Lawyers for Liberty sues Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister over death penalty statement

  • Nation
  • Friday, 24 Jan 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers for Liberty is suing Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister for invoking the city-state’s anti-fake news law over a statement it made regarding the method of execution for the death penalty.

The human rights lawyers’ organisation filed the originating summons at the High Court registry through law firm Messrs Daim & Gamany here Friday (Jan 24).

The organisation, through its official entity as a non-governmental organisation-registered company LFL Sdn Bhd, was the first plaintiff while its adviser N. Surendran and director Melissa Sasidaran were named the second and third plaintiffs respectively.

The Singaporean Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam was the sole defendant in the suit.

In the supporting affidavit affirmed by Surendran, the human rights lawyer said that he, in his capacity as adviser to Lawyers for Liberty, had issued a press statement on Jan 16 regarding the methods used for executions in Changi Prison in Singapore, which he claimed were unlawful and brutal.

Surendran said the statement was issued due to public interest as there were many Malaysian citizens facing the death penalty at the prison.

On Jan 22, a “correction direction” pursuant to Section 11 of the Singapore Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 (Pofma) was served on Lawyers for Liberty through email, on the direction of the defendant.

The directive was for Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) to issue a “correction notice” at the top of the Jan 16 statement on its website and this must be done no later than Jan 23.

The correction notice alleged that LFL’s Jan 16 statement contained false statements of fact and that the Singapore Prison Service did not use any of the steps in the alleged procedure for judicial executions.

Failure to comply with the correction direction was an offence under Section 15 of the Pofma, and the second and third plaintiffs were liable to a fine up to S$20,000 (RM60,000) or imprisonment of up to 12 months while the first plaintiff was liable to a fine of up to S$500,000 (RM1.5mil).

On the same day (Jan 22), the defendant issued a press statement stating that the Jan 16 statement was false and that a correction direction had been issued.

The plaintiffs contended that the Singapore law could not impose liability on the plaintiffs as it sought to assume extra-territorial effect and would be a breach of the principle of comity of nations.

“The legislation practically cannot be applied to Malaysian citizens present in Malaysia particularly in this case where the alleged communication was not in Singapore, ” the affidavit said.

The plaintiffs are seeking a court declaration that the Jan 22 direction issued by the defendant against them is null, void and unenforceable, and that the defendant or anyone acting under his authority could not take any action to enforce any provision of Pofma against the plaintiffs as well as other reliefs deemed fit by the court.

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