UN Human Rights Office calls on the Government of Singapore to drop charges against performance artist and activist

BANGKOK (20 October 2017) - The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia calls on the Government of Singapore to drop the charges against performance artist and activist Mr. Seelan Palay, a Singaporean national, in relation to a peaceful performance that he staged in front of the Parliament House in Singapore on 1 October.

The performance piece was entitled '32 Years: The Interrogation of a Mirror' and was held in relation to the imprisonment and house arrest of former Parliament member Mr. Chia Thye Poh from 1966 to 1998. The piece was conducted by Mr. Palay alone and in silence and consisted of him drawing on a mirror. The piece took place in Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park, in front of the National Gallery and subsequently in front of the Parliament House.

After 30 minutes of standing in front of the Parliament House, Mr. Palay was arrested by 12 police officers for 'organising an assembly without permit' under the Public Order Act. He was subsequently detained for 24 hours at Cantonment Police Headquarters and was released the following day. Items that he used during the performance, including a mirror, a banner and a book, were confiscated. If convicted, he may face a fine up to 10,000 Singapore Dollars (7,369 USD), up to 6 months imprisonment or both. Furthermore, he is not allowed to travel outside of Singapore until his case is taken to Court, unless permitted by the Attorney General.

"We are concerned that the arrest and investigation of Mr. Palay appears to be a disproportionate and excessive response by law enforcement officials with regard to his actions and are aimed at curtailing his right to freedom of opinion and expression" said Cynthia Veliko, the South-East Asia Regional Representative for the UN Human Rights Office.

"We also remain concerned, more broadly, about the extremely low threshold used by Singapore for the arrest and prosecution of those induals peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression" she said.

We urge the Government of Singapore to uphold its 2016 UPR commitment to ensure that freedom of opinion and expression and peaceful assembly are encouraged and protected in Singapore.


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    The Regional Office for South-East Asia in Bangkok represents the High Commissioner for Human Rights within South East Asia. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations and heads the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which spearheads the United Nations' human rights efforts.