UN-appointed independent human rights experts called on Thursday for Singapore to immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, saying the continued use of capital punishment for drug-related crimes runs contrary to international law.
States that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for “the most serious crimes,” the group of eleven experts said in a joint statement, adding that under international law, “only crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing” should be considered “most serious”.
“Drug offences clearly do not meet this threshold”, they argued.
“The death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life”.
— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) May 12, 2022
The experts condemned Singapore’s execution of Malaysian nationals Abdul Kahar bin Othman and Nagaenthran Dharmalingam for drug-related offences in March and April, respectively.
Mr. Dharmalingam was executed despite claims that he had an intellectual disability, a deteriorating mental health condition and was a victim of human trafficking.
“Executions of persons with intellectual disabilities and for drug-related offences are a violation of the right to life and the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and amount to unlawful killings,” the experts underscored.
A life in the balance
They also urged the Government to halt any plan to execute another Malaysian man convicted for a similar offence and to immediately establish “an official moratorium on all executions with a view to fully abolishing the death penalty”.
Datchinamurthy Kataiah was arrested for trafficking 44.96 grams of diamorphine from Malaysia to Singapore, and sentenced to death in May 2015.
Although his execution was scheduled for 29 April 2022, a stay was granted until 20 May.
They called on the Singaporean authorities to instead commute his death sentence to prison terms, in accordance with international human rights law and standards.
Additionally, the UN experts raised concerns over the discriminatory treatment of individuals belonging to minorities, as in the case of Mr. Kataiah, and reports about reprisals against their legal representatives.
Abolish death row
The statement reiterated that the mandatory use of the death penalty constitutes “an arbitrary deprivation of life”, since it is imposed without any possibility of taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or that of the particular offence.
“As a first step, the Government of Singapore should review, without delay, the scope of the death penalty, particularly with regard to drug-related offences, in order to ensure that its imposition and implementation are strictly limited to cases involving intentional killing,” they concluded.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not paid for their work.
Click here for the names of the experts who signed the statement.