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Golden hour in Signapore.Unsplash/Swapnil Bapat Golden hour in Signapore.

 

In Singapore, the UN rights office, OHCHR, called on Monday for a stay of execution for two Malaysian nationals accused of drug offences. 

The execution of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam and Datchinamurthy Kataiah is imminent, the UN rights office said in a statement, before pointing to an apparently “alarming acceleration in execution notices” in Singapore, since the start of the year. 

OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that Mr. Dharmalingam was arrested in 2009 and convicted of drug trafficking.  

His family was told just last week that he was due to be executed this Wednesday. 

Multiple appeals claiming that he had an intellectual disability were dismissed and requests for clemency denied, Ms. Shamdasani explained.  

The second prisoner facing execution, Mr. Kataiah, was arrested in 2011 and convicted on charges of trafficking diamorphine into Singapore. Last week, his family received notice that he would be executed on Friday. 

Death row offences 

After more than a two-year pause, on 30 March, Singapore executed Abdul Kahar bin Othman, following his conviction for drug-related offences.  

Today, at least three other men found guilty of drug-related offences are at risk of the death sentence, OHCHR has warned, identifying them as Roslan bin Bakar, Rosman bin Abdullah and Pannir Selvam Pranthaman. 

In addition, more than 50 people are reportedly on death row in Singapore. 

Abolitionist momentum 

According to the UN Human Rights Committee, around 170 States have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty, either in law or in practice.  

Despite this growing trend, the UN-appointed independent panel explained that a small number of countries have retained executions, largely because of the belief that they deter crime. A few States also still permit the death penalty for crimes other than those of extreme gravity involving intentional killing, including for drug-related or terrorism charges, the Committee said.  

“More work needs to be done,” according to its website, which says that the universal abolition of the death sentence “is necessary for the enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights”. 

Such a move would be in accordance with General Assembly resolutions, likeminded Member States, civil society, UN Special Procedures mandates and others who have campaigned for a moratorium on the death penalty and ultimately its abolition worldwide, the Committee explained. 

Incompatible with international law 

Echoing that message, Ms. Shamdasani insisted that sentencing people to death for drug-related offences was “incompatible with international human rights law”, adding that countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty should only impose it for the “most serious crimes”, which is usually interpreted as crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing. 

Commutation call 

“We urge the Singaporean authorities to immediately halt its execution plans, to consider granting [Mr.] Dharmalingham and [Mr.] Kataiah clemency, and to commute their sentences to prison terms,” Ms. Shamdasani said.   

OHCHR also urged the Singaporean authorities to review its long-standing position on the death penalty, citing “increasing evidence showing its ineffectiveness as a deterrent”, and to consider implementing a moratorium on all death sentences, pending such a review.