[JURIST] Singapore's Ministry of Law [official website] Wednesday rejected claims by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) [official website] that the country lacks an independent judiciary and fails to meet international standards of human rights. In its response [press release] to the claims, the Ministry rejected the IBAHRI's call for the country to provide increased protections of the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, and to ensure a more politically insulated judiciary. The Ministry said the group was biased in its assessment and that the country had already responded [PDF letter] to such concerns:
Singapore, like nearly all countries, subscribes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are interpreted and implemented according to the specific histories, cultures and circumstances of each country. Every society must find and decide the appropriate balance between rights and responsibilities for themselves. Human rights groups in IBAHRI have closed ranks with other Western human rights NGOs to prescribe for Singapore and all new countries, especially China, Western norms of liberal democracy as the only way to bring stability and prosperity. They believe that free market policies cannot succeed without Western liberal democracy, and it is their mission to make other societies adopt the Western model.AFP has more. The Straits Times has local coverage.
The IBAHRI made the claims in a report [PDF text; press release] issued Tuesday, when the group said the Singapore government heavily regulated both international and domestic press, strictly limited public assemblies, had extreme defamation laws, and that there was an apparent judicial bias towards members of the ruling People's Action Party [party website]. In the report the group objected to previous culture-based justifications the country had provided for some of its policies, commenting that "[d]espite debates between many nations as to the exact spectrum of human rights, fundamental and universal human rights cannot be considered culturally specific, but derive from the cultures of all countries." In June, a Singapore court filed criminal charges [JURIST report] against a US blogger and former Singaporean lawyer for defaming one of the country's judges.