Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected these prohibitions.
The law mandates caning, in addition to imprisonment, as punishment for approximately 30 offenses involving violence, such as certain cases of 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. Caning also may be used as a punishment for misbehavior while in prison; such punishment must be approved by the commissioner of prisons and reviewed by the Institutional Discipline Advisory Committee before being executed. Women, men over age 50 or under age 16, men sentenced to death whose sentences were not commuted, and persons determined medically unfit are exempt from punishment by caning. From January to October, the courts sentenced 1,257 persons to judicial caning, and authorities carried out 987 caning sentences, including on 373 foreigners. In 2014 authorities charged two German citizens with vandalism. In March 2015 they pleaded guilty to one count of vandalism and two counts of criminal trespassing. They each received sentences of nine months’ imprisonment and three strokes of the cane.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards. The government operated all prison facilities; there were no private detention facilities.
Administration: The category of the inmate determined the frequency and type of visitors allowed. In general authorities allowed family members and close relatives to visit inmates. Prison authorities must approve visits of nonrelatives. Authorities allowed most inmates two visits a month and up to three visitors in a visit session. They allowed up to four visits per week to detainees awaiting trial. A system exists under which prisoners may file complaints alleging mistreatment or misconduct. When called upon, the Provost Unit, which is located in the prison headquarters, investigates complaints.
Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of credible allegations of inhuman conditions. The Board of Visiting Justices, consisting of justices of the peace appointed by the minister for home affairs, is responsible for the basic welfare of the prisoners and conducts prison inspections. All inmates have access to the visiting justices.
Authorities investigated credible allegations of inhuman conditions and documented the results of such investigations in a publicly accessible manner. The government investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions. The Institutional Discipline Advisory Committee renders an opinion to the commissioner of prisons on whether corporal punishment was excessive.
Independent Monitoring: The government allowed the Singapore National Committee for UN Women and the Hong Kong Society of Rehabilitation and Crime Prevention to visit the prisons and gave diplomatic representatives regular, frequent consular access to citizens of their countries. Authorities also allowed members of the press to visit the prisons.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The national police, under the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, maintains internal security; the armed forces, under the direction of the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security.
Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the police force and the armed forces, and the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau had effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
In most instances the law requires the issuance of an authorized warrant for arrests, but some laws, such as the ISA, provide for arrest without warrant. Those arrested under a warrant must appear before a magistrate and legally charged within 48 hours. Authorities charged expeditiously and brought to trial the majority of those arrested. A functioning bail system existed. Authorities permitted individuals who faced criminal charges to have counsel, but only after investigations were complete or nearly complete. An accused individual may plead guilty or ask for a trial and seek advice of counsel before deciding what plea to enter. In criminal cases a preliminary hearing must occur no earlier than eight weeks after the initial plea. At this preliminary hearing, the judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and sets a court date suitable to the prosecution and to the defense. Any person accused of a capital crime is eligible to be assigned a counsel by the state–free of charge. The government also funded an expanded Criminal Legal Aid Scheme run by the Law Society that covers additional criminal offenses.
Arbitrary Arrest: Some laws, such as the ISA and the Criminal Law (temporary provisions) Act (CLA), have provisions for arrest and detention without warrant. ISA cases are subject to review by the courts to ensure strict compliance with procedural requirements under the act. Authorities invoked the ISA primarily against suspected security threats and employed the CLA mostly against suspected organized crime and drug trafficking. The Misuse of Drugs Act (the drug act) and the Undesirable Publications Act (UPA) also allow 48 hours of detention without a warrant, after which the person must be brought before a magistrate.
Pretrial Detention: The ISA and the CLA permit preventive detention without trial for the protection of public security, safety, or the maintenance of public order. The ISA authorizes the minister for home affairs, with the consent of the cabinet and the president, to order detention without filing charges if the minister determines that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years, which the minister may renew for an unlimited number of additional periods of up to two years each with the president’s consent.
As of October there were outstanding orders of detention (ODs) against 17 persons for their involvement in terrorism-related activities.
A religious rehabilitation program designed to wean detained terrorists from extremist ideologies remained in effect, and the government released a number of detainees under the program, subject to restriction orders (ROs).
As of October, 26 persons were on ROs. This number included both released detainees and suspected terrorists who were never arrested. A person subject to an RO must seek official approval for a change of address or occupation, travel overseas, or to participate in any public organization or activity. There is also a category of restriction called suspension direction (SD) that replaces an OD when it is suspended and is similar to an RO. It can also prohibit association with militant or terrorist groups or individuals as well as travel outside the country without the prior written approval of the government. As of October there was one person subject to a SD. Authorities monitored detainees released on ROs and SDs and required that they report to authorities on a regular basis.
The CLA comes up for renewal every five years; the most recent renewal was in 2014. Under the CLA, the minister for home affairs may order preventive detention, with the concurrence of the public prosecutor, for an initial period of one year, and the president may extend detention for additional periods of up to one year at a time. The minister must provide a written statement of the grounds for detention to the Criminal Law Advisory Committee (CLAC) within 28 days of the order. The CLAC then reviews the case at a private hearing. CLAC rules require that authorities notify detainees of the grounds of their detention at least 10 days prior to this hearing, during which detainees may represent themselves or be represented by a lawyer. After the hearing the committee makes a written recommendation to the president, who may cancel, confirm, or amend the detention order. The government used the CLA almost exclusively in cases involving narcotics, loan sharks, or criminal organizations and not for political purposes.
Persons who allege mistreatment while in detention may bring criminal charges against the government officials alleged to have committed the act; there were no reports of such cases during the year.
Both the ISA and the CLA allow for modified forms of detention such as curfews, residence limitations, requirements to report regularly to authorities, limitations on travel, and, in the case of the ISA, restrictions on political activities and association.
The drug act permits detention without trial in an approved institution for the purpose of the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts. Under the act, if a suspected drug abuser tests positive for an illegal drug, the director of the Central Narcotics Bureau may commit the person to a drug rehabilitation center for a six-month period, which a review committee of the institution may extend for a maximum of three years. Under the Intoxicating Substances Act, the bureau director may order treatment for up to six months of a person determined by blood test or medical examination to be an abuser of inhalant drugs.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The ISA provides detainees the right to be informed of the grounds for their detention and the right to have legal counsel; however, they have no right to challenge the substantive basis for their detention through the courts. The ISA specifically excludes recourse to the normal judicial system for review of a detention order made under its authority. Instead, detainees may make representations to an advisory board, headed by a Supreme Court justice, which reviews each detainee’s case annually and must make a recommendation to the president within three months of the initial detention. The president may concur with the advisory board’s recommendation to release a detainee prior to the expiration of the detention order, but the president is not obligated to do so.
Persons detained under the CLA have recourse to the courts via an application for a writ of habeas corpus. Persons detained without trial under the CLA are entitled to counsel, but they may challenge the substantive basis for their detention only to the CLAC. In 2013 Dan Tan, the suspected mastermind behind a global football match-fixing syndicate, and several accomplices were detained under the CLA in the interest of public safety. Tan filed a court order in 2014 requesting judicial review of his detention, but the application was rejected by the High Court, and the detention order was extended another year. In 2015 the Court of Appeal freed Dan Tan from prison after it ruled that his detention was unlawful. Subsequently, the court reviewed the evidence against Tan’s accomplices and then revoked their detention orders and placed them on police supervision orders.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence. Nevertheless, constitutionally authorized laws limiting judicial review continued to permit restrictions on individuals’ constitutional rights. The president consults with the prime minister but has discretion in appointing the chief justice and judges to the Supreme Court. The president appoints subordinate court judges on the recommendation of the chief justice. The Legal Service Commission, chaired by the chief justice, determines the term of appointment. Under the ISA and the CLA, the president and the minister for home affairs can exercise executive discretion, which explicitly (in the case of the ISA) or implicitly (in the case of the CLA) excludes normal judicial review. These laws empower the government to limit, on vaguely defined national security grounds, the scope of certain fundamental liberties that otherwise are provided for in the constitution.
Some commentators and representatives of international non-governmental organizations (NGO) noted that the Legal Service Commission’s authority to rotate subordinate court judges and magistrates and the ability of both the commission and the chief justice to extend, at their discretion, the tenure of Supreme Court judges beyond the age of 65 could undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The law provides all defendants with the right to a fair trial, and independent observers viewed the judiciary as generally impartial and independent, except in a small number of cases involving direct challenges to the government or the ruling party. The judicial system generally provided citizens with an efficient judicial process.
In most circumstances the criminal procedure code provides that a charge against a defendant must be read and explained to him as soon as the prosecutor or magistrate composes it. Trials are public and heard by a judge; there are no jury trials. Defendants have the right to be present at their trials and to have representation by an attorney; the Law Society administered a legal aid plan for persons facing criminal charges who could not afford an attorney. Under the state-administered Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offenses, anyone facing a capital charge is eligible for state-assigned counsel; no eligibility criterion is imposed. The criminal procedure code provides for an automatic appeal process for all death sentence cases. Authorities may offer nonviolent offenders the option of probation or paying a fine in lieu of incarceration.
Defendants also have the right to question prosecution witnesses, provide witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and review government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right of appeal in most cases. Defense lawyers believed they generally had sufficient time and facilities to prepare an adequate defense. Despite the general presumption of innocence, the drug act stipulates that a person who the prosecution proves possessed, had custody of, or controlled illegal narcotics shall be assumed to be aware of the substance and places the burden on the defendant to prove otherwise, although not beyond a reasonable doubt. The same law also stipulates that if the amount of the narcotic is above set limits, it is the defendant’s burden to prove he or she did not have the drug for the purpose of trafficking. Convictions for narcotics trafficking offenses carry lengthy jail sentences or the death penalty, depending on the type and amount of the illegal substance. Defendants have 14 days from the date of conviction to enter an appeal. Legislative amendments to abolish the mandatory imposition of the death penalty under certain circumstances of homicide and drug trafficking took effect in 2013. Under the new legal regime, those facing the death penalty have the opportunity to ask for resentencing under certain circumstances, and judges have discretion to impose life imprisonment instead.
Persons detained under the ISA or CLA are not entitled to a public trial. Proceedings of the advisory board under the ISA and CLA are not public.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
There is no differentiation between civil and criminal judicial procedures. The subordinate courts handled the majority of civil cases. Access to the courts is open, and citizens and residents have the right to sue for infringement of human rights. Individuals and organizations may not appeal adverse domestic decisions to regional human rights bodies.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The constitution does not address privacy rights; remedies for infringement of some aspects of privacy rights are available under statutory or common law. The government generally respected the privacy of homes and families. Normally police must have a warrant issued by a court to conduct a search, but they may search a person, home, or property without a warrant if they decide that such a search is necessary to preserve evidence or under the discretionary powers of the ISA, CLA, drug act, or UPA.
Law enforcement agencies, including the Internal Security Department and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, had extensive networks for gathering information and conducting surveillance and highly sophisticated capabilities to monitor telephone, e-mail, text messaging, or other digital communications intended to remain private. No court warrants are required for such operations. Most residents believed that authorities routinely monitored telephone conversations and the use of the internet. Most residents also believed that authorities routinely conducted surveillance of some opposition politicians and other government critics.