Access to Justice Concerns for Little India Riot Accused

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Photo credit: Mediacorp

Singapore, 18 December 2013 –  Workfair Singapore is deeply dismayed that some of those remanded on charges of rioting in the Little India incident have complained of police assault in a place where there was no camera.

According to customary international law, statements obtained by coercion or under duress may not be used in evidence. The United Nations codified this in its General Assembly Declaration against Torture (1975) and Convention against Torture (1984).

The allegation is extremely grave and deserves the full investigative weight of the authorities. In the light of four Cabinet ministers’ widely-reported pronouncements on the causes of the incident prior to the trial or Committee of Inquiry, it is imperative that these allegations be investigated thoroughly and openly so as to avoid any suspicion of impropriety.

We note that the judge has asked the Public Prosecutor to investigate. Given that the Public Prosecutor is the prosecuting authority and a component of the government, its credibility in conducting an impartial and independent investigation into the actions of a colleague agency, the Singapore Police Force, is jeopardised.

We call on the Minister for Law to appoint an independent investigator with full access to all the investigated persons and all the police officers who have had contact with them so as to facilitate an impartial and independent investigation and forestall any subsequent concerns of bias.

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 Workfair Singapore also notes that 53 persons investigated will be deported without benefit of trial. Police Commissioner Ng Joo Hee explained at a Ministry of Home Affairs press conference Tuesday that they are less “culpable” than those charged and were neither “violent […] active participants [nor] attacked uniformed personnel and vehicles, damaged property, and had incited others to do so”.

The arbitrary deportation of these 53 persons raises grave concerns about the Rule of Law. The Controller of Work Passes should not have arbitrary powers to revoke work passes without the right of appeal, or the Police Commissioner to determine culpability. Criminal charges should be tried in court which is the constitutionally appropriate forum for their adjudication. In the SMRT industrial action last year, 29 persons were deported without benefit of trial. By deporting these 53 without benefit of trial, the Controller has again denied low-waged migrant workers access to justice.

We call on the Minister for Home Affairs to stop the deportation and either submit these accused to trial or issue them with warnings as has been done with 200 others whose involvement was deemed to be “relatively passive”.

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Categories: Little India Riot

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