campaigners urge clemency ahead of singapore drug executions - Campaigners Urge Clemency Ahead of Singapore Drug Executions

Anti-death penalty campaigners are urging Singapore’s government to halt the pending execution of a Malaysian and Singaporean who are currently on death row on drug trafficking charges.

Kalwant Singh, a Malaysian inmate who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow, was arrested in Singapore in October 2013 for trafficking in just over 60 grams of diamorphine. In June 2016, he was convicted and handed the death penalty.

On July 1, the Singaporean authorities issued a notice fixing the date of his execution for July 7. Kalwant’s co-defendant, the Singaporean national Norasharee bin Gous, who was arrested at a later date is also scheduled to be hanged on Thursday.

Kalwant has filed a notice of motion to the Singapore Court of Appeal for a stay of his execution, according to Lawyers for Liberty (LFL). In a statement released yesterday, LFL said the stay application would be heard today, July 6, the eve of Kalwant’s execution.

If the sentence goes ahead, Kalwant and Norasharee would be the third and fourth convicted drug traffickers to be executed this year. In March, Singaporean authorities carried out the death sentence against 68-year-old Abdul Kahar Othman, breaking a two-year COVID-19-induced hiatus in capital punishments.

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A few weeks later came the hanging in April of Malaysian national Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, whose case was attended by a particular international outcry due to the fact that he was believed to be intellectually disabled, with an IQ of just 69. Nagaenthran’s defense counsel argued that this “may have contributed toward his misdirected loyalty and poor assessment of the risks in agreeing to carry out the offence.”

Another Malaysian national convicted on drug charges who was to be hanged in April was given a reprieve pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

In a statement earlier this week, the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network urged Singapore to suspend Kalwant’s execution to allow him an opportunity to file for clemency. “The government of Singapore’s persistence in maintaining and utilizing the death penalty has only led to global condemnation and tarnishes Singapore’s image as a developed nation governed by the rule of law,” it stated, according to the Associated Press.

Kalwant and Norasharee’s execution notices are the seventh and eighth issued so far this year, Singaporean death penalty activist Kirsten Han noted in her newsletter, “We, The Citizens.” While all but two of these have obtained stays or respite orders, Han noted that these “can be lifted any time after outstanding matters are resolved, so these men are still at risk of having their executions rescheduled at some point.”

The two executions and the rash of execution notices “appear to be part of a new wave” of hangings in Singapore, Amnesty International Malaysia said in a statement this week, while the United Nations Human Rights Office has expressed its concern over a pending “surge in execution notices.”

In a June 29 interview with BBC HardTalk, Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K. Shanmugam defended the country’s use of the death penalty in non-violent drug cases. He said that “there’s clear evidence that it is a serious deterrent for would-be drug traffickers,” adding, “a single hanging of a drug trafficker is a tragedy; a million deaths from drug abuse is a statistic.”

Needless to say, anti-death penalty advocates claim that there is ample evidence to prove the exact opposite – that the threat of capital punishment has done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates, and that the social ills of drug use and trafficking can better be addressed through decriminalization and harm reduction.