UN tells Singapore to halt imminent drug executions

UN tells Singapore to halt imminent drug executions

Activists hold up placards against the imminent execution of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who was sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Singapore, outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Nov 23, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

The United Nations on Tuesday urged Singapore to halt the imminent executions of two men held for drug offences — and furthermore end its use of the death penalty altogether.

The UN rights office voiced alarm at the case of Pausi Jefridin and Roslan Bakar, who were both arrested in 2008 and convicted two years later on drug trafficking charges.

The men have been on death row for the past 12 years and were reportedly informed only last Wednesday that they would be executed one week later, on Feb 16.

“The use of the death penalty for drug-related offences is incompatible with international human rights law,” UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

She stressed that capital punishment was only permitted under international law for the “most serious crimes, which is interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing.”

Making matters worse in this case, Shamdasani said, were concerns that one or both men have intellectual disabilities.

She said Jefridin, reportedly a Malaysian national, had been shown to have an IQ score of just 67.

She also lamented that Jefridin’s family, based in Malaysia, had struggled to visit him due to Covid-19 restrictions.

A last-minute appeal Tuesday was rejected, she said, adding that if the executions go ahead as planned on Wednesday, they will be the first in the city-state since November 2019.

Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty said another legal challenge was lodged late Tuesday in Singapore, and urged the city-state not to proceed with the executions until that appeal has been heard.

Singapore, which has some of the world’s toughest drugs laws, insists the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime.

Shamdasani however stressed that “globally, the death penalty has not been proven to be an effective deterrent.”

At the same time, she warned, individuals on death row, as well as their families, have suffered a range of human rights violations.”

“We call on the government to commute their sentences, and to reform Singapore’s legislation to bring an end to the imposition of the death penalty.”

Amnesty International’s Singapore researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard agreed, saying the planned executions this week were “appalling”.

“It is high time for Singapore to re-establish a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards full abolition,” she said in a statement.