The execution of Hishamrudin Bin Mohd has been scheduled for 16 March, a week after Singapore’s first known execution of 2018 took place. The Singaporean man was convicted of, and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for, drug-related offences in 2016. He maintains his innocence of the crime.
Hishamrudin Bin Mohd, a 56 year-old Singaporean man, was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty on 6 April 2016 after he was found guilty of possessing 34.94 grams of diamorphine for the purpose of trafficking. His appeal was rejected on 3 July 2017.
The Courts found that he had not satisfied the criteria that would allow judges to exercise some discretion at sentencing under the amended Misuse of Drugs Act, as his involvement in the offence was thought to be more than simply transporting drugs and he had not raised any concerns about the state of his mental health in order to seek diminished responsibility for the crime.
Hishamrudin Bin Mohd has maintained his innocence since his arrest and holds that proceedings against him were unfair. At his trial and appeal, he stated that he was assaulted by officers of the Central Narcotics Bureau during his arrest and that officials had planted and tampered with evidence against him.
According to a family member, he discharged several lawyers assigned to him under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences as they did not respect his defence instructions, and eventually chose to represent himself at trial and during his appeal. He therefore elected not to appeal for clemency from the President, and instead sought for months to reopen the case through further appeals.
All these avenues proved unsuccessful, resulting in the scheduling of his execution for 16 March. A last minute application for a judicial review of his case was accepted on 12 March and a closed door hearing was set for 14 March
Hishamrudin Bin Mohd’s family members were told on 12 March 2018 at the end of their visit, that the execution by hanging of Hishamrudin Bin Mohd was set for 16 March, and that as family members they would be allowed extended visiting time, for up to four hours per day, in the three days preceding the execution.
The officials added that Hishamrudin Bin Mohd would only be notified of his imminent execution the following morning, 13 March, and that on the eve of the execution two family members could use a dedicated room – created by the Prison Service in November 2017 – to rest and wait for the hanging to take place.
The officials also said that the body of the prisoner would be returned to his family after the execution. The notification of the imminent execution of Hishamrudin Bin Mohd to his family came three days after the announcement by the Central Narcotics Bureau in national media of the execution of a Ghanaian man, on 9 March 2018. The Ghanaian national had been convicted of and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in July 2016 for importing 1,634.9g of methamphetamine.
His execution brought the number of known executions carried out in Singapore to 19 since the 2012 legislative reforms came into force. Of these executions, 16 involved men convicted of drug-related offences. The authorities of Singapore do not make information on scheduled executions available to the public, instead making official announcements of executions only on some occasions after they have been carried out.
Following the adoption of the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2012 and the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 on 14 November 2014, the courts of Singapore are now given discretion not to impose the death penalty in certain circumstances. In drug-related cases, defendants may be spared the death penalty if they are found to have been involved only in transporting, sending or delivering a prohibited substance (as “couriers”) and if the Public Prosecutor can certify that they cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau to disrupt further drug-related activities. For all other circumstances, the punishment remains the mandatory death penalty.
In its recent report Cooperate or Die, Amnesty International highlighted how lawyers and judges are only informed of the outcome of the Public Prosecutor’s decision on cooperation and so are not given information as to how the assistance was tendered.
The mandatory imposition of the death penalty violates international law. The UN Human Rights Committee has said that “the automatic imposition of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life, in violation of article 6, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in circumstances where the death penalty is imposed without any possibility of taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or the circumstances of the particular offence”. International law further requires that the use of the death penalty be restricted to the “most serious crimes”.
The UN Human Rights Committee has on numerous occasions found that drug-related offences do not meet the criterion of “most serious crimes”, a finding reiterated by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. As of today, 106 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds of the world’s countries are abolitionist in law or practice.