD 22,474) for contempt of court, in relation to the publication of an open letter in 2021 criticizing the chief justice.

In March, the government announced that the prime minister’s brother Lee Hsien Yang and his wife were under investigation for perjury. They were also accused of leaving the country to avoid police questioning. Lee Hsien Yang was embroiled in a dispute with his brother over their family’s estate and had become increasingly critical of his brother’s government in recent years. In November, Lee Hsien Yang was ordered to pay damages to the law and foreign ministers who had filed defamation suits against him for Facebook posts in which they claimed he accused them of corruption.

Parliament passed the Online Criminal Harms Act in July, giving the government sweeping powers to restrict or block online content and raising concerns it could be used against critics.

Death penalty

Executions continued after being resumed in 2022. All of those executed were convicted of drug-related charges and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. Proceedings in many cases did not meet international fair trial standards. Among those hanged during the year was Saridewi Djamani in the first known execution of a woman in Singapore since 2004.3

  1. “Singapore: Suppression of Activists, Critics Continues Ahead of Elections”, 16 May
  2. “Singapore: Arbitrary and unlawful execution for drug-related offence shows disregard for human rights”, 26 April
  3. “Singapore: Unlawful and shameful drug executions continue, including of first known woman in 20 years”, 28 July