(AFP) – Jul 10, 2008
SINGAPORE (AFP) — Allegations that Singapore fails to meet international standards for political and human rights are without substance, the city-state's law ministry said Thursday.
It was reacting to a report by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, which said it had identified a number of areas in which Singapore fell far short of international norms.
"The human rights allegations in the report... have no substance," the Singapore ministry said in a statement.
It accused the rights institute of closing ranks "with other Western human rights NGOs to prescribe for Singapore and all new countries, especially China, Western norms of liberal democracy as the only way to bring stability and prosperity."
The law ministry referred to a 15-page brief it submitted to the bar association but which it said had not been taken into account.
"In Singapore, our growth and prosperity over the years have, through judicious planning, careful management and sound investments, translated into progress in Singaporeans' well-being in terms of life expectancy, adult literacy rate, prevalence of criminality, and access to clean water, sanitation, and health services," the Singapore brief said.
The bar association, calling human rights universal and indivisible, issued its 72-page report on Tuesday, several months after the IBA held its annual convention in Singapore. The association represents 30,000 lawyers globally.
"In particular, democratic debate and media comment are extremely restricted and government officials have initiated numerous successful defamation suits against both political and media critics," IBA executive director Mark Ellis said.
The IBA report noted Singapore's "impressive" economic development but said the city-state "cannot continue to claim that civil and political rights must take a back seat to economic rights".
In its response, Singapore denied it had used defamation laws to stifle opposition politicians J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan.
Both men were declared bankrupt -- and therefore ineligible to run for political office -- for failing to pay libel damages to Singapore's leaders.
Singapore said the IBA did not present evidence for its allegation there were "concerns about an actual or apparent lack of impartiality and/or independence" of the judiciary in cases linked to ruling party litigants.
IBA's rights institute also expressed concern about "limitations on free assembly" in the city-state, but Singapore responded that the constitutional restrictions ensure that assemblies do not result in acts "against the security of the nation" or cause damage.
Addressing concerns about press freedom, Singapore said views other than those of the government were reflected in local newspapers and other media.
"The IBA's concerns about the rule of law are unfounded, these concerns having been premised on allegations of questionable merit from certain non governmental organisations and individuals that have persistently demonstrated bias against Singapore," the city-state's response said.
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