Death row prisoners sue Singapore govt for denial of justice (updated)

SINGAPORE, 2 Aug 2022:

Singapore authorities executed two prisoners convicted of drug trafficking today, bringing the number of people hanged since the city-state resumed capital punishment at the end of March to eight.

The Central Narcotics Bureau said in a brief statement that those executed were two men: a 34-year-old Malaysian and a 46-year-old Singaporean. It did not provide further details, citing family privacy.

“The capital punishment is used only for the most serious crimes, such as the trafficking of significant quantities of drugs which cause very serious harm, not just to individual drug abusers, but also to their families and the wider society,” the authorities said to justify the measure.

International law restricts capital punishment to the “most serious crimes,” generally defined to include only intentional killing, Amnesty International has said.

Meanwhile, a total 24 prisoners on death row in Singapore filed a collective suit yesterday against the city-state government and the public prosecutor’s office – claiming having been denied access to justice.

The prisoners, assisted by their family and friends, filed the “historic” suit, confirmed non-profit Transformative Justice Collective’s coordinator Kirsten Han.

Among other issues, the prisoners denounce obstacles to hiring defence lawyers – partly due to the lawyers’ “fear” of the high administrative costs imposed on them when making appeals in cases of capital punishment.

This fear has deterred lawyers from assisting them, thereby undermining their right to have access to justice, stated activist Kokila Annamalai in a social media commentary – claiming this leads convicts to represent themselves on many occasions.

Last week, the court of appeal ordered lawyer Charles Yeo and the Malaysian non-profit Lawyers for Liberty to pay a total of S$$5,000 for their unsuccessful attempts to stop the execution of two drug traffickers – who were eventually executed.

Currently, only a handful of lawyers take up cases of prisoners on death row.

The collective suit comes at a time when Singapore has accelerated the pace of executions after a two-year gap due to the Covid-19 pandemic – which has resulted in an increase in convicts on death row, according to activists.

Two executions are scheduled today, and two others are on Friday. Six prisoners have been executed since March, all for drug trafficking, among them marijuana.

Singapore has one of the most draconian drug laws on the planet that includes hanging as punishment for trafficking in more than 15g of heroin, 30g of cocaine, 500g of cannabis and 250g of methamphetamine.