Singapore executions under scrutiny as more hanged for drugs | Death Penalty News

When Angelia Pranthaman walked on stage in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to unveil a brand new tune written by her brother on demise row, she advised a narrative concerning the historic Greek thinker Socrates.

Like Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, Socrates was sentenced to demise, however whereas awaiting his punishment the thinker started to attempt to study the flute.

“However we’re going to die tomorrow, what use will that be to you?” requested one other man on demise row.

Angelia advised the viewers the story helps her perceive her brother higher, who’s creating music even whereas awaiting execution for heroin trafficking.

“Pannir has a message for us to carry again to society and the federal government: we will’t change the previous, however we will make use of the time now we have now,” she stated on the occasion on July 29, as she appealed for his sentence to be commuted.

Pannir is certainly one of dozens of individuals thought on demise row in Singapore, most of whom have been convicted of drug offences. After a two-year pause because of COVID-19, the town state’s authorities has returned to executions this 12 months at what appears to some like a reckless tempo.

Already eight individuals have been hanged in 2022, whereas two extra executions have been scheduled for daybreak on Friday.

“The pace of those executions this 12 months is admittedly astonishing,” stated Kirsten Han, a Singaporean who campaigns towards the demise penalty, including that it looks like the federal government is making an attempt to “clear a backlog”.

Han notes the federal government additionally seems to have damaged with the longstanding custom of scheduling executions solely on Fridays, creating extra stress and uncertainty for the households.

“Now it’s like several time they may very well be calling you. There’s no extra predictability so it’s simply fixed nervousness,” she stated.

The Singapore authorities didn’t reply to Al Jazeera’s requests for remark concerning the resumption and charge of executions.

Angelia’s brother Pannir is an ethnically Indian Malaysian, certainly one of many individuals from ethnic minorities on demise row in Singapore, the place 74 p.c of the inhabitants is ethnically Chinese language.

The Singaporean authorities advised a UN inquiry in 2021 that race had “no bearing” on convictions, but it surely has refused to supply knowledge on whether or not ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by the demise penalty.

Han says that it’s “fairly extensively identified” that minorities are “closely disproportionately overrepresented on demise row” in addition to within the jail system basically. “For there to be such a heavy skew there may be undoubtedly one thing in it that must be checked out extra intently,” she stated.

Profile of M Ravi walking past a drug prevention advertisement during a vigil for Nigerian Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in 2007
M Ravi has been one of the crucial outstanding legal professionals dealing with demise penalty circumstances for years, however has been accused of making an attempt to forestall executions after the completion of the traditional judicial course of [File: Nicky Loh/Reuters]

The UN Human Rights Workplace launched an announcement on the finish of final month condemning the execution of Singaporean Nazeri Bin Lajim, an ethnic Malay, and calling for a halt to all executions the place the defendants have been discovered responsible of drug expenses.

Beneath worldwide legislation, it famous, executions can solely be used for the “most critical crimes” and drug crimes “clearly don’t meet this threshold”.

The assertion additionally identified that victims of the executions disproportionately appear to be “minority individuals and are typically from economically deprived backgrounds”.

“The apply quantities to discriminatory therapy of minorities,” it added.

The eight individuals hanged thus far this 12 months have all come from an ethnic minority background or been Malaysian nationals.

Authorized assist

Attorneys dealing with demise row circumstances have additionally are available for scrutiny.

In March, legal professionals for Nagaenthran Dharmalingam have been accused of “blatant and egregious abuse of the courtroom processes” for submitting a last-minute enchantment to spare the lifetime of the Malaysian, who had an IQ of 69. The enchantment was rejected, and the legal professionals have been fined.

“The system has grow to be so hostile to legal professionals taking up these circumstances,” Han stated. “What this implies is that it’s created an setting during which legal professionals are extraordinarily afraid and reluctant to tackle late-stage circumstances.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Legislation rejected this characterisation.

“Attorneys don’t face penalties for making late stage functions. Like in lots of jurisdictions, there are guidelines on what materials must be offered with such functions. There are additionally guidelines to forestall abuse of courtroom course of,” they stated through electronic mail.

Within the final eight demise penalty circumstances, a minimum of 4 defendants needed to signify themselves after the enchantment course of, whereas one was represented by his mom.

Han says Nazeri, who wanted a language interpreter, didn’t even absolutely perceive when the choose rejected his try to remain the execution.

Outstanding demise penalty lawyer M Ravi says he has already paid 40,000 Singapore {dollars} ($29,000) in fines and has been ordered to pay an additional 20,000 Singapore {dollars} ($14,500) after the courtroom stated he was making an attempt to forestall executions after the completion of the traditional judicial course of.

“Disciplinary proceedings are actually ongoing which can ultimately see me being suspended for a very long time, depriving demise row inmates with the uncommon representations they’d within the current previous,” Ravi advised Al Jazeera through electronic mail.

Ravi says the fines have “instilled worry amongst legal professionals” which may undermine access to justice for these dealing with capital expenses, violate the suitable to a good trial and erode confidence within the judicial system.

He describes the current surge in capital punishment as an “execution binge” comparable with 1993, when Singapore was described as “Disneyland with the demise penalty” and executions befell recurrently.

“The most recent sequence of executions will as soon as once more make Singapore the capital of the world’s capital punishment,” Ravi stated.

On Thursday, a bunch of 24 demise row inmates appeared through Zoom for a problem they’d introduced over access to justice, arguing legal professionals’ reluctance to tackle circumstances infringed on their rights beneath the structure. The decision — delivered late at evening after seven hours of deliberation — went towards them.

None has legal professionals.

One in every of them, Abdul Rahim Shapiee, was scheduled to be hanged at daybreak on Friday.

Chiara Sangiorgio, a demise penalty professional at Amnesty Worldwide, says it’s “heartbreaking” that males dealing with demise have been left unrepresented and referred to as for Singapore to take “immediate motion” to rectify the state of affairs.

“It doesn’t matter what we take into consideration the demise penalty, it might be unconscionable to disregard these empty chairs in courtroom,” she stated.

‘Doubling down’

Campaigners have additionally pointed to the comparatively small quantity of medicine being smuggled in capital punishment circumstances, and whether or not executions even work as a deterrent to the commerce.

“Most of these convicted of drug trafficking have been sentenced to demise after they have been convicted in relation to comparatively low quantities of medicine and for having a comparatively restricted involvement within the drug trafficking commerce,” stated Sangiorgio.

Nazeri, for instance, was executed for trafficking 33.39 grams of diamorphine. However given he suffered from “long-term habit”, the UN Human Rights Workplace stated in its report final month that “a lot of the diamorphine would have been for private use”. What was left would due to this fact not have met Singapore’s 15-gram threshold for the obligatory demise penalty.

On July 26, a 49-year-old Singaporean of Malay ethnicity was executed for trafficking hashish.

In Singapore, anybody caught with greater than 500 grams (1.1lb) of the drug faces a compulsory demise sentence, however many nations all over the world, together with Thailand, are loosening restrictions on the usage of marijuana. Neighbouring Malaysia can be contemplating permitting the usage of hashish for medical causes and has additionally introduced that it’ll abolish the obligatory demise penalty for drug circumstances.

Sangiorgio says utilizing the demise penalty in any respect is “towards the worldwide pattern”, much more so in drug circumstances. “Lately now we have seen solely 4 nations perform executions for drug-related offences,” she stated.

Singapore amended its demise penalty provisions for medication in 2012 to present the courtroom restricted discretion in drug sentencing supplied an offender met sure circumstances (PDF).

The federal government has additionally stated the demise penalty is critical as a deterrent to trafficking and to maintain the nation protected; Han says there may be “no clear proof” that’s the case.

“Amongst medical professionals who’re really working with individuals who have drug dependence, they’re so clear that these insurance policies don’t work and but politicians are nonetheless saying that it does,” she stated.

Sangiorgio agrees, saying UN our bodies just like the UN Workplace on Medicine and Crime and the Worldwide Narcotics Management Board have urged governments to abolish the demise penalty in relation to drug crimes.

“In actual fact, the UN Widespread Place on medication has all the time been to induce governments to shift away from punitive responses due to their ineffectiveness in lowering drug trafficking or in addressing the use and provide of medicine,” she stated.

However Han says regardless of home and worldwide appeals and shifting international tendencies, the Singaporean authorities, which argues there may be robust public backing for executions, appears to be “doubling down very onerous”.

She is focusing her consideration on her fellow Singaporeans at a time of unprecedented debate over capital punishment.

“It doesn’t really feel like the federal government is inquisitive about listening to what now we have to say, so a variety of our work is about educating and organising fellow Singaporeans,” she stated. “We’re placing our energies and a spotlight into one another.”

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