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Krofan and Andea v. Public Prosecutor

Court Federal Court of Singapore, Singapore
Decision title Judgment
Decision date 5 October 1966
  • Public Prosecutor
  • Stanislaus Krofan
  • Andres Andea
Categories War crimes
Keywords international armed conflict, war crimes
Other countries involved
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
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In May 1961, Malaya proposed the formation of the Federation of Malaya by amalgamating Malaya, Singapore and the British colonies in Borneo (Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei). Whilst Indonesia did not initially oppose the Federation, it did following the outbreak in 1962 of revolt in Brunei by a radical Muslim movement. From 1962 until 1966, a state of armed conflict existed between Indonesia and the Federation of Malaysia (of which Singapore was part since its merger in September 1963), otherwise known as the Indonesia-Malaysian Confrontation.

It was in the context of this armed conflict that on 14 April 1965, Stanislaus Krofan and Andres Andea set foot on Singapore/Malay soil carrying explosives with the intention of setting them off. Upon apprehension, they claimed that they were members of the Indonesian Armed Forces and had been ordered by their superiors to set off the explosives in Singapore. They were convicted by the High Court in Singapore for unlawful possession of explosives in a security area.

On appeal, the Federal Court of Singapore was asked to determine the applicability of the 1949 Geneva Conventions to Singapore at the time of the offence and determine whether Krofan and Andea were entitled to protections as prisoners of war under the Convention. By its judgment of 5 October 1966, the Court assumed that the 1949 Geneva Conventions were applicable and concluded that the appellants were not entitled to protection as prisoners of war. Although members of the Indonesian Armed Forces, they had been caught in civilian clothing acting as saboteurs. 

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Procedural history

The appellants, Stanislaus Krofan and Andres Andea, are charged with unlawfully carrying explosives into a security area in Singapore. The trial commenced before the High Court of Singapore on 17 September 1965.

Proceedings were adjourned by the trial judge in order to provide a competent tribunal time to determine the status of the appellants, in particular, whether they enjoyed prisoner of war status under the 1949 Geneva Conventions or not. On 19 April 1966, the proceedings resumed without any clarification of the appellants’ status.

The appellants were convicted by the trial judge for unlawful carrying of explosives in violation of Section 57(1)(b) of the 1960 Internal Security Act.

The appellants appealed the conviction to the Federal Court. 

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Legally relevant facts

On 14 April 1965, the appellants came into Singapore from one of the Indonesian islands in a boat without lights. They came ashore carrying with them explosives, which they claimed they had been ordered by their superiors to explode in Singapore. They claimed to be members of the armed forces of Indonesia though at the time of their entry into Singapore they were wearing civilian clothing. They were apprehended without any resistance ommediatewly upon setting foor on Singapore soil with the explosives in their possession.

At the time of the events, Indonesia and Malaysia (the latter not yet having seceded from Singapore) were in a state of armed conflict (p. 1).

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Core legal questions

  • Was the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War part of the domestic law of Singapore at the time the offence was committed?
  • Are the appellants prisoners of war within the meaning of the same Convention?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 3, 4-20, 29, 30 and 31 of the 1907 Hague Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land.
  • Articles 4 and 107 f the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War.
  • Section 57(1)(b) of the 1960 Internal Security Act.

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Court's holding and analysis

In light of the complexity and the unique questions presented by the issue of determining whether the Geneva Conventions formed part of Singapore domestic law at the time of the Appellant’s acts, the Court declined to decide the matter and proceeded under the assumption that the Conventions are applicable to Singapore at all material times (p. 3).

With respect to the status of the appellants under the 1949 Geneva Convention, it results from the undisputed facts that the appellants entered Singapore carrying explosives at a time when there was an armed conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia (of which Singapore was a part). Accepting the appellants’ argument that they are members of the Indonesian Armed Forces, the appellants entered Singapore as saboteurs intending to commit acts of sabotage. The questions is whether members of the armed forces of a party to the Convention who enter enemy territory dressed in civilian clothing as saboteurs may be considered prisoners of war (p. 3). The 1907 Hague Regulations, whilst defining spies and treatment afforded to them, do not deal with the position of members of armed forces caught out of uniform whilst acting as saboteurs. Following the case law of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Military Manual of the United Kingdom, the Court endorsed the reasoning that such members of the armed forces are in a position analogous to that of spies. The soldier saboteur would lose his prisoner of war status by purposefully having divested themselves of their uniform, the most characteristic sign of a soldier (p. 4). The definition of prisoners of war in the 1949 Geneva Convention has not altered the position of the soldier saboteur (p. 5).

Although such soldier saboteurs are not entitled to protection as prisoners of war, they must be treated with humanity and afforded a fair and regular trial. This is so in the present case (p. 5). 

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited