The United Nations Human Rights Office for South-east Asia (OHCHR) yesterday called for the immediate release of blogger Amos Yee, who has been remanded at Changi Prison since June 2.
In a statement, the Bangkok-based OHCHR urged the Government to review the 16-year-old's conviction and asked that prosecutors drop their demand that Yee be sentenced to a stint at the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).
Yee was found guilty on May 12 of uploading an obscene image and making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians in a video. The prosecution asked the court at that time to consider Yee for probation.
But at an urgent closed-door hearing on May 27, the court heard that Yee refused to go for any interviews with his assigned probation officer, and that he again made public the video and obscene image which landed him in trouble in the first place.
On June 2, he was remanded for three weeks after District Judge Jasvender Kaur called for a report to assess if he is suitable for reformative training.
This is a rehabilitative sentencing option for young offenders aged under 21 who are found unsuitable for probation.
A stint lasts between 18 and 30 months. Yee is due in court today, when he may learn his sentence.
The OHCHR said yesterday that RTC is "akin to detention and usually applied to juvenile offenders involved in serious crimes".
While recognising the Singapore authorities' concern with "public morality and social harmony", the OHCHR is concerned that the criminal sanctions considered in this case "seem disproportionate and inappropriate in terms of the international protections for freedom of expression and opinion", the statement said.
While Yee himself has refused the option of being put on probation, the OHCHR appealed to the authorities to "give special consideration to his juvenile status and ensure his treatment is consistent with the best interests of the child".
This would be in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Singapore is a party, it added. The Convention defines a child as anyone under the age of 18.
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