Human rights groups lobby against Singapore drug case execution

SINGAPORE, 16 Sept 2020:

Ahead of the imminent execution of a prisoner convicted of a drug offence in Singapore, human rights groups today launched an urgent appeal to halt the process.

Syed Suhail Bin Syed Zin, 44, was arrested in August 2011 and convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking of less than 40g of heroin by Singapore’s High Court in January, 2016 and sentenced to death by hanging, Amnesty International said.

“The Singapore authorities must immediately halt this callous hanging,” said Amnesty death penalty expert Chiara Sangiorgio.

“From the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, to the imposition of mandatory death sentences and the reliance on legal presumptions of guilt, the Singapore authorities continue to flout international safeguards.”

Syed began using heroin in 1999 and spent two extended stints in rehabilitation trying to recover from his addiction, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

Amnesty said his lawyers had argued in court that he had a drug dependence.

His family were informed on Sept 10 that his execution day has been set for Friday at Changi Prison and asked to make funeral arrangements.

Lawyer M Ravi yesterday wrote on Facebook he had received a “moving letter” from Syed and that he was to visit him and act pro-bono on his behalf.

In the letter that accompanied the post, Syed said the borders were still closed to Malaysia, where his immediate relatives live.

“The insensitivity and the entirely new level of cruelty that decision makers have decided to unleash is felt more so by my loved ones even though it is directed at me.

“I love Singapore. Everything I love is here. Being Singaporean though, (they) have expedited my execution,” he wrote, adding “I dream for better days.”

M Ravi also demanded the authorities stop the execution. “(The) death penalty is disproportionately applied against the poor and the disadvantaged section of society. No justice system is fullproof and hence the death penalty is not safe for it is irreversible.”

“It is so heartbreaking to see Suhail’s family preparing for the funeral.”

International law and standards require the death penalty be restricted to the “most serious crimes,” such as intentional killing.

“Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, any person who is proved to have in their possession more than 2g of diamorphine (heroin) is presumed to have had that drug in their possession for the purpose of trafficking, unless they can prove differently, in contravention to the right to the presumption of innocence,” Amnesty said.

Both HRW and Amnesty called for an immediate moratorium on executions and the abolition of the death penalty.

“People like Syed belong in rehabilitation centers, not coffins,” HRW said.

– EFE