The Covenants Watch group together with many non-governmental organisations from Taiwanese civil society organised a protest outside the Singapore Trade Office in Taipei today (26 Jun).

They were protesting against the continued detention of Amos Yee. Representatives from the various organisations of the Taiwanese civil society have demanded the immediate release of 16-year-old Amos Yee.

During the demonstration, a letter of protest was handed over to the Singapore Trade Office. Mr Sean Bai, Senior Assistant Trade Representative, accepted the letter on behalf of the trade office. In response to media query, Mr Bai said that the matter is currently under the judicial review and declined to make further comments.

In a statement by the Covenants Watch Group, the Taiwanese civil society said that it has specifically chosen this day, 26 June, to act in support of Amos Yee, as it is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The group felt that no person should be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments, especially for Amos Yee who is still a child. It should not have happened to Amos, the group said.

Unfortunately, Amos has been undergoing long period of trial. At the moment, he has been remanded for 2 more weeks at the IMH for further psychiatric assessments (‘Amos Yee to be remanded for 2 more weeks in IMH‘). This came after he was remanded earlier for 3 weeks for the reformative training review. His remand at IMH made worlds news this week (‘Amos Yee case makes world news again‘).

According to his lawyer, Dodwell & Co LLC, Amos was “mentally tortured” as a result of being “imprisoned at a psychiatric ward” while undergoing suitability assessment for reformative training during the 3 weeks. The lawyer added that the boy is suffering from depression and he attempted suicide because of the “inhumane treatment” [Link].

The lawyer revealed that Amos told the prison psychiatrists he had suicidal thoughts on the third day of imprisonment (4 Jun). He was then taken to a mental asylum ward with “one of his hands and legs strapped to bed”. The position is said to cause him great difficulty in urinating and passing motion thus his bed “stank with the smell of urine”. The ward’s light is on for 24/7, which constitutes a kind of mental torture. Amos is also forbidden access to books, unlike other prisoners, the lawyer said.

Singapore is a signatory of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Covenants Watch Group also asked Singapore to abide by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Singapore has ratified on 5 October 1995. In particularly, Article 37(c), which states that:

“Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;”

and Article 40(1) states:

“Parties recognize the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child’s respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society.”

This International law obliges the government of Singapore to ensure that Amos Yee is adequately protected, in particularly with regard to his safety and health.

The group asked that Amos be released immediately and called upon Taiwanese politicians not to visit Singapore unless there is a change of attitude by the Singapore authority to release Amos Yee, a young political prisoner of conscience.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) issued a statement on 22 Jun, urging the Singapore government to consider the best interests of Amos Yee as a child and releasing him immediately (‘UN agency calls for immediate release of Amos‘).

“The principle that lies at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Singapore is a party. OHCHR urges the Government to review the conviction of Amos Yee and the prosecutors to drop the demand for sentencing him to the Reformative Training Centre,” the UN agency said. “OHCHR calls for the immediate release of Amos in line with its commitment under the UN Convention on the Rights of Child.”

Indeed, the Amos Yee saga has truly travelled the globe, generating a lot of interests in the international community. With such strong statements made by civil societies in Taiwan, it’s not known how much damage is done to our longstanding cordial bilateral relationship between Singapore and Taiwan.

Will it result in the re-thinking of the military assistance that the Taiwanese authority has been granting us in the provision of military training facilities? In the larger picture, what will be the negative impact to our international standing over the handling of Amos Yee case by the PAP government?

What do you think?

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