Amnesty International Calls on Singapore to Release British Author of Death Penalty Book

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Amnesty International Calls on Singapore to Release British Author of Death Penalty Book

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International
is calling on the Singapore authorities to immediately release British
author Alan Shadrake, who was arrested for criminal defamation on July
18th after he published a book critical of Singapore's use of the death
penalty.

"Singapore uses criminal defamation laws
to silence critics of government policies," said Asia Pacific deputy
director
at Amnesty International, Donna Guest.  "The Singapore government
should release Shadrake at once".

Shadrake launched his book, Once a
Jolly
Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock
, in Singapore on July 17th.
His book features an interview with a former hangman at Singapore's
Changi
Prison. On July 18th, Shadrake was arrested and is currently being
detained
at Cantonment Police Station.

The Singapore Police Force confirmed
Shadrake's
arrest in a statement which said: "He is being investigated for alleged
offences of criminal defamation and other offences."

Police said the arrest was made pursuant
to a complaint lodged on July 16th by the Media Development Authority
(M.D.A.),
the government body responsible for censoring publications and
broadcasts.
According to its website, the M.D.A. is "developing Singapore into a
vibrant
global media city."  

"If Singapore aspires to be a global
media
city, it needs to respect global human rights standards for freedom of
expression," said Guest. "Singapore should get rid of both its criminal
defamation laws and the death penalty."

Criminal defamation in Singapore carries
a sentence of up to two years in prison and uncapped fines. This has had
a chilling effect on freedom of speech. According to Amnesty
International,
peaceful criticism of government policies must never be the subject of
criminal proceedings.

In 2010, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on
freedom
of expression, Frank La Rue, called on all states to abolish all
criminal
defamation laws, which he said could not be justified, given that
non-criminal
defamation laws adequately protect people's reputations.  

Singapore's death penalty laws also fail
to meet international human rights standards. Its drug law violates
fair-trial
standards by a presumption of guilt against defendants charged with
drug-trafficking,
which in turn carries a mandatory death penalty. This prevents judges
from
considering the circumstances of a case, or handing down lighter
sentences.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions has stated that the death penalty should
under no circumstances be mandatory by law, regardless of the charges
involved.

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