SINGAPORE - European parliamentarians criticized Singapore's mandatory death penalty on Tuesday and urged the government to stop next week's scheduled execution of a 25-year-old Australian drug smuggler.
Nguyen Tuong Van, convicted by Singapore of trying to smuggle 400 grams (0.9 lb) of heroin from Cambodia, is to be hanged on December 2 despite repeated pleas from Australia to reconsider clemency for the former salesman.
"The death penalty is firmly rejected in the European Parliament, but it is applied here. Clearly, we have different positions," Hartmut Nassauer, chairman of the delegation for relations with Southeast Asia, told reporters at a briefing in Singapore.
"We believe in universal democracy, rights and human law."
Singapore, which has the highest execution rate in the world relative to population according to a 2004 report by Amnesty International, has a compulsory death penalty for murder and drug trafficking.
Nguyen's mother and twin brother arrived at Singapore's Changi airport late on Monday and were quickly whisked away by officials from the Australian embassy.
Frithjof Schmidt, a member of the European Green Party, urged Canberra to take the case to an international court, a day after lawyers for Nguyen asked the Australian government to have the United Nations International Court of Justice hear the case.
"There should be a debate in an international court, given the gravity of the punishment for someone just transporting drugs," Schmidt told Reuters.
Schmidt urged the Singapore government to grant Nguyen clemency.
"I would like to appeal to the government not to execute him and to go back to a trial that is in line with international standards," he said. The delegates met Nguyen's Singapore-based lawyer during their visit, he said.
Last week, a senior United Nations official, Philip Alston, criticized Singapore's decision to execute Nguyen, saying that it was violating international norms on use of the death penalty.
But Singapore said Alston was trying to "mislead the public" and maintained that there is no international consensus that capital punishment should be abolished.
The city-state added that it had the sovereign right to impose the death penalty as part of its criminal justice system.
Australia, which opposes capital punishment, says that Nguyen was carrying the drugs to help his brother pay off debts to loan sharks. It asked for clemency on the grounds that he had cooperated with authorities and could be a witness in future drug cases.
22 Nov 2005