(Eds: Updates with HRW and Amnesty International's reax)
Singapore, Jul 7 (PTI) Kalwant Singh, an Indian-origin Malaysian drug trafficker, was executed in Singapore on Thursday after a top court rejected his last-minute effort to escape the gallows, over two months after authorities hanged a mentally challenged Indian-Malaysian drug trafficker.
Singh, 31, was arrested in Singapore in 2013 for possessing 60.15 grams of diamorphine including trafficking 120.9 grams of the substance. He was convicted in 2016 and had been on death row since then.
The authorities in Singapore reportedly issued on June 30 the execution notice against Singh for the sentence to be carried out on July 7.
A group of human rights activists gathered for a candlelight vigil in front of the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday in an attempt to stop the execution.
His execution was confirmed by Singaporean human rights activist Kirsten Han, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported on Thursday.
Apart from Singh's execution in Changi Prison in Singapore, Norasharee Gous, a Singaporean national, was also hanged for drug trafficking.
"Kalwant’s family are still at the prison. I am on my way to Norasharee’s funeral," Han said, noting that Singh’s family were handed his belongings and death certificate, the report said.
“I am sad to be able to confirm the executions of both Kalwant Singh and Norasharee bin Gous. Both families have been handed their belongings and death certificates. Kalwant’s family are still in prison; I am on my way to Norasharee’s funeral,” Han said in a tweet.
Singh filed a last-minute appeal on the eve of his execution on grounds that he was a mere courier and that he had cooperated with police, but it was rejected by the court.
On April 27, Singapore executed 34-year-old Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a mentally challenged Indian-origin Malaysian man found guilty of drug trafficking. Under Singapore’s laws, those caught carrying more than 15 grams of heroin are subject to the death penalty.
Singapore, which has some of the world’s toughest drug laws, resumed executions in March after a hiatus of more than two years when it executed another drug trafficker.
The fresh hangings have raised concerns among activists that the country will soon carry out more executions. There are currently an estimated 60 people on Singapore’s death row.
Human Rights Watch criticised the decision of hanging Singh and Gous and urged Singapore to end executions for all drug-related crimes.
"Recent drug busts in the country show just how hollow Singapore's claims are about the supposed "deterrent" effect of these cruel executions. Singapore should take immediate action to end executions for all drug related crimes & commute the sentences of those on death row," tweeted Phil Robertson, deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research Emerlynne Gil said:
“Singapore has once again executed people convicted of drug-related offenses in violation of international law, callously disregarding public outcry.”
“Going against a worldwide trend towards abolishing the death penalty, Singapore is just one of four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years. The death penalty is never the solution and we oppose it unconditionally. There is no evidence that it acts as a unique deterrent to crime,” Gil said in a statement.
Despite the court finding that his role was limited to the transportation of drugs, Singh was denied a certificate of substantive assistance by the prosecution. He was then sentenced by the court to the mandatory death penalty, it said.
Last week, in a media interview, Minister of Law K Shanmugam publicly defended the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences in Singapore, citing the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) recognition of problems caused by drugs in Southeast Asia.
"Contrary to what the Singaporean authorities have claimed, both the UNODC and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) – the UN bodies tasked with crime prevention and drug policy – have condemned the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences and have urged governments to move towards abolition.
"In fact, the UN Common Position on drugs has always been to urge governments to shift away from punitive responses because of their ineffectiveness in reducing drug trafficking or in addressing the use and supply of drugs,” the Amnesty International said.
"The government has a duty to protect human rights for all, and its use of the death penalty is a blatant violation of human rights. We urge the Singaporean authorities to immediately stop this latest wave of hangings and impose a moratorium on executions as a step towards ending this shameful and inhuman punishment,” it said in the statement.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. As of today, 110 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds are abolitionist in law or practice, the statement said.
Singapore has carried out four executions this year, all of people convicted of drug offences, after a pause of over 2 years during the pandemic. PTI MRJ AKJ MRJ