Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Singapore activists: Rethink death penalty

Activists in Singapore have condemned this Friday's planned execution of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, and called for a rethink on the country's use of the death penalty.

Tochi is due to hang at dawn for allegedly trafficking heroin into Singapore on 27 November 2004. He claimed he thought he was carrying a package of herbal medicine for a 'Mr Smith'.

The Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) said the impending execution was "particularly disturbing", since the trial judge had acknowledged there were reasonable doubts as to whether Tochi knew he was carrying drugs.

The SADPC said trial judge Mr Kan Ting Chiu made the following finding: "There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out of his own." (Paragraph 42 of the judgment [2005] SGHC 233).

The campaign group pointed to a seeming contradiction in Singapore between the death penalty and a prison system increasingly focused on rehabilition.

"At a time when the Singapore prison system has a renewed emphasis upon rehabilitation, and when the Yellow Ribbon campaign asks us to give even seasoned criminals a second chance, can we not find it in our hearts to extend this to a person who--if he indeed is guilty--made a desperate mistake at the age of 19?" an SADPC statement said.

They also highlighted the country's rigid mandatory death penalty for drug offences.

"The death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore continues to be "mandatory", which means that judges are not able to take into significance and mitigating circumstances (such as the age and general naivity of the accused) when passing their verdict.

"And at a time when even the hangings of persons responsible for mass killings and genocide, such as Saddam Hussein and his cronies are being regarded with disgust by the world at large; are seen as reproducing the criminal cruelty of the original perpetrators, is it not time that we in Singapore reconsider our stance on the repeated, mandatory hanging of small-fry drug mules?" SADPC said.

The SADPC describes itself as "a concerned group of Singaporeans from diverse backgrounds who have come together over the issue of the Death Penalty". It organises debates and other events "to foster a public debate on the practice of capital punishment in Singapore and throughout the world".

In August 2006, the group organised a forum to discuss the case of Tochi and his co-accused Okele Nelson Malachy, who had also received a death sentence.

Related stories:
Singapore to hang Tochi next week -- 18 January, 2007
Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore -- 01 September, 2006
Singapore forum against death penalty -- 21 August , 2006

1 comment:

Barbara's Journey Toward Justice said...

This Book Changed my mind about the Death Penalty. I feel the more people know about these issues maybe some things will change. At one time I wrote this about the book I read.. . Who And Where Is Dennis Fritz, You may say after reading John Grisham's Wonderful Book "The Innocent man", Grisham's First non-fiction book. The Other Innocent Man hardly mentioned in "The Innocent Man" has his own compelling and fascinating story to tell in "Journey Toward Justice". John Grisham endorsed Dennis Fritz's Book on the Front Cover. Dennis Fritz wrote his Book Published by Seven Locks Press, to bring awareness about False Convictions, and The Death Penalty. "Journey Toward Justice" is a testimony to the Triumph of the Human Spirit and is a Stunning and Shocking Memoir. Dennis Fritz was wrongfully convicted of murder after a swift trail. The only thing that saved him from the Death Penalty was a lone vote from a juror. "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham is all about Ronnie Williamson, Dennis Fritz's was his co-defendant. Ronnie Williamson was sentenced to the Death Penalty. Both were exonerated after spending 12 years in prison. Both Freed by a simple DNA test, The real killer was one of the Prosecution's Key Witness. John Grisham's "The Innocent Man" tells half the story. Dennis Fritz's Story needs to be heard. Read about how he wrote hundreds of letters and appellate briefs in his own defense and immersed himself in an intense study of law. He was a school teacher and a ordinary man from Ada Oklahoma, whose wife was brutally murdered in 1975. On May 8, 1987 while raising his young daughter alone, he was put under arrest and on his way to jail on charges of rape and murder. Since then, it has been a long hard road filled with twist and turns. Dennis Fritz is now on his "Journey Toward Justice". He never blamed the Lord and solely relied on his faith in God to make it through. He waited for God's time and never gave up.