16 Nov 2005

Singapore reviews UN Nguyen finding

By Jake Lloyd-Smith in Singapore
November 16, 2005
SINGAPORE today had no immediate reaction to a UN official's call not to hang convicted Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van.

However, it has been welcomed by a local anti-death penalty activist who took the case to the world body.

UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston – an Australian based in Geneva – has said that Nguyen's execution would violate international legal standards.

A spokesman for Singapore's ministry of foreign affairs confirmed that Alston's remarks were under review.

A Singapore statement on the high-profile case is expected later today.

M Ravi, a human rights lawyer, filed a last-ditch appeal to the UN on November 8.

"It is important that the Singapore Government now, in this case, at least starts complying with international norms as regards the issue of the mandatory death sentence," he said.

Nguyen, 25, was arrested at Singapore's Changi airport while in transit from Cambodia to Australia in December 2002.

He was sentenced to death in March 2004 for carrying almost 400 grams of heroin.

All appeals for clemency from his legal team and the Australian Government have so far been rebuffed, and he had been expected to be hanged this month.

Mr Alston's statement focused particular attention on Singapore's mandatory use of the death sentence.

Singapore law dictates that anyone convicted of carrying more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine, or 500 grams of marijuana is deemed a trafficker, and must be hanged.

The local courts have no discretion to consider extenuating circumstances in such cases.

"Such a black and white approach is entirely inappropriate where the life of the accused is at stake," Mr Alston said

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