Plea to UN to stop hanging


A human rights lawyer is making a last-ditch appeal to the United Nations, hoping beyond hope that convicted Australian heroin trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van can be saved from the noose in Singapore.

M Ravi plans to file a complaint against the Singapore government tomorrow with Philip Alston, an Australian who is the UN’s Geneva-based special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

The complaint alleges that the impending execution of Nguyen, possibly just days away, would breach Singapore’s constitution and would be a serious miscarriage of justice.

The city-state’s government has so far rejected all pleas for clemency, and there appear to be few avenues left to stop the execution.

It’s doubtful that Ravi’s protest will work.

“I am not an expert in international law,” he said today. “But I will endeavour (to do my) my best as a citizen of the country.”

A similar complaint would be filed with the UN against Canberra on Wednesday, unless the Australian government takes its own case on behalf of Nguyen to the special rapporteur, Ravi said.

Ravi is not representing Nguyen’s case.

But he has been an active opponent of capital punishment in Singapore and has represented two death-row prisoners, both of whom were executed.

Alston is tasked by the United Nations to investigate summary or extrajudicial executions.

He reports his findings each year to the UN General Assembly.

Individuals can appeal directly to him about “alleged extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, or death threats, and/or general information about questions related to the right to life,” according to the rapporteur’s website.

Melbourne salesman Nguyen, 25, was arrested at Changi International Airport in December 2002 as he was about to board a flight to Australia.

He had 396 grams of heroin taped to his back and in his luggage.

Singapore law mandates the death penalty for anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin.

Ravi expected that Nguyen’s family would soon receive a letter from the Singapore authorities confirming the date set for the execution, most likely this Friday or November 18.

The lawyer will be among a number of activists who are due to gather at a vigil in Singapore overnight to protest Nguyen’s execution and the use of the death penalty.

The planned meeting is a rare expression of dissent in tightly controlled Singapore, which is believed to execute more prisoners than any other country relative to its population.

Ravi said that he would be collecting letters of support for Nguyen from those attending the vigil, which he planned to deliver to Changi Prison tomorrow.

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