Singapore should immediately hold a moratorium on all judicial executions and review its approach in tackling the issue of drug addiction in the country, said regional abolitionist alliance Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN).
In a statement on Sunday (20 September), ADPAN stressed that there is, at present, “no evidence that the use of the death penalty acts as an effective deterrent against crimes”.
Worse, the criminal justice system and its institutions “are not infallible to mistakes and human error”, and the death penalty presents a “risk of grave injustice when innocents are executed”, said the network.
“We cite the case of Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi, a Nigerian, who was acquitted of a capital drug trafficking against him on 17 September 2020 in Singapore after it was proven that his statements were recorded when he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“Had his legal team not persisted, Ilechukwu who was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to death in 2015, could have been unjustly executed,” said ADPAN.
ADPAN also highlighted that most of the prisoners placed on death row are convicted for drug-related offences and primary hail from “lower socio-economic backgrounds”.
“Some of them, like Syed Suhail, also struggled with addiction before their incarceration despite being “treated” by the Drug Rehabilitation Center (DRC) when they were previously arrested for possession and/ or consumption of prohibited drugs,” the network said.
Thus, Singapore should reevaluate its methodology in dealing with drug addiction and begin implementing “a holistic and sustainable solution to the issue of drug addiction by treating it as a matter of public health”.
All death row prisoners struggling with drug addiction, said ADPAN, should have their executions halted to enable them to receive the appropriate treatment and support “instead of being incarcerated and then stigmatized”.
ADPAN also urged the Singapore government to honour its commitment during the 2011 Universal Periodic Review process to “make information about the use of the death penalty publicly and easily available”.
This, said the network, ought to be done by lifting the secrecy on executions, granting public access to information of cases, and providing real-time statistics on the death row in Singapore.
“Due to the lack of transparency and the existence of the Officials Secrets Act which criminalises the dissemination of information from prison workers, abolitionist groups campaigning against the death penalty in Singapore can only rely on information provided by family members of inmates, lawyers, and documents of legal proceedings on the Court’s website, as well as whatever little news reports that shed light on capital cases,” noted ADPAN.
“We understand that the current population on death row stands at 55 people, with the majority of the inmates on death row due to drug-related offences.
“Based on case tracking and information gathered from various sources by abolitionists in Singapore, it is estimated that about 20 inmates have exhausted all legal options. This implies that there could be a spike in executions in Singapore in the coming weeks or months,” said the network.