A proposed Singapore law can keep serious offenders in prison indefinitely, but will it infringe on rights?
Legal experts in Singapore welcome a proposed law that could keep serious offenders in prison indefinitely, but some have cited concerns that the legislation could deprive convicts of their rights, calling for clarity on reviews to ensure the law is used properly.
The sentencing regime, otherwise known as the Sentence for Enhanced Public Protection (SEPP) law, is aimed at preventing dangerous offenders in the city state from being automatically released at the end of their jail terms, especially if they are determined as likely to reoffend.
The government has stressed that the decision to put someone on the SEPP track is made by the courts and not at a minister’s discretion.
The bill, which is slated to be debated in parliament on Monday, will then allow for reviews by boards and for the home affairs minister to make the final decision on an offender’s release. While such processes are not new to the body of law in Singapore, activists have expressed concerns.
Activist Rocky Howe, an anti-death penalty activist, said the yearly reviews for offenders under the proposed legislation were a “severe deprivation of liberty and curtailment of rights”.
“The operation of the review process and the decision around when to release a person is opaque and lacks public scrutiny. This undermines due process, and increases the risk of abuse,” Howe said, comparing it to the Internal Security Act.
Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA) gives the home affairs minister the power to detain individuals without trial for two-year terms that can be renewed at discretion. Each order must be reviewed by an advisory board headed by a Supreme Court judge and two citizens, appointed jointly by the president and chief justice.
In recent years, the