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ICJ mission to Singapore dismisses allegations of ‘Marxist conspiracy’

The ICJ visited Singapore to investigate and report on the detentions under the Internal Security Act of a total of 22 men and women accused of participating in a ‘Marxist conspiracy’ to overthrow the Singapore government.

The members of the Mission were:

  • Dr. Yap Thiam Hien, an Indonesian lawyer, representing the International Commission of Jurists;
  • Mr. Etienne Jaudel, a French lawyer, representing the International Federation of Human Rights;
  • Mr. Akinori Hashimura, a lawyer from Japan, representing the former Judge Kenkichi Nakadaira from the Asian Human Rights Commission;
  • Ms Jane Kelsey, a law lecturer from New Zealand, as mission coordinator for the Asian Human Rights Commission.

In its Report the Mission concludes:

  1. The detention without charge or trial, ‘brainwashing’ interrogation techniques and other physical and psychological maltreatment by the Internal Security Department amount to clear and grave violations of the human rights of those detained and an abrogation of the rule of law. With only one hour’s interval, detainees were interrogated continuously by relays of interrogators for 5 days and nights, with complete sleep deprivation. (This is a well-known torture practice).
  2.  The activities of the detainees were a legitimate exercise of their civil rights, which should be defended and applauded in a healthy democracy. There is no evidence which justifies their being labelled ‘Marxists’ or ‘communists’.
  3.  There is no evidence of a Marxist conspiracy or that this informal network of community development groups and workers posed any imminent threat to the security of Singapore.
  4. The Singapore government’s credibility is further damaged by its continued refusal to put its evidence of a ‘Marxist conspiracy’ to proof in a formal trial, and by its refusal to discuss with the Mission the serious allegations made against the government in evidence given to Mission.
  5. The Singapore government has once again used the Internal Security Act as a tool to destroy democratic opposition and silence critics. The main targets this time were the increasingly outspoken young professionals within the Catholic church and Singapore Law Society.

Dr. Yap, on behalf of the Mission, states:

“The Singapore government has continually rejected demands for it to prove this alleged ‘conspiracy’ in open court, and give those detained a fair trial. We believe it has refused because its evidence of a ‘conspiracy’ is simply too weak to stand up in court. The Mission’s report endorses world opinion that the real motive for these detentions is to quash internal opposition and criticism of the Singapore government, not to protect the security and welfare of Singapore society against a Marxist conspiracy. ”

“The Mission is relieved to know that sixteen of those detained have now been released, although we believe the conditions placed on their freedom are unwarranted and oppressive. We deplore the continued detention of the remaining six detainees. We repeat our plea to the Singapore Government to release them immediately, and to lift the restrictions imposed on all those who have so far been released.”

“We are also urging the international community to take immediate action. Concern for protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms must transcend political and national boundaries. Governments, non-governmental bodies, concerned people and groups are urged to intercede on behalf of these detainees by exerting moral persuasion and any other appropriate pressure on the Singapore Government. They should seek the immediate release of the remaining detainees, and the lifting of all restrictions on the activities of those released.”


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October 12, 1987