Singapore: impending executions must be stopped

Singapore’s authorities should immediately halt the impending executions of Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin (‘Syed’) and Moad Fadzir bin Mostaffa (‘Fadzir’), and should place a moratorium on further executions in the country, said the ICJ today.

The ICJ further underscored the lack of transparency and procedural violations relating to the authorities’ handling of Syed’s and other death penalty cases.

Syed’s execution had initially been scheduled for last Friday, 18 September 2020, for a drugs-related offence. Syed would have already been executed if not for an urgent intervention by his lawyer, acting pro bono, to the High Court, which resulted in a stay on his execution that was extended following a hearing yesterday, 22 September, before the Court of Appeal.

On 24 September, Fadzir was due to be hanged for drug-related offences – less than a week from notice given to his mother, who was informed that she should begin funeral arrangements for her son. Today, however, his lawyer noted that the President of Singapore had granted Fadzir a Respite Order putting on hold his execution. In accordance with section 313(h) of the Criminal Procedure Code, “the President may, at any time before the warrant (of execution) is carried out, order a respite of the execution of the warrant and afterwards appoint some other time or other place for its execution”.

“These temporary stays must be made permanent.  If carried out, the executions of Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin and Moad Fadzir bin Mostaffa will constitute a violation of the right to life and the absolute prohibition of cruel, inhuman or punishment,” said Ian Seiderman, the ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director.

“While the ICJ opposes the death penalty under any circumstances, international law and standards are clear that for those few countries that still carry out the death penalty, it may never be applied to drug-related offences.”

Syed was arrested in August 2011 and charged for possession of 38.84 grams of diamorphine (also known as heroin). In 2016, he was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty prescribed under the Misuse of Drugs Act for drug trafficking. In 2018, the Court of Appeal – Singapore’s apex court – dismissed his appeal against his sentence. Fadzir was arrested in April 2016 and charged for possession of 36.93g of diamorphine. In February 2019, he was similarly sentenced to death under the Misuse of Drugs Act for drug trafficking. In November 2019, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against his sentence.

Information has since emerged that the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) had, in 2018, forwarded a private letter written by Syed to his then-defence lawyer to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the body in charge of prosecuting his case, in the midst of his appeal to the Court of Appeal. This breach of lawyer-client confidentiality raises serious concerns about procedural impropriety and fair trial violations and the possibility that similar breaches may have occurred, and may continue to take place in similar cases.

This concern is especially pertinent within the context of a lack of transparency from the authorities regarding death penalty-related cases. The ICJ has previously noted that authorities often give very tight notice of execution to death row inmates or their families – about five days to a week’s notice, as in Syed’s and Fadzir’s cases – impacting on their ability to file last-minute appeals. Public information on death row inmates or regarding their cases is also not available – including the estimated more than 50 inmates currently on death row.

“Syed’s case is further aggravated by a lack of transparency and other procedural concerns apparent from the authorities’ handling of his and other death penalty cases,” said Seiderman.

“By hastening executions, failing to provide adequate public information about cases relating to the death penalty, and apparently failing to comply with fundamental fair trial requirements, Singapore’s authorities are only compounding the devastating human rights consequences inherent in any application of the death penalty.”

To download the statement with background information, click here.

Further relevant information is also available here.

See also

Singapore: halt impending execution of Hishamrudin bin Mohd, 15 March 2018

Singapore must be transparent in implementation of executions, 18 November 2016

Singapore: Court of Appeal decision upholding Kho Jabing’s death sentence a serious blow to human rights, 5 April 2016

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