A death-row man’s plea

April 12, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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Lawyer Mr M Ravi, who is acting for Mr Shanmugam s/o Murugesu, reports that the prisoner is extremely happy to find out that a campaign is going on against death penalty. Mr Shanmugam was convicted for attempting to bring cannabis into Singapore in 2003 and will be hanged in a few weeks for now.

According to Mr Shanmugam, two Malay prisoners were hanged last Friday, 8 April 2005 at 6 a.m. There are another eight prisoners waiting to be hanged. Information about the date of hanging is not made known even to the families of the prisoners. Family members are informed after the execution is carried out and told to collect the body by noon that day. Otherwise, the corpse would be cremated.

Mr Shanmugam told his lawyer that he is prepared to die if not for his helpless and ailing mother who might get a stroke (she was recently hospitalized) or even lose her life from all the trauma surrounding her son’s impending death. Mr Shanmugam says that he is afraid that the pressure on his mother will be too much for her to bear as he was especially close to her and was her only source of support as she was divorced from her husband.

Mr Shanmugam also has twin 14-year-old sons, Gopalan and Krishnan. He worries that their future would be jeopardized. Both the boys were out at Centrepoint Shopping Centre, handing out leaflets and pleading with passers-by to help them appeal to President Nathan to grant their father a pardon. Their mother left them when they were young. With the execution of their father, they will be left in the hands of their increasingly frail grandmother.

Mr Shanmugam says he regrets his mistake and asks why he is not given the opportunity to rehabilitate. He is remorseful about his deed and asks the State not to kill him in cold-blood. He says he has cooperated fully with the police and supplied information about the person, a Mr Mok from Johor Baru, who had asked him to bring the drugs into Singapore. Mr Shanmugam had even given contact details and a sketch of Mr Mok but the police have not shown interest in pursuing the real culprit and the ultimate mastermind.

The death-row inmate asks President Nathan to recognise his contribution to Singapore; he had won a jet ski competition in the US and had served 8 years in the army.

As bleak as his own situation is, however, Mr Shanmugam is still able to think about others in the same plight. He pleads with fellow Singaporeans and the international community to stop all these hangings in secrecy (see Amnesty Internationals statement below). No one, he adds, knows the grief of these families and the dependents of those who are executed.

Please appeal to the President on my behalf, Mr Shanmugam pleads to all Singaporeans.

You can do this by attending the public forum organized by the Open Singapore Centre:

The Death Penalty and the Rule of Law in Singapore
on 16 April 2005 (Saturday) at 2:00 pm
at Hotel Asia, 37 Scotts Road, Singapore 228229

Speakers:
1. J. B. Jeyaretnam, Chairman, Open Singapore Centre
2. M. Ravi, Lawyer
3. S. Samydorai, President, Think Centre
4. Anthony Yeo, Counsellor
5. Tim Parritt, Spokesman, Amnesty International
6. Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General, Singapore Democratic Party

There is not much time left. Mr Shanmugam will be executed in a couple of weeks. Come and join us at the forum to appeal to President Nathan to spare Mr Shanmugams life and to debate the death penalty in Singapore. This is an important matter that concerns us all, a life-and-death matter – literally.

S’pore’s high execution rate shrouded in secrecy: AI
15 January 2004

Amnesty International exposed today the shockingly high, hidden toll of executions in Singapore as it launched a new report about the death penalty in that country.

Singapore is believed to have the highest per capita rate of executions the world. A UN Report found that Singapore had three times the number of executions, relative to the size of its population, as the next country on the list – Saudi Arabia.

“It is high time for the government to seriously reconsider its stance claiming that the death penalty is not a human rights issue,” Amnesty International said. “It is the cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice, and violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights: the right to life. By imposing death sentences and carrying out high numbers of executions, Singapore is going against global trends towards abolition of death penalty.”

The small city-state has hanged more than 400 prisoners in the last 13 years. Official information about the use of the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy and the government does not normally publish statistics about death sentences or executions. It is not known how many prisoners are currently on death row, but the deplorable death toll from executions continues.

Amnesty International’s new report “Singapore: The death penalty: A hidden toll of executions”examines how the death penalty often falls disproportionately and arbitrarily on the most marginalized or vulnerable members of society. Many of those executed have been migrant workers, drug addicts, the impoverished or those lacking in education. The report includes a number of illustrative cases including Rozman Jusoh, a 24 year old labourer from Malaysia executed in 1996 despite having sub-normal intelligence with a reported IQ of 74.

Drug addicts are particularly vulnerable. Many were hanged after being found in possession of relatively small quantities of drugs. Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act contains several clauses which conflict with the universally guaranteed right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and provides for a mandatory death sentence for at least 20 different drug-related offences. For instance, any person found in possession of the key to anything containing controlled drugs is presumed guilty of possessing those drugs and, if the amount exceeds a specified amount, faces a mandatory death penalty for “trafficking”.

“Such provisions erode the right to a fair trial and increase the risk of executing the innocent,” Amnesty International stressed. “Moreover, it is often the drug addicts or minor drug pushers who are hanged, while those who mastermind the crime of trafficking evade arrest and punishment.”

Despite claims by the government that the death penalty has been effective in combatting the trade in illicit drugs, drug abuse continues to be a problem particularly among socially marginalized young people.

Observers have drawn attention to the need to combat the social conditions which can give rise to drug abuse and addiction, rather than resorting to executions as a solution.

“We call on the Government of Singapore to impose an immediate moratorium on executions and commute all pending death sentences to prison terms,” Amnesty International said. “We are also calling on the authorities to end the secrecy about the use of the death penalty and encourage public debate.”

Background

According to the UN Secretary-General’s quinquennial report on capital punishment (UN document: E/CN.15/2001/10, para. 68), for the period 1994 to 1999 Singapore had a rate of 13.57 executions per one million population, representing by far the highest rate of executions in the world. This is followed by Saudi Arabia (4.65), Belarus (3.20), Sierra Leone (2.84), Kyrgyzstan (2.80), Jordan (2.12) and China (2.01). The largest overall number of executions for the same period took place in China, followed in descending order by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, Nigeria and Singapore.

For the full text of the report, please go to:
“Singapore: The death penalty: A hidden toll of executions”
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa360012004

For more information please call Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org

For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org