Friday, 26 January 2007

Singapore hangs two for drugs

Singapore this morning executed two Africans for alleged drug smuggling offences.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, a 21-year-old professional footballer from Nigeria, and Okeke Nelson Malachy, a 35-year-old reportedly from South Africa, were hanged today after their appeals for presidential clemency were turned down.

The executions were confirmed in a statement issued by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

The statement, typical of the cold formality of official information about Singapore's death penalty system, notes: "Their sentences were carried out this morning at Changi Prison."

The CNB said Tochi had "unlawfully brought into Singapore 727.02g of high grade pure heroin worth about $1.5 million".

Both men were charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act, with Tochi convicted of importing a controlled drug into Singapore and Malachy with abetting the offence.

The Misuse of Drugs Act specifies a mandatory death penalty for importing more than 15 grams of diamorphine or pure heroin.

Under Singapore's secretive death penalty system, execution dates are not normally announced. Tochi's execution date was made public by his lawyers, but it was not known Malachy was set to be executed on the same day.

Singapore human rights activists and Amnesty International this week condemned plans to execute Tochi, particularly since the trial judge accepted there was "no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine".

According to Amnesty International, Singapore is believed to have the highest per capita execution rate in the world. With a population of just over four million, it has executed more than 420 people since 1991, "the majority for drug trafficking".

'Violation of international standards'
A United Nations (UN) human rights expert yesterday made a last-ditch appeal to the Singapore government not to executeTochi, saying it would violate international legal standards.

Philip Alston, the UN's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Singapore appeared to have reversed the burden of proof, requiring the accused to prove they did not know they were carrying drugs.

"It is a fundamental human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.

"The standard accepted by the international community is that capital punishment may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts."

Professor Alston said these rights were recognised in international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.

He said the execution of Tochi would violate international legal standards relating to the imposition of the death penalty, and there were similar "grave issues" at stake in Malachy's case.

"One of the tasks given to me by the UN Human Rights Council is to monitor states' respect for those safeguards in order to protect the human rights of those facing the death penalty," Professor Alston said.

"In the case of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, the Government of Singapore has failed to ensure respect for the relevant legal safeguards. Under the circumstances, the execution should not proceed."

He also said Singapore's mandatory death penalty law was inconsistent with international human rights standards.

"Singapore's decision to make the death penalty mandatory keeps judges from considering all of the factors relevant to determining whether a death sentence would be permissible in a capital case," he said.

Related stories:
Tochi: Nigerian appeals ignored -- 25 January, 2007
Singapore activists: Rethink death penalty -- 23 January, 2007
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:

Gene Sha Rudyn said...