UN experts call for immediate moratorium on executions for drug offences: Singapore


UN experts* today condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drugrelated charges.

There has been a sharp rise in execution notices issued in Singapore this year.

Nazeri Bin Lajim was arrested in April 2012 and convicted for trafficking 33.39 grams of diamorphine under the 1973 Misuse of Drugs Act in September 2019. The mandatory death penalty wassubsequently imposed in his case and enforced on 22 July 2022.

“Under international law, States that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the ‘most serious crimes’, involving intentional killing,” the experts said. “Drug offences clearly do not meet this threshold.”

The experts reiterated that, as per the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s report on arbitrary detention relating to drug policies andits subsequent jurisprudence, imposing the death penalty for drug-related offences is incompatible with international standards on the useof the death penalty.

Bin Lajim is the fifth person executed in Singapore in 2022.

“We are concerned that a disproportionate number of those being sentenced to death for drug-related offences are minority persons andtend to be from economically disadvantaged backgrounds like Mr Nazeri Bin Lajim,” the experts said. “The practice amounts to discriminatory treatment of minorities such as Malays and vulnerablepersons,” they said.

The enforcement of Nazeri Bin Lajim’s execution proceeded despite claims that he had been suffering from long-term drug addiction andthat most of the diamorphine would have been for personal use. The rest of the narcotics in his possession for trafficking would not have met the 15 gram threshold for the imposition of the mandatory death penalty in Singapore.

“We are also extremely concerned by reports about increasing pressure and acts of intimidation by the authorities against activists,journalists, legal professionals and human rights defenders who peacefully advocate against the death penalty and/or represent persons on death row, and the chilling effect such acts have on civicspace,” the experts said. “The act of expressing one’s opinion and protesting against the death penalty should be tolerated in a democratic country.”

The experts urged the Singaporean authorities to suspend the further execution of individuals on death row for drug offenses and commutetheir death sentences to imprisonment consistent with international human rights law and standards.

“We urge the Government of Singapore to immediately establish an official moratorium on all executions with a view to fully abolishing the death penalty,” the UN experts said.

They said the Government of Singapore should review, without delay, the scope of the death penalty, particularly with regard to drug-related offences, in order to ensure that its imposition and implementation arestrictly limited to cases involving intentional killing.

“We reiterate that the mandatory use of the death penalty constitutesan arbitrary deprivation of life, since it is imposed without taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or the circumstancesof the particular offence,” the experts said.

“Mandatory death sentences are arbitrary in nature and not compatible with the limitation of capital punishment to the “most serious crimes.”

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