Sunday, August 4, 2019

Number of radicalised individuals on ISA orders at highest in 7 years

04 August, 2019


SINGAPORE — The number of radicalised individuals on orders under the Internal Security Act is at its highest in the last seven years, the Ministry of Home Affairs said, as Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam stressed the importance of the Act, describing it as the single most important tool against terrorism.

This is due largely to the spike in the number of radicalisation cases dealt with from 2015 onwards, it added in an emailed response to queries from TODAY.

Self-radicalised individuals make up the bulk of the 50 currently issued with ISA orders, the ministry said. Of these, there are 22 issued with orders of detention, 26 with restriction orders and two with suspension directions for terrorism-related conduct.

Since 2002 the MHA has dealt with over 130 individuals who were found to be involved in terrorism-related activities, it added.


The MHA revealed these figures in response to follow-up queries that TODAY had sent after an interview with Mr Shanmugam.

In the interview, Mr Shanmugam emphasised the importance of the ISA, having said previously that there is substantial support for the law. “The ISA, I think to me that's highly critical, essential and (the) single most important tool that we have. And it allows us to detain early,” he added.

The ISA allows for preventive detention, the prevention of subversion and the suppression of organised violence against individuals and property in order to ensure internal security.

But human rights activists have long called for the ISA to be abolished, accusing the Government of having used it against political opponents in the past. The calls grew louder after Malaysia repealed its own ISA in 2012, introducing a replacement law called the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act or Sosma. It took effect in July that year.

The new law, however, has been criticised by security analysts as a weak instrument that does not tackle the rising threat of terrorism. And this led the Malaysian government to pass another law, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), in 2015 to deal specifically with terrorism.

In Singapore, when radicalised individuals are arrested, they are either placed on restriction or detention orders depending on the extent of their radicalisation. Many have been rehabilitated and released, Mr Shanmugam pointed out.

He said: “So we have a clear process, detention, rehabilitate and release. You detain them and you don't do anything else with them and you put them away, then their lives are not going to get better. And you're not doing anything to deal with the situation really.”

Mr Shanmugam said it is not appropriate to try radicalised individuals or extremists in open court, as doing so “could make things worse”. There is also the issue of revealing national intelligence, he added.

In the United States, some terrorists are detained in the detention camp Guantanamo Bay – located in Cuba – a move which has been criticised by some for flouting human rights.

Campaigning before he took office in 2009, former US President Barack Obama promised to close the camp, but at the end of his two terms, his administration conceded that it had been unable to fulfil the pledge. In 2018, the new US President Donald Trump issued an executive order to keep the camp open.

Mr Shanmugam said the US has argued that detainees at the camp do not have the same rights as those on US soil as the camp is not located within US territory.

“So, it's detention without trial. But they satisfy themselves that that's because it’s not US territory. And they find it very difficult to bring them to trial and at the same time, obviously, they don't want to let them go either,” he said.

“I think it's better to be upfront about it, have such a law and the detainees are better treated here because there's a process. It's not lock you up and the keys are thrown away.”

[Not to defend the US or SG, but comparison between Guantanamo Bay detention centre and SG's detention process is not quite the same. The detainees here are treated better because the overt objective is to rehabilitate and release. Guantanamo Bay has the other operational objective of "extracting information", so the US military can prosecute targets militarily. SG does not have such an objective. (Although to be realistic, if there are any actionable information, SG would most likely inform the US for them to take "preventive measures".

But I do take the point, that the need for detention without trial exists and Guantanamo Bay is evidence of this.]

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