Nigerian NGO takes government to court on impending Singapore hanging

January 15, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), a leading human rights group in Nigeria, has taken legal action action against the country’s Attorney-General to compel the Nigerian government to intervene in the impending hanging of Mr Amara Tochi in Singapore.

Mr Mr Amara Tochi was convicted for trafficking heroin at Changi Airport in 2005. The matter has, however, attracted much controversy because the trial judge, Mr Kan Ting Chiu, admitted in his judgement that “there was no direct evidence that [Tochi] knew the capsules contained diamorphine.”

The Nigerian man had met another African national (a “Mr Smith”) at Changi Airport and was given a packet of the drug to carry into Singapore.

Even then, Judge Kan found that “there was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him him they contained diamorphine, or that [Tochi] had found that out of his own.” (For background, please see M Ravi in Nigeria to campaign against execution).

Despite this, Mr Amara Tochi was found guilty and sentenced to hang. The appeal process is over and the only chance left is for clemency from the President. Mr Tochi could be hanged within the next few weeks.

Nigeria’s CLO has applied for, inter alia, an order of mandamus to compel its government to file a complaint at the International Court of Justice against the Government of Singapore to restrain the execution of Mr Tochi.

In 2006, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on extra judicial and summary execution, Mr Philip Alston, condemned the mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore as illegal under international law.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, those convicted of carrying drugs beyond certain limits must be hanged. Judges have no discretion and cannot take in mitigating arguments.

The CLO’s representative, Mr Princewill Akpakpan, was recently in Singapore to see Mr Tochi. He was, however, denied access to the condemned prisoner.

Mr Akpakpan and Mr M Ravi, Singapore’s human rights lawyer, have been campaigning to prevent Mr Tochi’s execution.

“How can you execute a man who is not guilty of the crime?” pleaded Mr Ravi. “The trial judge even recognized that Tochi didn’t know what he was carrying.”

Mr Ravi has traveled across Europe and visited Nigeria to garner support to stop Mr Tochi’s impending execution. He has been invited to speak at the 3rd World Congress Against the Death Penalty which will be held in Paris in February 2007. The conference is held under the patronage of Mr Jacques Chirac, President of France and Ms Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Mr Bertrand Delanoe Mayor of Paris.