Singapore: 15 Conscientious Objectors in Prison
Conscription and Conscientious Objection
(08.11.2021) Singapore declared to support 210 of 324 recommendations the country received after the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council. The country refused recommendations regarding conscientious objection. Singapore has a conscription system for men and doesn’t accept conscientious objection to military service.
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses currently report on their website that 15 young men are being in prison in Singapure for their conscientious objection: "Eight of them are serving a second sentence because they refused to change their stance after serving their first prison term. These young men have no legal recourse in Singapore, as the government enforces compulsory military service and does not recognize the right of conscientious objection."
Jehovah’s Witnesses add that 18-year-old conscripts who refuse to perform military service are punished with up to 15 months imprisonment in a military camp. After serving their sentence, they are called up again and in the case of conscientious objection subjected to a prison sentence of up to 30 months.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement regarding the UN member states’ recommendations, in which it also said that given its national contexts, Singapore "has no choice but to rely on conscription".
"This system is only viable if equally, every male Singapore citizen and second generation permanent resident, regardless of race or religion, fulfils their obligations to defend our country."
It added that the right to freedom of religion is constitutionally protected in Singapore. "However, this is not an absolute right under international law. In this context, Singapore does not recognise the universal applicability of the right to conscientious objection to military service."
Sources: Channel News Asia: Singapore addresses death penalty, foreign interference law during UN human rights review. October 2, 2021. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/singapore-un-human-rights-council-upr-review-death-penalty-foreign-interference-2216316 and Jehovahs Witnesses: Singapore – Imprisoned for Their Faith, viewed November 8, 2021. https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/singapore/jehovahs-witnesses-in-prison/