Human rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has claimed to have proof that Singapore Prison Services practices are “unlawful and brutal”, in the wake of Singapore’s hanging of Malaysian Abd Helmi Ab Halim on Friday (22 Nov) for drug trafficking in 2017.
Abd Helmi was arrested in April 2015 and handed the mandatory death penalty for trafficking 16.56 grammes of diamorphine in 2017. He was executed at Changi Prison Complex last week after Singapore President Halimah Yacob rejected his plea for clemency in July.
Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law), Datuk Liew Vui Keong, had asked Singapore to show mercy, two days before Abd Helmi was hanged, on Wednesday (20 Nov). Asserting that it is “unjust and disproportionate for drug mules to bear the fate of the gallows,” Mr Liew urged: “Justice must be tempered with mercy, and I implore Singapore to do so.”
On Friday, Singapore’s Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs responded in a joint statement and said that Singapore has the sovereign right to use the death penalty against drug offenders and that it expects other countries to respect its laws.
Noting that Abd Helmi was accorded full due process under the law and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process, the ministries said that it has found that “the death penalty, when combined with other measures, has been an effective deterrent” and called on Malaysia to “help in the common fight against drugs by aggressively rooting out the drug kingpins in Malaysia who send drug traffickers from Malaysia to Singapore”.
The ministries also called on Malaysia to take “serious steps” in preventing the recruitment of drug traffickers and preventing them from moving drugs into Singapore and said:
“In this way, Malaysia can do more to help save the lives of Malaysians who would otherwise become drug traffickers, trafficking drugs into Singapore. Such drug traffickers, by peddling drugs, bring death and misery, and destroy thousands of lives in Singapore.”
In a press release issued the next day (23 Nov), LFL called Singapore’s statement “a combination of dishonest excuses and false statements, and breathtakingly arrogant.”
Criticising the ministries for suggesting that He added, the statement issued by Singapore suggested that Malaysia is not doing enough to arrest drug kingpins, LFL Advisor N Surendran said: “Firstly, the statement deliberately and dishonestly avoids admitting to the fact that Helmi was hanged for allegedly trafficking a mere 16g of drugs. The punishment of death over just 16g is clearly disproportionate and a grave injustice.”
He added: “Singapore itself has done little to catch the drug kingpins, while regularly executing low-level drug mules. It is significant that Singapore is unable to point to a single major drug kingpin arrest by their own enforcement bodies.”
Mr Surendran – a former lawmaker – also claimed that the LFL has “incontrovertible” evidence that Singapore Prison Services practices “unlawful and brutal” methods when carrying out hangings. He said: “We have incontrovertible evidence that unlawful and extremely brutal methods are secretly used in carrying out hangings by the Singapore Prison Services (SPS). We are prepared to reveal this evidence, supplied by prison officers, in due course.”
He, however, said that LFL would not be making this information public at the present time to protect its sources and added that the group is willing to discuss the evidence with the Singapore authorities.
Mr Surendran told Malaysiakini that the evidence LFL has was compiled based on testimonies by prison officers stationed in the execution chamber and those who were “directly involved in carrying out executions”. He added that the evidence “relates to the way in which the hanging is carried out.”
The LFL Advisor urged the Singapore Government to emulate Malaysia, place an immediate moratorium on executions for drug offences and review the imposition of capital punishment for drug crimes. He warned: “We hope Singapore will do so, before we are compelled to disclose the above-mentioned evidence, which will prove to be an international embarrassment for them.”
This is a developing story, which will be updated as the Singapore authorities comment on LFL’s statement. -/TISG