Singapore has always taken a very strict stance against drugs.
Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, anyone found trafficking in a certain quantity of drugs will be given a mandatory death sentence.
Because of this, 44-year-old Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin was sentenced to death in 2016 for drug trafficking as he was found with close to 40g of heroin. His sentence is set to be carried out on Friday (18 Sep) at 6am.
On Tuesday (15 Sep), human rights lawyer M. Ravi shared in a Facebook post that he had taken on Suhail’s case on a pro bono basis.
The Singaporean’s scheduled hanging on Friday (18 Sep) is a result of being convicted of drug trafficking offences dating back in 2011.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, anybody who possesses more than 2g of heroin is presumably engaged in drug trafficking, unless he proves otherwise.
Suhail failed to prove that the 38.84g of heroin found on him was for his own consumption, said the court. Hence, he was convicted of drug trafficking.
In a subsequent Facebook post by Mr Ravi, he quoted HRW as saying that Suhail’s family was informed of his execution only on Thursday (10 Sep) — just 8 days before the date.
This was likely devastating news to his close family members, as many reside in Malaysia.
That means that due to the Covid-19 pandemic and closed borders between Singapore and Malaysia, they’re unable to visit Suhail to see him one last time.
Faced with a dire situation, Suhail wrote a letter to Mr Ravi, asking for help.
Sharing a photo of the letter, the lawyer said he was moved enough to visit him in prison.
In his letter, Suhail decried how the decision will affect his loved ones more than him.
He also said he dreams of better days, adding,
Hope is my only possession.
Mr Ravi has sprung into action, filing a Judicial Review Application in the High Court to stay the execution.
He revealed this in his latest Facebook post on Wednesday (16 Sep), adding that an emergency hearing will be held the High Court on Thursday (17 Sep) — just 1 day before the execution.
The grounds for the application include:
If you’re never heard of Mr Ravi before, he’s a well-known for his involvement in several high-profile court cases on human rights issues.
He’s also against the death penalty, as he thinks “no justice system is foolproof” as it’s run by people.
Thus, the death penalty “is not safe” as it’s irreversible, meaning any miscarriages of justice won’t be able to be fully rectified.
He also implored the public to urge the Cabinet to stop the execution.
In light of the looming execution, several human rights groups have spoken out on the issue.
HRW, in an article on Tuesday (15 Sep), said Singapore should rehabilitate, not execute drug users.
It also claimed that Singapore is 1 of 4 countries in the world that still carry out capital punishment for drug offences.
Amnesty International also called on Singapore to “immediately halt” the execution, describing our drug laws as “draconian”.
Local activist and journalist Kirsten Han has also expressed her views on the matter on Twitter, saying that the execution “will not help anyone”.
Mr Ravi’s courage to take on such a challenging case is admirable. However, capital punishment will always be a contentious issue.
Some may believe that it’s an effective deterrent to protect our youth and deter people from taking and trafficking in drugs. Others may believe that it’s not an effective solution and the potential for an irreversible injustice is great.
Perhaps it really depends on what values we would prefer to take priority in this country.
Whether you’re pro- or anti-capital punishment, though, we can all acknowledge that it’s a human life that will be lost.
Let’s mourn for the life that is likely to be lost, but also strive to protect more lives from the scourge of drugs.
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