Singapore: Rights experts call for moratorium on executions for drug offences


Nazeri Bin Lajim, a Malay, Singaporean citizen, was arrested in April 2012 for trafficking more than 33 grams of diamorphine. He was executed last Friday.

“Under international law, states that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only be imposed for the ‘serious crimes’, involving willful murder,the experts said. “Drug offenses clearly do not meet this threshold.”

Discrimination against minorities

They also noted the surge in executive orders issued in Singapore this year.

“We are concerned that a disproportionate number of those sentenced to death for drug-related crimes, minority groups and tend to come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds like Mr. Nazeri Bin Lajim,” the experts said.

“The practice amounts to discriminatory treatment of minorities such as Malaysians and vulnerable persons.”

The experts said that Mr Bin Lajim’s execution continued despite claims that he suffered from a long-term drug addiction and that most of the diamorphine was for personal use.

Activists intimidated

In addition, the rest of the narcotics in his possession would not have passed the 15 gram threshold for imposing the mandatory death penalty in Singapore.

“We are also very concerned about reports about increasing pressure and intimidation by the authorities against activists, journalists, legal professionals and human rights defenders who peacefully advocate against the death penalty and/or represent persons on death row, and the chilling effect such acts have on public spaces,” they said.

“Voicing your opinion and protesting the death penalty should be tolerated in a democratic country.”

Suspension of further executions

The experts urged Singapore to suspend further executions of those on death row for drug offenses and instead convert their sentences too imprisonment, in accordance with international human rights law and standards.

They also called on the authorities to immediately impose a moratorium on all executions overlooking complete abolition of the death penalty.

The government was also urged to review the scope of the death penalty, especially in relation to drug-related crimes, to ensure that its imposition and execution are strictly limited to cases of intentional murder.

“We reiterate that the mandatory application of the death penalty constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life as it is imposed without regard to the personal circumstances of the accused or the circumstances of the specific offence,” the experts said.

“Mandatory death sentences are arbitrary in nature and incompatible with the limitation of the death penalty to the ‘most serious crimes’.”

The 11 experts who issued the statement have been appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on specific thematic issues, such as extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

They are independent of any government, serve in their individual capacity and are not UN personnel nor are they paid for their work.

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