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Urgent Motion filed in the Court of Appeal to halt the execution of Chijoke on grounds of unconstitutionality

An urgent criminal motion was filed in the Court of Appeal an hour ago in an attempt to halt the execution of Chijoke Stephan Obioha, who is due to be executed this Friday. Chijoke, who was first arrested in 2007 for the trafficking of Cannabis, has spent more than 9 years behind bars – 8 of which were spent on death row.

The last ditch motion was filed earlier this evening by Chijoke’s lawyer, Mr Joseph Chen Kok Siang. It is understood that the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) member, Mr M. Ravi, is assisting Mr Joseph with the research for the application.

Mr Ravi recently wrote a piece which argued that the ‘unprecedented mental anguish’ that Chijoke experienced in his 8 years on death row amounted to a ‘violation of human rights’ in itself. He stated that, to his knowledge, the delay in Chijoke’s execution is ‘possibly the longest in Singapore’s history.’ In addition to International Human Rights instruments, he also cites the Privy Council Case of Pratt and Morgan v Attorney-General for Jamaica, where it was held that ‘the delay of 5 years and 6 months which had elapsed since an accused’s conviction amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and breached his constitutional right not to be deprived of life.’

In a Facebook post, Mr Ravi shared that the Criminal Motion filed was in line with the arguments advanced above.

The application is based on the question whether a prolonged delay and the supervening events in the execution of the death sentence contravened Article 9(1) of the constitution in so far as it amounted to cruel and inhumane treatment.

Prior to the filing of the motion, the European Union Delegation in Singapore and the Heads of Mission of Norway and Switzerland issued a joint statement calling on the Singapore Government to halt the execution.

The European Union (EU), Norway and Switzerland call on the Singapore authorities to halt the execution of Nigerian national Mr Chijioke Stephen Obioha and to adopt a moratorium on all executions as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty.

The EU, Norway and Switzerland hold a principled position against the death penalty and are opposed to the use of capital punishment under any circumstances. The death penalty has not been shown in any way to act as a deterrent to crime. Furthermore, any errors – inevitable in any legal system – are irreversible. The EU, Norway and Switzerland will continue in their pursuit of the abolition of the death penalty worldwide.

In the past hour, both SADPC and the We Believe in Second Chances Campaign have also released statements which exhort the Singapore Government to halt Chijoke’s execution.

SADPC

“Chijioke maintained that he was innocent, and refused to exercise his right to apply for a Certificate of Cooperation after the law was amended in 2012, as he felt that it would require him to plead guilty to the crime. His first clemency petition was rejected in April 2015. However, he had a change of mind a day before his schedule execution in May 2015. He was then granted a stay of execution.

Following legal advice that he would not qualify as a “courier” under the amended laws, Chijioke withdrew his application. This led to the lifting of the stay of execution on 24 October 2016 and the setting of the execution date. His family has also been informed on 16 November 2016, two days before his scheduled execution, that his second clemency petition has been rejected by the State. They have been unable to make their way to Singapore over the years and is heartbroken by the news.”

We Believe in Second Chances

“It is our view that the mandatory death penalty is a disproportionate and ineffective punishment to deal with the issue of drug trafficking. There is no evidence that this final and irreversible punishment is a more effective deterrent than alternative options, and our experience consistently emphasises that it is often disadvantaged individuals near or at the bottom of a drug syndicate’s hierarchy who face the gallows.

We also note that Chijioke has endured a very long period of 9 years in prison, much of it on death row. He is very far away from home, and has not been able to see his family in this time. We understand that death row inmates are kept in their cells for 23 hours a day, with only about a hour of ‘yard time’. We cannot underestimate the extreme psychological toll of being stuck on death row, facing imminent execution in such conditions.”

It is expected that the motion will be heard by the Court of Appeal tomorrow afternoon. If the motion is dismissed, he is set to be hung at dawn on Friday. If the Court of Appeal reserves judgement, Chijoke will be granted a stay of execution.