Amnesty International

Singapore: Halt imminent execution of man convicted of drug-related offence

The Singaporean authorities must immediately halt the imminent execution of a man who has been sentenced to death under the country’s draconian drug control law, Amnesty International said today.

The family of Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin, 44 year-old, was informed that his execution has been set for Friday 18 September and has been asked to make funeral arrangements. Syed Suhail was arrested in August 2011 and subsequently convicted of possession for the purpose of trafficking of 38.84 grams of diamorphine and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty.

Both the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences and the imposition of mandatory death sentences contravene international law and standards.

“The Singapore authorities must immediately halt this callous hanging. From the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, to the imposition of mandatory death sentences and the reliance on legal presumptions of guilt, the Singapore authorities continue to flout international safeguards,” said Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty expert at Amnesty International.

Singapore is one of four countries known to have carried out executions for drug-related offences in recent years. Singapore’s highly repressive drug control law does not allow judges to take into consideration possible mitigating circumstances at sentencing, including drug dependence or other circumstances relevant to the case. Syed Suhail’s lawyers argued in court that he had a drug dependence to heroin, which appears to have been a critical factor in the lead-up to his arrest.

“The Singapore authorities continue to pursue this cruel punishment while ignoring the far greater effectiveness of health and community-based approaches to drugs. Singapore’s heavy reliance on draconian laws and policies have not only failed to tackle the use and availability of drugs, they give zero effective protection from drug-related harm. Change must come now, starting with a halt to Friday’s execution,” said Chiara Sangiorgio.

As of today, 106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds of the world’s countries are abolitionist in law or practice.

“As the world get closer to consigning the death penalty to the history books, Singapore continues to resist the trend. It is high time for the Singapore government to establish a moratorium on all executions as a first critical step towards abolition.”

Background

International law and standards prohibit the imposition of mandatory death sentences as these deny judges the possibility of taking into account the mitigating circumstances in the case. Moreover, international law and standards require that the imposition of the death penalty be restricted to the “most serious crimes”, meaning intentional killing.

Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, any person who is proved to have in their possession more than 2g of diamorphine is presumed to have had that drug in their possession for the purpose of trafficking, unless they can prove differently, in contravention to the right to the presumption of innocence.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.