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UPR of Singapore: High standard of living offset by concerns over migrants and corporal punishment

in SINGAPORE, 12/05/2011

On 6 May 2011 the delegation of Singapore appeared before the UPR working group to discuss its human rights record. The delegation was headed by Mr Ong Keng Yong, the ambassador at Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was joined by representatives from the ministries of health, law, home affairs, and community development. Throughout the dialogue he reiterated Singapore's principle to only ratify conventions and international human rights treaties that it knows it has the capacity to implement.

Many States highlighted Singapore's high standard of education and healthcare while also requesting Singapore to share its best practice in these areas. The majority of critical comments and questions from States focused on issues such as mistreatment of migrants, corporal punishment, domestic abuse, and the necessity to ratify remaining core human rights instruments. Although Singapore was praised by Myanmar for the access to health services and housing it provides to migrant workers, , many other States highlighted the need to take further steps to promote migrants' rights. Some States also raised concerns over freedom of the press. Some of the specific recommendations and comments made by

States included:

- Praise for the successful promotion of economic, social, and cultural rights, evident in the high standard of living in Singapore.

- Recommendations to ratify all human rights conventions, since Singapore is at present only party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

- Alarm at Singapore's status as a destination for trafficking and encouragement to implement concrete measures to address this, such as the establishment of shelters for victims of the crime.

- Encouragement to enact a passport law that would prohibit the withholding of travel documents of foreign workers by their employers, thus respecting the right to freedom of movement.

- Recommendations to align domestic legislation with the 'Bangkok Rules' regarding the treatment of female prisoners, in particular those suffering from HIV or AIDs.

- Dismay at the lack of investigation and prosecution of marital rape cases.

- Continued concerns over the use of corporal punishment, such as lashings, for certain crimes.

- Concerns over preventive detention laws that place national security in opposition to human rights.

At the adoption of the report by the Working Group, the delegation noted that many of the recommendations made were already in the process of being implemented. The delegation accepted 52 of the 102 recommendations made, including those related to efforts to improve the lives of the Singaporean people through education and health, and the protection of vulnerable groups. Singapore also pledged to turn its attention to the possibility of acceding to more human rights treaties. With regard to a proposal to adopt a more decentralised approach to implementing human rights standards, such as through the establishment of a national human rights institution, the delegation noted the recommendation and stated that it would investigate the possibility of accepting it. The delegation stated that some of the recommendations made demonstrated a misunderstanding of the laws of the country, as a result of which it would be unable to accept certain of the recommendations relating to crime and security, It did not give the specific number of recommendations rejected, instead indicating that it would notify its final decision to the 18th session of the Human Rights Council, in September 2011.
 

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