Rule of Law or Rule by the Powerful? The World Watches To See How Singapore Behaves

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On July 28th, a Singapore court will conduct a trial based on a so-called "illegal gathering of Falun Gong practitioners". Over ten Falun Gong practitioners will defend their innocence in court. A correspondent for the Falun Dafa related website Clearwisdom.net correspondent has conducted the following interview with human rights lawyer Terri Marsh.

Dr. Marsh: The arrest of the nine Falun Gong practitioners in Singapore is one more example of the lack of a rule of law in this nation. The arrest and charges say little about the conduct of those arrested, but quite a bit about the conduct of those responsible for their arrest.

First, it is important to understand that a viable legal system is always based on a rule of law. As Ronald Dworkin, Oxford Professor of Law and Jurisprudence explains in A Matter of Principle, Harvard University Press (Cambridge MA, 1985) a rule of law requires a judicial branch of government which operates independent of legislative and executive branches; an array of due process rights that not only include oversight of the judicial process itself, right to a fair trial, and right to cross examine one accusers, but also includes individual citizens right to a set of rules available to all that make clear what behaviours are legal and/or illegal. Without such a set of rules, the law is merely a tool of those in power who use it to maintain their control.

Of course as all lawyers know well, the precise parameters of lawful or unlawful conduct is never clear from a book of rules or a criminal code. The parameters of permitted and impermissible conduct are based on how the book of rules is interpreted and applied by the state. If for example citizens of "Nation A" walk their dogs on public walkways openly and in public and if "Nation A" has no rule book law that specifically prohibits dog walking on public walkways, it would be a breakdown in due process and of the rule of law to put some group or class at a disadvantage by arresting them for behaviour the state acknowledges is perfectly legal and permitted. The same analysis applies of course to the use of public areas to clarify the truth about the persecution of Falun Gong in China, by the distribution of flyers or in other ways not specifically proscribed by Singapore law.

The behaviour of the government of Singapore does not meet muster. It fails the ‘rule of law’ test miserably. By and through its recent arrest of Singapore citizens, citizens who were arrested for behaviour conducted more than 9 months after it took place, without a warning, an investigation or any other signal indicating that it qualifies as illegal and not permitted conduct, Singapore has joined the People’s Republic of China as a dictatorship that uses the law to maintain power and control.

Of course, in China the evidence is even more stark as is clear from a January 14th, 2000 Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procurorate Circular ("Proposals Concerning Issues Related to the Handling of Falun Gong Criminal Cases"). Section five of this government report makes clear that the prosecutorial and judicial branch must "exchange opinions and cooperate with each other in handling Falun Gong cases [by their] agreement on facts, witnesses, and charges ahead of time."

In China, the Judge knows well the verdict and sentence before a Falun Gong practitioner is brought before her or him. Based on the latest arrest of innocent practitioners of Falun Gong in Singapore, and the groundless conviction of others prior to (a conviction based not on proof beyond a reasonable doubt but findings of fact and law that would not hold up in a US court by any stretch of the imagination), it is more likely than not that the nine Falun Gong practitioners who have been aressted have already been deprived of their right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty as well as most other due process rights.

In our observations about this case, its imperative to look at the case as an illustration of a breakdown of the legal system in Singapore and not an error or mistake (much less crime) of the Singapore Nine.

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