According to Section 9(1) of the 1965 Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law."
Section 14(1)(b) grants every citizen of Singapore the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. Under Clause 2(b), Parliament may by law impose "such restrictions as
it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof or public order".
The Constitution refers to the Singapore Police Force but does not address issues of use of force.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||Not party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||Not party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||N/A|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||Not party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Not party|
There is not yet a regional human rights treaty to which South-East Asian nations can adhere, although a non-binding human rights declaration was issued by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2013.
Police Use of Force
According to Section 75(2) of the 1955 Criminal Procedure Code (as amended), if a person "forcibly resists or tries to evade arrest, the police officer or other person may use all reasonable means necessary to make the arrest." It is further specified that the person arrested "must not be restrained more than is necessary to prevent his escape".S. 76, 1955 Criminal Procedure Code (as amended).
According to Section 63(2) of the 1955 Act,
a police officer may act in any manner (including doing anything likely to cause the death of, or grievous hurt to, any person) if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that —
(a) the person (whether acting alone or in concert with any other person) is doing or about to do, something which may amount to a terrorist act; and
(b) such act by the police officer is necessary to apprehend the person.
Additional powers are given by the 2018 Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act. Section 18(8) of the 2018 Act authorises a police officer to use "such force as is reasonably necessary, including the use of lethal weapons"
(a) to prevent an individual, or a driver or other person in charge of a vehicle or vessel, from entering or attempting to enter a cordoned area...; or
(b) to remove an individual or a vehicle or vessel from or away from a cordoned area, as the case may be.
These powers do not comply with international law and standards on police use of force.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
The 1933 Prisons Act (as revised, most recently in 2016) governs the use of weapons in prisons. According to Section 31(1), a prison officer may use
any weapon —
(a) against any prisoner or lock-up prisoner escaping or attempting to escape;
(b) against any person who does any act or attempts to do any act to facilitate the escape of any prisoner or lock-up prisoner; or
(c) against any person engaged in any attempt to damage or force or break open —
(i) the outside door or gate or enclosure wall of a prison or lock-up or any other part of a prison or lock-up; or
(ii) any part of any vehicle in which a prisoner or lock-up prisoner is conveyed.
In addition, under subsection 3, every prison officer may use
weapons against any prisoner or lock-up prisoner using violence on any prison officer or other person, if the prison officer has reasonable ground to believe that the prison officer or other person is in danger of life or limb, or that other grievous hurt is likely to be caused to him.
According to subsection 4, a prison officer "shall not resort to the use of any weapon under subsection (1) unless he has reasonable ground to believe that he cannot otherwise prevent the escape of any prisoner or lock-up prisoner." Furthermore, subsection 5 stipulates that: "Before using any firearm against a prisoner or lock-up prisoner or other person referred to in subsection (1), the prison officer shall give a warning to the prisoner or lock-up prisoner or that other person, as the case may be, that he is about to fire on him." Finally, it is specified that the use of weapons under Section 31 "shall be, as far as possible, to disable and not to kill".
Singapore has no independent external police oversight body. Instead, complaints and investigations are carried out by the Singapore Police Force themselves. Complaints are investigated by the Police Divisional Headquarters, and serious allegations of misconduct are forwarded to the Internal Investigation Department for investigation. The Deputy Commissioner of Police takes decisions on any disciplinary matters.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
Singapore is not a state party to either the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or the 1984 Convention against Torture (CAT). Concluding Observations in recent years by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women have not addressed police use of force.
There is no regional human rights court with jurisdiction to review police use of force in Singapore.
All instances of lethal use of force by police are subject to Coroner’s inquiries, but all recent cases are said to have been found to be lawful killings.