The statement made by Malaysia-based human rights organisation Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) last Thu (16 Jan) regarding the alleged judicial execution methods in Changi Prison is “untrue, baseless and preposterous”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wed (22 Jan).
MHA in its statement today stressed that all executions by the state “are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others”.
The Ministry added that Singapore law also requires a Coroner — a Judicial Officer of the State Courts — to establish an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to ensure that “the execution was carried out duly and properly”.
“For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any “special training to carry out the brutal execution method” as alleged.
“Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with,” MHA added.
The Ministry also charged that the “scurrilous allegations of misconduct” are the latest in “a series of sensational and untrue stories” previously published by the human rights organisation.
“LFL has been publishing various falsehoods to seek attention in hopes of getting Malaysian prisoners, who have been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore, off the death penalty,” charged MHA.
The Ministry, however, warned that individuals involved in drug trafficking into the Republic “must be prepared to face the consequences of their actions”, as they “harm and destroy the lives of countless Singaporeans”.
The following section contains a graphic depiction of the alleged process of state execution by hanging in Singapore, which may be distressing to certain readers. Readers’ discretion is advised.
The allegations concerning the “brutal” and “unlawful” process of execution by hanging in Changi Prison first surfaced in a statement by LFL on its website last Thu (16 Jan).
Citing an unnamed former Singapore Prison Services (SPS) officer’s account, LFL advisor N Surendran said that the former officer and other prison officers were “instructed to carry out the following brutal procedure whenever the rope breaks during a hanging, which happens from time to time”:
a) The prison officer is instructed to pull the rope around the neck of the prisoner towards him.
b) Meanwhile, another prison officer will apply pressure by pulling the body in the opposite direction.
c) The first officer must then kick the back of the neck of the prisoner with great force in order to break it.
d) The officers are told to kick the back of the neck because that would be consistent with death by hanging.
e) The officers are told not to kick more than 2 times, so that there will be no tell-tale marks in case there is an autopsy.
f) Strict orders are also given not to divulge the above to other prison staff not involved in executions.
Mr Surendran said that LFL were told that “prison officers were given special training to carry out the above brutal execution method”.
“This execution method is unlawful as the mode of execution prescribed by law is hanging by the neck, and not execution by brutal kicking of the neck,” he stressed.
The information on the alleged hanging method, said Mr Surendran, is also especially pertinent to the organisation, as there are a number of “Malaysians are on death row in Changi prison, mainly being convicted drug mules”.
“Every death row prisoner in Changi, including the Malaysians, are in danger of suffering this excruciating death, should the rope break during the hanging,” he said.
Touching on why LFL was “compelled” to disclose the above details of the hanging process, Mr Surendran claimed that the organisation had written to the Singapore authorities and were prepared to hand over the evidence they had of the methods used to execute prisoners, but were met with “deafening silence”.
“Significantly, they have also not denied our allegation of brutality in carrying out hangings, which has been widely reported,” he alleged, adding that the organisation’s disclosure may result in “ensuing public scrutiny” that “will bring to an end these methods”.
Mr Surendran noted that the purported former SPS officer “is prepared to come forward and testify at the appropriate forum”.
Alleged hanging process a “blatant deception and illegality” by S’pore authorities, “in flagrant breach” of Art. 9 of Constitution, LFL alleges
Branding the alleged hanging method a “blatant deception and illegality by the Singapore authorities”, Mr Surendran in his statement on behalf of LFL said: “It is particularly disturbing that this is being done surreptitiously, with specific measures adopted to ensure that nothing incriminating is revealed during any subsequent autopsy.”
“It is in flagrant breach of Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution, the effect of which is to prohibit cruel and unusual punishments,” he added.
He also alleged that such an execution method could not have been carried out “without the knowledge and approval of the Home Minister and government”.
“Quite clearly, the Republic of Singapore has been knowingly carrying out executions by methods prohibited by both Singapore law, as well as international law.
“At this point, we cannot say how many Malaysians or other nationals have been executed in Changi prison by this horrendous method. Only the Singapore government has that information,” he charged.
S’pore should immediately impose moratorium on all executions in the Republic pending investigations or COI, compensate families of those who were executed: LFL
LFL in its statement last Thu urged the Singapore Government to consider the following actions:
i) To immediately impose a moratorium on all executions in Singapore pending investigations or a Commission of Inquiry into this matter.
ii) To handover a copy of the findings to Malaysia, many of whose citizens have been executed in Changi or are facing execution.
iii) To reveal the number and identities of Malaysian prisoners who have been executed using this brutal method in Changi.
iv) To agree to compensate families for the unlawful execution of their loved ones.
“We further call upon the Malaysian government to take urgent steps to protect the safety and basic rights of all Malaysian prisoners now on death row in Singapore,” the statement read.
Melissa Sasidaran, the director of LFL, in a press conference on 23 Jul last year said that “Singapore seems hellbent” on joining countries such as China — which she dubbed “the world’s leading executioner” — as well as Iran and Saudi Arabia, as seen in the string of rejected clemency petitions made by Malaysian death row prisoners in particular.
Illustrating her point, she cited the cases of Nagaenthran s/o K Dharmalingam, Pannir Selvam Pranthaman and the cases of four other Malaysian death row prisoners in Singapore.
She pointed out that the increase in State executions in Singapore are made in a time where “all around the world” countries are “reducing the number of executions”.
“It is particularly troubling in this case where it is a Malaysian citizen [who is involved], and at a time when Malaysia itself is looking at our own death penalty laws, and we have already imposed a moratorium on the death penalty.
“I think Singapore should look into their death penalty laws, in light of the developments in the region and also worldwide … Hopefully the death penalty will be abolished in Singapore,” Ms Sasidaran added.
In its statement today (22 Jan), MHA also revealed that the Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a Correction Direction against LFL, as well as other media outlets including TOC, for publishing the allegations regarding the judicial execution methods.
TOC has submitted an appeal to the Home Affairs Minister against the Correction Direction today, based on the grounds that our report does not affirm the authenticity of the claims made by LFL, and that we did not receive any response from MHA after submitting a query regarding the claims made by the human rights organisation.