Liberal member of the Swedish Parliament, Birgitta Ohlsson, is criticizing The International Bar Association (IBA) for choosing Singapore as the venue of their annual convention in October 2007.
In an open letter to the IBA, Birgitta Ohlsson, who is also known as a human rights activist, points to the fact that the government of Singapore ‘leaves democracy in a shambolic state’. She urges the IBA to reconsider its choice of venue and thereby ‘send a strong signal to all undemocratic regimes’.
City of finesse and political silence
IBA has, according to its website, chosen Singapore as the venue, because the city-state ‘is unique and dynamic city, filled with culture and brimming with energy and finesse’, but that has not only upset the Swedish MP, but also the Singaporean leader of the opposition, Chee Soon Juan of the Democratic Party. In another open letter to the IBA, he states that the judicial system of his home country does not embrace freedom of speech and other basic human rights.
In order to promote judicial rule worldwide, the IBA has founded its Human Rights Institute. And here the verdict on free speech is clear: “The IBA believes in the fundamental right of the world’s citizens to have disputes heard and determined by an independent judiciary, and for judges and lawyers to practice freely and without interference”. Apparently, that does not stop the association from mixing business and pleasure in Singapore this autumn. IBA has not issued a statement in response to the critics.
The IBA expects more than 3000 lawyers will attend the annual meeting in the judicially dubious Singapore.