The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) must provide on its website a breakdown of Singaporeans being held in prison in foreign countries, said human rights lawyer M Ravi.
In an interview with The Independent Singapore published on 24 Feb, Mr Ravi opined that there should be “transparency of information”, given the precarity of capital punishment.
Death penalty advocates and death penalty lawyers like himself, as well as NGOs, were not made aware of information on two Singaporeans facing capital punishment in China and Vietnam respectively, according to Mr Ravi.
“At least, we are taking steps to safeguard against any unlawful execution or indiscriminate execution as such,” he added.
Mr Ravi is representing Singaporean Cher Wei Hon, who is currently facing the death penalty for drug trafficking in Vietnam.
Similar to the case of Siti Aslinda Binte Junaidi, another Singaporean represented by Mr Ravi and facing the death penalty in China for the same offence, Mr Ravi said that his team “had a lot of difficulty in getting a lawyer” due to hefty legal fees.
In Dec last year, Mr Ravi said that Mr Cher’s family had reached out to him after reports on Ms Aslinda surfaced.
He decided to take on Mr Cher’s case on a pro bono basis, as Mr Cher has three young children who are being looked after by his ailing mother.
Finding a “very competent lawyer at this stage” where the death penalty has been handed down by the courts also proved to be a challenge in Mr Cher’s case, Mr Ravi told The Independent on 24 Feb.
“To review this case, you need to have a lot of specialised skills, and fortunately I’m able to reach out to my network and I’m able to get one recommendation,” said Mr Ravi, adding that he is currently coordinating with the lawyer, referred to as Mr Phan.
The team of lawyers in Vietnam who are jointly working with him, said Mr Ravi, are “very kind and they have accepted what we call ‘low bono’, as in lower amount of fees, which I think is highly reasonable”.
“But even then, the families (are) facing difficulty (in raising the funds), but I hope they can raise that amount. But otherwise, as I said in terms of urgency, it has emerged that Cher needs immediate attention,” said Mr Ravi.
Lawyers seeking to apply for Cher Wei Hon’s stay of execution
Noting that Mr Cher has submitted a clemency petition to the Vietnamese President, Mr Ravi said that “we have to ascertain from (our) Vietnamese counterparts very clearly as to whether is it safe for us to just depend on the stay of execution by the president”.
The final petition was already submitted to the president after the appeal was concluded, he added.
Mr Ravi also said that his team of lawyers are seeking to apply for a stay of execution for Mr Cher, in view of the prospect of the latter’s case being reviewed again by the court.
“So that is not been done yet, but we are looking into it,” he said.
Mr Cher’s case seems to be more urgent than Ms Aslinda’s case, according to Mr Ravi, as the petition has been sent to the president.
While Ms Aslinda may be subject to death by shooting in China, Mr Ravi noted that in Vietnam, the death penalty is carried out through lethal injections.
“And now, once it is turned down, the lethal injection will be administered by way of execution.
“We don’t want that. We would like to have his case properly reviewed,” said Mr Ravi, stressing that there are many “evidential issues” in both Mr Cher and Ms Aslinda’s cases that have not been dealt with thoroughly in investigations and in the courts.
Drug weight threshold for death penalty “arbitrary”: M Ravi
Mothership previously reported that Mr Cher had said that he transported the drugs to pay off his debt.
Mr Cher reportedly became acquainted with a woman named Quynh at a karaoke parlour in Vietnam, from whom he borrowed VND200 million (S$11,832).
To compensate for his debt, Ms Quynh originally made Mr Cher transport iPhones and iPads from Cambodia to Vietnam.
However, she later tasked him to move drugs across the border.
Commenting on the threshold of drug weights that would make an individual subject to the death penalty, Mr Ravi said that the starting point for the death penalty for trafficking drugs such as methamphetamine is 2.5 kilograms and above.
“For heroin, it’s 600 grams. So what if it’s 599? And what if it’s 2.49? Just that 0.0 to 0.1 (kilograms’ difference). How can that make a difference to a person’s life?” He questioned.
“It is so arbitrary … The death penalty itself has not been a solution. We all know that that penalty has only opened all wounds. As I said, it is disproportionately applied against the poor,” Mr Ravi stressed.
Two-thirds of the countries globally, he added, has abolished the death penalty.
“So I don’t see that (as) a solution,” said Mr Ravi.
MFA on 13 Aug last year said that it is aware of the case and in contact with Mr Cher’s family.
“Our Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City is rendering consular assistance to Mr Cher,” MFA was reported by Mothership as saying.