23 Nov 2005

Singaporean lawyers question compulsory death sentences

From ABC News.

Related Video
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer is studying legal advice that a treaty on narcotics could form the basis for an International Court of Justice challenge to save Van Nguyen.

[Real Broadband] [Real Dialup] [Win Broadband] [Win Dialup]

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls is heading to Singapore this afternoon to plead for clemency for Melbourne man Van Nguyen. The convicted drug smuggler is due to be hanged in 10 days time.

[Real Broadband] [Real Dialup] [Win Broadband] [Win Dialup]

Related Audio

As the execution of Van Nguyen nears, both the federal and Victorian governments are continuing to investigate ways of convincing Singapore to grant the condemned man clemency.

[RealMedia 28k+] [WinMedia 28k+] [MP3]

With just nine days to go until his client faces the executioner in Singapore, the lawyer for condemned Australian Van Nguyen, has received expert advice which contradicts the Federal Government position on appealing to the International Court of Justice.

[RealMedia 28k+] [WinMedia 28k+] [MP3]

There appears to be little that can be done to save the life of Australian drug trafficker Van Nguyen. The Federal Government has ruled out an appeal to the International Court of Justice, believing it would fail. The Victorian Attorney-General will arrive in Singapore tomorrow for one last-ditch plea for clemency for the 25-year-old Melbourne man. But there is no sign the Singaporean Government is considering the issue.

[RealMedia 28k+] [WinMedia 28k+] [MP3]

Top Singaporean lawyers have called for a review of the city-state's compulsory death penalty for some crimes as criticism grew over the scheduled execution of Australian drug smuggler Van Nguyen.

While lawyers were not opposed to the death sentence, they said the Government should abolish laws which dictate mandatory execution and instead give judges the discretion to impose life-long jail terms.

Singapore's use of the death penalty has come under fire after it turned down repeated pleas by Australia to reconsider clemency for Nguyen, who was sentenced to hanged on December 2 for carrying 400 grams of heroin.

"With current laws, the judges' hands are tied. They must issue the death sentence even if there are serious mitigating circumstances," KS Rajah, a senior counsel and a former deputy public prosecutor, told Reuters.

"It's time to re-look at this issue, simply because it is a matter of life and death."

The wealthy South-East Asian city-state, which has had capital punishment since its days as a British colony, executes those found guilty of murder, kidnapping, treason, arms offences and drug trafficking.

One of Singapore's top criminal defence lawyers Subhas Anandan told Australian media on Tuesday that Nguyen's life, along with many of those who have been executed, could have been spared if judges were given discretionary powers.

In its pleas for clemency, Australia has said 25-year-old Nguyen, who is from Melbourne, was carrying drugs to help his brother pay off debts to loan sharks.

A groundswell of public protest and anger has erupted in Australia over Nguyen's impending execution.

Chandra Mohan, a criminal lawyer and a former member of parliament, said the majority of Singaporeans backed the mandatory death penalty and it was unlikely the Government would review the law soon.

"Singapore maintains that the tough laws have kept the place safe for its people. They will not bow to international pressure and send signals that it is wavering on its stance," Mr Mohan said.

Singapore has one of the world's toughest drug laws.

Laws enacted in 1975 stipulate death by hanging for anyone aged 18 or over convicted of carrying more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine, 500 grams of cannabis or 250 grams of methamphetamines.

Amnesty International said in a 2004 report that about 420 people had been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking.


No comments: