Detention without trial: Experiences under the Internal Security Act in Singapore

Ms Ariel Yap1

1Monash University, Monash, Australia

This study aims to understand what it was like to be detained without trial in Singapore from the 1950s to 1990s. It investigates how indefinite detention without trial has affected the lives of detainees during and after periods of confinement. The data consists of a combination of oral history interviews with former detainees, as well as members of family and the community. These interviews were done in conjunction with documentary analysis of media articles, legal documents, personal statements, voice / video testimonies and archival records.  This project is concerned with experiences of detention and related implications of the exercise of state power in extrajudicial processes. Moreover, the fact that detention without trial is not classified as imprisonment adds to the subjective nature of detention experiences. The indefinite, contradictory and concealed nature of detention has been found to have a detrimental impact on detainees internationally. The lack of transparency with regards to detention rates and processes further signifies the ability of firsthand accounts of lived experiences to provide colour and detail about what would otherwise be unavailable and inaccessible. This research therefore aims to shed light on such practices and produce social benefits by prioritizing the voices of former detainees. Such work will also help identify the

needs of individuals who continue to be detained before and/or without trial. This information can be used by NGOs, survivors’ networks, and international human rights organizations to improve the

quality of support services for persons subject to such powers.


Ariel is a PhD candidate, teaching and research associate at Monash University, Australia. Her research focuses on penal policy and practice. Ariel’s current research areas focus on Capital Punishment in South East Asia (with Shih Joo Tan), Comparative Prison Practices between Australia and Scandinavia (with Anna Eriksson), and Detention without trial and Crime Control. In 2019, Ariel commenced data collection for her PhD project in Singapore, Malaysia and London, during which she worked as an Honorary research fellow in the University of Liverpool (Singapore), and part of the Border Criminologies network in Oxford University. During the first semester of 2019 at University of Liverpool, Ariel delivered lectures through a critical perspective on the criminal justice system in Singapore and its associated practice of punitive legislation such as the death penalty, corporal punishment, detention without trial and additional financial penalties imposed on individuals and their families.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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