This letter was first published in the ST Forum.
I refer to last Wednesday’s article (‘Man accused of murder freed after 6 years in jail’).
This case supports Maruah’s position that various aspects of the death penalty in Singapore contravene international human rights norms.
The principle of proportionality requires that the death penalty applies only to the most serious cases.
Singapore also allows someone to be convicted based solely on his confession to the police. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an accused person to prove that his confession was involuntary.
Maruah calls for the death penalty to be unavailable in cases where the conviction was based only on a confession, as well as especially rigorous supervision of police interrogations in potential capital cases, such as having video-recording of interrogations.
More importantly, Ismil Kadar reportedly has an IQ of 73. Maruah is troubled by the apparent lack of safeguards when interrogating persons with mental disabilities, and asks the police to clarify the protections that are in place.
More fundamentally, Maruah believes that it would never be just to hang a person with mental disabilities based solely on his confession.
The recent introduction of criminal discovery, 13 years after the Law Society first called for it in 1998, has addressed the historical disadvantages to the defence in the criminal justice system. But we have to wonder if there had been potential miscarriages of justice before this.
The irreversibility of the death penalty demands the most rigorous of processes before someone is convicted and hanged.
Maruah believes that Singapore needs to have an open and informed debate on whether the death penalty has a place here, and if so, in what shape and form.
Maruah also calls for a moratorium on executions in the interim. Cases like Ismil’s demand that we do this, to ensure that Singapore never comes close to hanging an innocent person.
Death Penalty Committee