By Neo Chai Chin - 01 May 2013
SINGAPORE — Two men on death row for murder had their cases sent back to the High Court for resentencing yesterday — the first since the law was amended to give judges sentencing discretion in some murder cases.
Both men are foreign nationals whose appeals had been dismissed by the Court of Appeal before Parliament passed amendments to the Penal Code last November.
Filed under: News Articles, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
By K.C. Vijayan
The Straits Times
Monday, Mar 11, 2013
SINGAPORE - DEATH row inmate Mervin Singh was spared the gallows on Friday when the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction for drug trafficking.
The 37-year-old had been sentenced to hang after being caught with a pink box containing nine packets of heroin.
He denied knowing that the drugs were inside, saying he thought he was transporting a consignment of contraband cigarettes.
Filed under: News Articles, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
By K.c. Vijayan
The Straits Times
Tuesday, Jan 01, 2013
SINGAPORE - They were facing certain death by hanging, but may now get a lifeline as changes to the mandatory death penalty kick in from Jan 1.
A key plank in the amendments to the Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code as well as the Misuse of Drugs Act will give these prisoners an opportunity to introduce new evidence to prove that they satisfy the new conditions for a life sentence instead of death.
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
Vui Kong turned 25 on 16 January 2013. I would like to wish him a happy 25th birthday and thank M Ravi for his all the dedication that he has made towards this Vui Kong’s case. With the amendments made to the Mandatory Death Penalty, I am hopeful that Vui Kong will be able to see more years ahead. Let’s hope for the best!
Filed under: Bukit Brown, Events, Gender, Internal Security Act, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
Therefore, in this spirit, we recall and acknowledge some of the contributions of our fellow human beings in the collective struggle for the realization of our human rights in 2012.
Heritage and development
We cannot deny the audacity of a small but growing and determined network of people from different walks of life galvanising to save Bukit Brown, a precious national heritage and nature area – a fact sadly unrecognised and unappreciated by our government. Groups and individuals, not having known one another before, gathered together and spontaneously organized themselves to gather signatures, ask for dialogue with government officials, and to learn and educate themselves more about the rich history of Bukit Brown. Unfortunately the government has only given a token acknowledgement of civil society’s efforts, responding by making plans to go ahead with construction of a transport corridor with little change.
- We call on the government to recognise, respect and fulfill the social and cultural rights of all Singaporeans and to review its developmental mindset that over-values economic growth to the detriment of our society’s identity and disappearing heritage.
Amplifying the marginalized voice
The rights of streetwalkers in Singapore need to be addressed. Streetwalkers face stigma and discrimination, as our society deems sex workers the scourge of the world. This mentality somehow justifies the human rights abuses against them. As a result, the voices of sex workers remain unheard. Petitions to the state to engage on this issue have been met with unsatisfactory responses.
Victims of sexual assault are often invisible in this society. There is a fear to report cases of rape due to a society that is trapped in a paradigm of victim blaming instead of convicting the rapist. More work needs to be done in order to educate Singaporeans on the concept of affirmative consent and to dispel the myth surrounding rape. There is also a need to address the structural barriers such as in regard to the process of rape trials.
- We call for the government to recognise the need to engage in constructive dialogue and in particular, to work with civil society to embark on a rigorous sensitization programme for police officers, as well as to review the current approach on sex education in Singapore;
- We call for the redefinition of rape in the law so as to include female rapists and same-sex rape.
- We urge the government of Singapore that no reservations should be placed on any of the CRPD articles;
- Give due regard to articles 10 and 15 of the CRPD, which recognises that no persons with disabilities – including persons with mental or intellectual disabilities – should be subjected to the death penalty.
We appreciate the Singapore government’s initiative to review the mandatory death penalty. The recent changes should be seen as an ongoing process on the path towards abolishment of the death penalty in its entirety and on the need to find alternative forms of humane punishments. It is our view that the death penalty is a “cruel, inhumane, and degrading” punishment.
- We urge the government to continue the current stay on executions and establish an official moratorium to allow time and space for society to explore alternative sentencing options and to work ultimately towards the abolishment of the death penalty.
Persons of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities (SOGI)
LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] persons continued to face institutionalize discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. We cannot ignore the cascading effects of laws like 377A that criminalize sex between consensual men that continues to be used to justify discrimination and hate crimes. The Media Development Authority continue to classify LGBT persons together with paedophilia and other classifications to demonise LGBT persons. Neutral or positive portrayals are disallowed.
- We call on the state to remember that we too are Singaporeans and are in dire need of protection against discriminatory state laws and actions by non-state actors.
- We remind the government that all citizens are equal in front of the Constitution.
All workers – Singapore citizens, Residents and Migrant workers
Singapore citizens, residents and migrant workers contribute to economic progress but do not enjoy the full respect and protections of the internationally recognized International Labour Organization (ILO) Core Labour Standards (CLS) including their right to freedom of expression, associations and assembly, living wages, decent jobs and living conditions.
Migrant workers continue to endure poor work conditions with no bargaining power. Their treatment exposes the dark underbelly of Singapore’s success story. The frustrations of these itinerant workers have been boiling for some time and have recently bubbled over when 171 public transport workers refused to go to work for a day. Issues of sub-standard living conditions and inadequate pay that were the central focus of their work stoppage are merely symptoms of more serious issues within our state-dominated and corporatised public sector enterprises.
- We call on the government to recognize that all workers must be free to express their friendship, provide support, care and share their solidarity with one another especially for workers whose dignity is being denied, abused, and exploited;
- We urge the government to respect, promote and realize the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
Detention without trial: Internal Security Act (ISA) and Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act
The use of these unjust laws over more than half a century has caused untold misery to thousands of prisoners, their families and their friends. It has deprived Singapore of good leaders who would have contributed greatly to the well-being of the country and the region. Singapore as a first world nation must respect the rule of law and no one should be deprived of his or her freedom without a just and fair trial.
- We call upon the Singapore government to repeal both the ISA and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act which, like the ISA, permits imprisonment without trial and has been in force since 1955.
ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
Although the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (or AHRD) has been formally adopted by the governments of the region, there are too many flaws in its formulation, wording, and intentions. The lack of transparency and consultation with regional, national, and local human rights groups is a serious challenge to the legitimacy of the AHRD.
- We are in solidarity with the ASEAN Civil Societies to continue engagement with the ASEAN governments to ensure the harmonization of the national laws in line with internationally recognized human rights standards provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Statement delivered by members and friends of the Singapore Unity Project on 9 December 2012 at Speakers’ Corner, Singapore.
Note: The Post-event addition on Detention without trial: Internal Security Act (ISA) and Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.
During the First Reading at the Parliamentary Sitting on 15 October 2012, a set of amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) was announced. Details surrounding the changes to be made towards the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers were also release.
The following is an excerpt of the press release issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 15 October 2012, explaining the changes:
“… two specific conditions are provided for under which the death penalty will no longer be mandatory for drug trafficking. First, the trafficker must have only played the role of courier, and must not have been involved in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs. Second, discretion will only apply if, having satisfied this first requirement, either the trafficker has cooperated with the CNB in a substantive way, or he has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.
“Substantive cooperation” is defined as “Substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”, which may include, for example, the provision of information leading to the arrest or detention or prosecution of any person involved in any drug trafficking activity. The law will provide for the Public Prosecutor to issue a “Certificate of Cooperation” where this condition is met. The courts will then have the discretion to sentence the defendant to either the death penalty or life imprisonment. Those sentenced to life imprisonment will also be liable to caning of at least 15 strokes.
In relation to “mental disability”, the language of the current diminished responsibility provision applicable to murder will be adopted. The defendant will need to establish to the courts that he suffers from an abnormality of mind as substantially impaired his responsibility for his actions. Persons who are determined to have been acting under a “mental disability” will be sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Bill will also enact transitional provisions which provide that all accused persons who meet the conditions pertaining to the mandatory death penalty can elect to be considered for re-sentencing under the new law. Procedurally, the accused will be able to apply to the court to admit further evidence if it is unclear from the record of proceedings of his trial and/or appeal as to whether he was a courier, or whether he satisfies one of the conditions. Where applicable, the re-sentencing will take place at the first instance in the High Court, with an appeal to the Court of Appeal. Further, existing cases will also be re-considered for clemency.”
Indeed the “partial lift” to the mandatory death penalty is appreciated along with the moratorium on executions since July 2011, further clarifications are needed. However, breaking the usual style of simply pointing out the problematic areas, I will briefly list down the bouquets, followed by questions, doubts and lastly, personal hopes. Please note that the following lists are non-conclusive and I might make further comments after upcoming discussions with fellow activists, lawyers as well as further research.
1. Current death row inmates who are eligible will be given a chance for re-sentencing.
2. Mitigating factors will be considered in future cases if offenders satisfy the two conditions stipulated.
3. Chances of offenders with mental disabilities being sentenced to death will be lessen.
Questions and Doubts:
1. Who makes the decision on whether an accused has “substantially cooperated”?
2. What happens if the accused cooperates by providing information that are within his/ her scope of knowledge, but the information given do not lead the CNB to the syndicates behind such sophisticated drug operations?
3. If an accused with an IQ that falls below the average satisfy the first condition, will his/ her IQ level be considered as a factor that impairs his/ her judgment on the gravity of the act (in the event he/ she is unable to provide information regarding the people who had recruited him/ her)?
4. Given the fact that life imprisonment in Singapore is indefinite (do correct me if I am wrong), I do not think that anyone with a mental disability should be given such a sentence because from the accounts of former prisoners I have spoken to, the environment and conditions in our prisons are far from rehabilitative. This might worsen the mental condition of such offenders.
5. Sentencing any person to life imprisonment without parole also highly contradicts the Singapore Prison Service’s motto of “Rehab, Renew, Restart”.
As a campaigner against the death penalty and mandatory death penalty, I definitely hope to see Singapore going towards the path of abolishing the death penalty. More efforts should be spent looking into alternative methods of legal punishment that seek to rehabilitate offenders rather than using the short cut method of eliminating them from existence forever or to lock them up indefinitely.
10th World Day Against the Death Penalty
It has been a decade since the World Day Against the Death Penalty was first commemorated. In the past decade, the world has seen a progressive decrease in the use of the death penalty.
According to the latest statistics provided by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 97 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 8 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 36 countries have abolished the death penalty in practice. In total, 141 countries are abolitionist in law or in practice.
Singapore, a country that has been practicing the use of both the death penalty and the mandatory death penalty, will be seeing slight amendments made in the use of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking and homicide.
As we applaud the global changes that have been observed over the past decade and acknowledge the small steps taken by the Singapore Government, we recognise that our work in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty continues. We cannot overlook the fact that the death penalty still exists in our own backyard, guarded defensively by authorities who claim that it is a necessary evil that works as a deterrent towards heinous crimes and drug trafficking.
As the newly formed Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty1, we would like to emphasize our position against the use of death penalty and the mandatory death penalty by stating that:
- The death penalty and mandatory death penalty is an irreversible, ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment and it fundamentally goes against Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”;
- The abolition of the death penalty will contribute to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights;
- The death penalty is not a deterrent for crimes as there are many factors including ignorance, mental conditions and social factors that nullifies any deterrence effect.
Until the death penalty is fully abolished in Singapore, we will continue our call for a paradigm shift in our judicial system and principles – a shift away from the emphasis on retributive justice and move towards the restorative aspects of justice. With this in view, we make the following recommendations to the Singapore Government:
- To continue the current stay on executions and establish an official moratorium to create the time and space for society to explore alternative sentencing options and to work ultimately towards the abolishment of the death penalty;
- To make available statistics and other factual information on the use of the death penalty, which is already an accepted recommendation in the Universal Periodic Review by the Singapore Government1
- Ratify the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] and the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty;
- With due regard to articles 10 and 15 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), recognise that no persons with disabilities – including persons with mental or intellectual disabilities – should be subjected to the death penalty.
We also take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment towards the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore, and express our support and solidarity with friends and fellow abolitionists locally, regionally and internationally.
Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty
13 October 2012
The Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty comprises the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, We believe in Second Chances and Think Centre.
 Moratorium on the use of the death penalty , Report of the Secretary-General, pg 11, E. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/67/226&referer=/english/&Lang=E
Case in brief:
Cheong Chun Yin arrived in Singapore’s Changi Airport from Burma on 16 June 2008, carrying a black suitcase, thinking that it contained gold bars. He handed the bag over to a woman at the airport.
Chun Yin was later arrested after alighting from a taxi in Arab Street. He was then taken to a flat where the suitcase was found. The contents within the suitcase turned out to be 2.7 kg of heroin, instead of the gold bars he was supposed to be smuggling for his friend who wanted to evade tax.
During his interrogation, Chun Yin gave the investigating officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) the name, physical description and phone numbers of his contact, a man who had gone by the name of Lau De. However, the CNB did not make any effort to investigate.
He was then convicted and sentenced to death under the Mandatory Death Penalty stipulated in the Misuse of Drugs Act by High Court Judge Choo Han Teck on 4 February 2010. In his written judgement, Judge Choo stated “I did not find his [Cheong] testimony convincing and I was of the view that his evidence did not create any reasonable doubt in my mind that he might not have known that he was carrying heroin.”
Judge Choo added, “It was immaterial that the CNB did not make adequate efforts to trace Lau De or check on his cell-phones. The absence of any trace of Lau De was not taken as evidence in favour of or against either accused.” [Judgment]
The burning questions:
Death is not reversible and once hanged, any previously convicted criminals found innocent post-sentence, cannot be brought to life. With this in mind, no leads given by alleged criminals should be left uninvestigated.
In the case of Chun Yin, details of his ‘friend’ were given to the investigating officers. Shouldn’t efforts be made to track down Lau De, who might be part of a larger syndicate?
Since such an important lead was not being followed up, can we consider the investigations thorough enough for a charge that carries the death sentence?
Criminal Motion to be heard
Come October 15, 10 am, lawyer M Ravi’s application for Chun Yin’s case to be re-opened will be heard at Singapore’s Court of Appeal.
All leads must not be taken lightly for a sentence so heavy and irreversible. Chun Yin deserves a re-trial and we at the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) are hoping for the best.
Good luck Ravi and Chun Yin!
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
I met up with Mr Cheong Kah Pin, father of death row in mate Cheong Chun Yin, at City Square (JB) on Sunday. It was one of the most heart-wrenching meetings I have ever had with a family member of an inmate on death row. He seemed to have lost some weight but compared to the last time I have seen him, he appeared slightly more optimistic about Chun Yin.
While I am glad that the announcement of the proposed changes towards the mandatory death penalty in Singapore has given him some hope, I cannot help but feel terribly saddened by how the whole situation with Chun Yin had affected him. Fortunately for me, he was talking to me in Mandarin, a language which requires 100% of my listening skills. Due to that, I managed to fight back my tears as I was too busy trying my best to understand every single word and respond to him in the same language than let my emotions overwhelm me.
Here are some of Mr Cheong’s words, translated as accurately as I can possibly manage, into English. I did not take a photo of Mr Cheong because I did not think it was appropriate as I did not meet him with the intention of interviewing him nor did I told him that I will be sharing my experience of the meeting on my blog.
At the Beginning
“I couldn’t sleep when he was first arrested. I would be up til about 3 to 4am in the morning. I would then travel to Singapore on my motorbike. I waited outside Queenstown Remand Centre until I was able to see him. Yes I did not sleep at all, I couldn’t… I saw him everyday and I was so worried. He was too trusting, too helpful and it has landed him into trouble. He did not want me to worry and told me that everything will be alright. He kept saying that… even til now… and I hope he will really be alright now that the law will be changed.”
Mr Cheong’s Hopes
“All we hope for is for him (Chun Yin) to live… and I wish he can come back to us soon. I am old, my health is not in good state… all I wish for is to have him back while I am still here. He is innocent you know… he trusted his friend and he ended up becoming a scapegoat. How can an innocent boy like that whose only mistake was being too naive, be hanged? I hope Singapore will really give him another chance… Hope he will be back to us soon… because I do not know how long I will be around.”
A Note of Appreciation
“I am really thankful that people have come round to help us. Mr Ravi has been very helpful. Thank you (to the campaigners) for all your concern too… thank you for everyone’s help…”
Well, will Chun Yin be free from death row? I certainly hope that he will be.
While we aim to achieve a drug free society, we cannot deny the fact that there will always be youths who will unknowing fall into the trap of becoming an unwitting drug mule due to their naivety. Chun Yin thought that he was helping his friend to bring gold into the country.
Besides that, he fully co-operated during the investigation process and gave the investigators the contact details of “Lau De” – something that was never followed up by the investigators, and which according to the judge, was immaterial.
No, this shouldn’t be the case. All investigations must be thorough and leads provided by the ones who are being investigated must be followed up with, especially when it is a capital crime. Hanging drug mules will never solve the drug problem because the syndicates will forever prey on those who are naive, ignorant or financially desperate to run on fire for them. If drug operations are not crushed, there will always be another Vui Kong or Chun Yin, unaware of the risk or the actual items they are carrying across the customs.
As a family member of Yong Vui Kong, I am greatly comforted and very grateful to learn that Singapore is planning to revise some of its laws at this critical moment. My gratitude to Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hian and the Cabinet for rethinking the use of the Mandatory Death Penalty on drug mules, thus giving my brother a ray of hope. For someone like Vui Kong, death is indeed an overly harsh punishment. Killing a mule does not solve any problems if the mastermind remains at large. Amending the law will instead make Singapore a safer place and lead to a fairer justice system for all.
Vui Kong was a naive 19-year-old when he was lured into becoming a drug mule. His boss started by asking him to collect debts, then told him to deliver “gifts” (drugs). These bad people avoided coming into direct contact with the drugs themselves by placing the risk instead on their mules. Such gangs usually target vulnerable people and I am very sorry that my little brother became their unwitting sacrificial lamb.
Over the past six years, my whole family has been worrying about Vui Kong. We’ve never given up on him and have worked hard for him. This is because we believe my brother was tricked. He was naive and incapable of understanding the seriousness of his crime. Vui Kong didn’t know his boss was making use of him when he delivered the ”gifts” (drugs). Till now, Vui Kong’s mother remains unaware that he faces the death penalty. She suffers from severe depression and my family has kept her in the dark. We hope Vui Kong will now be able to escape death so we no longer have to lie to our mother.
Vui Kong has embraced Buddhism. Over the past years, he’s become a vegetarian and spends his time studying Buddhist scripture, like a monk. Knowing this gives my family comfort. He is a completely different person from who he was in the past. Vui Kong has repented
and is sorry for his past stupidity. We hope authorities can forgive him as he has now turned over a new leaf. Please give Vui Kong, a
first-time offender, a second chance. He has changed and will spend the rest of his years doing what he can to support the anti-drug
campaign. I believe Vui Kong, who is now a devout Buddhist, can use his experiences to reach out to other young people. He can use himself as an example to tell society about the evils of the drug trade and prevent would-be victims from becoming mules.
I hope the authorities can take into consideration Vui Kong’s youth, family background and other circumstances, before handing out
punishment to Vui Kong. He is not a drug lord. He has cooperated and helped identify the real mastermind. I hope that now that the law is going to change, the courts can rethink his punishment and give a repentent Vui Kong, a chance to live.
Yong Yun Leong