Rights group sues Singapore minister over action in republic linked to brutal execution claim

Lawyer Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex January 24, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lawyer Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex January 24, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — Rights advocacy group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) filed a lawsuit with the High Court here today against Singapore Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam over a directive he issued after the group alleged of brutal execution methods in Changi Prison.

LFL’s counsel, Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar, said they were seeking a court declaration that Shanmugam’s directive, made under Singapore’s controversial law against fake news, was extraterritorial action and adversely affected the fundamental human rights.

As such, it cannot be enforced against the plaintiffs as they are citizens of another country.

“As a preliminary issue you cannot apply your law to citizens of another country based own your perception of the laws, basically,” Gurdial told reporters after filing the suit at Kuala Lumpur High Court today.

According to the filing, LFL is also seeking a declaration that Shanmugam, or anyone acting under his authority, cannot take any action to enforce any provision under the republic’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 (POFMA) against the plaintiffs.

The suit named Shanmugam as the sole defended, with LFL Sdn Bhd adviser N. Surendran and director Melisa Sassidaran acting as the plaintiffs.

(From left) lawyers Melissa Sasidaran, N. Surendran, Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar and Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex January 24, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
(From left) lawyers Melissa Sasidaran, N. Surendran, Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar and Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex January 24, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Datuk Seri Ambiga Sreenevasan, who is also representing the group, said Shanmugam’s directive demonstrated why the POFMA was detrimental to civil liberties.

Malaysia had an equivalent law previously but the Pakatan Harapan government abolished this last year.

“I think this really proves what our government did in repealing our act is absolutely correct because the oppressive nature of this legislation is clear for all to see,” she said.

Yesterday, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directed the POFMA Office to issue these correction orders to LFL together with sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC), online news site Yahoo News Singapore and freelance journalist Kirsten Han, alongside their social media posts or articles.

On January 16, LFL released a statement alleging Singapore prison officials were trained to kick condemned inmates on the neck, among others, to kill them in a manner similar to death by hanging.

The rights group representing Malaysians sentenced to die in Singapore further alleged that it has eye-witness testimony from a Singaporean prison official who was willing to testify to this in an “appropriate forum”.

It refused to withdraw the allegation after Singapore denied this as it said its allegation was supported by testimony from past and present Singaporean prison officials.

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