15 Jan 2007

Nigerian NGO takes government to court on impending Singapore hanging

From SDP.
14 Jan 07

The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), a leading human rights group in Nigeria, has taken legal action action against the country's Attorney-General to compel the Nigerian government to intervene in the impending hanging of Mr Amara Tochi in Singapore.

Mr Mr Amara Tochi was convicted for trafficking heroin at Changi Airport in 2005. The matter has, however, attracted much controversy because the trial judge, Mr Kan Ting Chiu, admitted in his judgement that "there was no direct evidence that [Tochi] knew the capsules contained diamorphine."

The Nigerian man had met another African national (a "Mr Smith") at Changi Airport and was given a packet of the drug to carry into Singapore.

Even then, Judge Kan found that "there was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him him they contained diamorphine, or that [Tochi] had found that out of his own." (For background, please see M Ravi in Nigeria to campaign against execution).

Despite this, Mr Amara Tochi was found guilty and sentenced to hang. The appeal process is over and the only chance left is for clemency from the President. Mr Tochi could be hanged within the next few weeks.

Nigeria's CLO has applied for, inter alia, an order of mandamus to compel its government to file a complaint at the International Court of Justice against the Government of Singapore to restrain the execution of Mr Tochi.

In 2006, United Nations' Special Rapporteur on extra judicial and summary execution, Mr Philip Alston, condemned the mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore as illegal under international law.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, those convicted of carrying drugs beyond certain limits must be hanged. Judges have no discretion and cannot take in mitigating arguments.

The CLO's representative, Mr Princewill Akpakpan, was recently in Singapore to see Mr Tochi. He was, however, denied access to the condemned prisoner.

Mr Akpakpan and Mr M Ravi, Singapore's human rights lawyer, have been campaigning to prevent Mr Tochi's execution.

"How can you execute a man who is not guilty of the crime?" pleaded Mr Ravi. "The trial judge even recognized that Tochi didn't know what he was carrying."

Mr Ravi has traveled across Europe and visited Nigeria to garner support to stop Mr Tochi's impending execution. He has been invited to speak at the 3rd World Congress Against the Death Penalty which will be held in Paris in February 2007. The conference is held under the patronage of Mr Jacques Chirac, President of France and Ms Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Mr Bertrand Delanoe Mayor of Paris.




7 comments:

Matilah_Singapura said...

> Nigeria's CLO has applied for, inter alia, an order of mandamus to compel its government to file a complaint at the International Court of Justice against the Government of Singapore to restrain the execution of Mr Tochi. <

It won't work, but anything is worth trying to save this person's life.

By doing so, this is based on the assumption that the S'pore justice system is somehow "subordinate to" the International Court of Justice.

Still, its worth a try.

Capt_Canuck said...

Yep, not gonna do any good. After all, Singapore is not just a country unto itself, but it is universe unto itself. They dont have to follow any form of international law or anything since they are Singaporeans.

Though, it is understandable considering you can have laws for anything and everything but unless there is a system of policing those laws, people only follow the laws if they wish to. Since there is no such thing as a 'world police', then that only means that Singapore can choose to follow the international law or not follow it. I guess they choose not to follow.

So what is the world to do except stop having negotiations with Singapore. Which will never happen considering what company is going to want to say in a memo to stock holders "we stopped dealing with a country because they were hanging people that could or could not have been carrying drugs".

besides, all Singaporeans know that all drug traffikers tell the lie "I didnt know they were drugs, honestly". But, best to try cause it is better to have tried and failed than to have not tried and said to yourself "I could have saved that man".

Matilah_Singapura said...

> all drug traffikers tell the lie "I didnt know they were drugs, honestly <

As would be expected. Heck, if they're found guilty, its the gallows.

Quoting from the article:

"How can you execute a man who is not guilty of the crime?" pleaded Mr Ravi. "The trial judge even recognized that Tochi didn't know what he was carrying."

In a proper justice system, it wouldn't matter if the accused was lying or not. His honesty and integrity are not being tried. His crime is.

Therefore it must be PROVED that his actions were willful, that he was fully aware of his actions.

If the court can't do that, there's no case for the accused to answer — even if he is a liar and/or the most disgusting scumbag on the planet.

Being fined or jailed because justice was sloppy is one thing. Being sentenced to die raises the game to a whole new level.

If Mr Ravi is correct, I wonder why the other lawyers (and magistrates and judges too, as well as the law profession's professional body) haven't joined him in support.

Either Mr Ravi is not correct, or the local legal-eagles are too busy to give a damn about justice.

Capt_Canuck said...

but isnt your position of justice 'to prove the crime' and all taken from a North American, or possibly another type of justice system, where the accused is innocent til proven guilty? Singapore has no such thing written in their laws or constitution. The drug laws do state that if a person is found with a certain amount of drugs on them they are deemed to be traffikers and all traffikers are hung. So, in this case, he was found with drugs and he has to prove that he did not have the amount of drugs on him.

Can you really call a system unjust when the system sets up a way of laws and the people, knowing that these laws exist in the land, do nothing to change them? After all, that would be like a Singaporean telling a Canadian that the Canadian justice system and laws are flawed because Canadians give rights to criminals when a criminal has no rights in Singaporean custom and justice. As you say in your comment "In a proper justice system, it wouldn't matter if the accused was lying or not. His honesty and integrity are not being tried. His crime is." Therefore, it is a just punishment for a crime. Law says 'no one shall have a certain amount of drugs in their possession', he had the drugs in his possession, therefore crime was commited, punishment to be handed down. The law says nothing about 'intent' or 'knowledge of the crime' and thus has no bearing in a Singaporean court.

According to the way that Singaporean law is written for drugs, he is guilty and there is going to be no pardon from the big wigs. After all, if you read the Misuse of Drugs Act (Chapter 185) (http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/html/homepage.html) you will read that under Section 18 (2) it says that "Any person who is proved or presumed to have had a controlled drug in his possession shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have known the nature of that drug." and since you agree that:

"> all drug traffikers tell the lie "I didnt know they were drugs, honestly <

As would be expected. Heck, if they're found guilty, its the gallows."

Then it is presumed he had knowledge of the drug since all people with drugs in their possession will lie to save their life.

As for the definition of 'traffic', look at the interpretation of the act to read:
"traffic" means —

(a) to sell, give, administer, transport, send, deliver or distribute; or

(b) to offer to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a),

otherwise than under the authority of this Act, and “trafficking” has a corresponding meaning;

He was transporting and delivering, therefore he was traffiking in the drug.

He was caught in possession of 727.03 grams of herion, and the limit to have in your possesion to be considered having enough for the purpose of traffiking is 2 grammes of diamorphine. So, he was over 725 grams of the drug. Though have to say that someone is off on their drug legal issues since the Misuse of Drugs Act states 2 grammes but everyone is talking 15 grammes.

So, with all the presumptions that Singaporean law has concerning drugs, I am afraid that international law or not, he is going to hang. Is it right, is it wrong? Those are not questions that Singaporean law is asking to have answered. All they want is the simple answer to the simple question:

Did he have drugs in his possession? YES
Was it over the hanging limit for presumed traffiking? YES

Simple, he must be executed. Black and white in Singapore, no grey allowed

Matilah_Singapura said...

Thanks for clarifying what the law says. I wasn't aware of the wording of the act.

"Innocent till proven guilty" is a principle in Common Law. Both S'pore and N American justice systems have their roots in English Common Law.

And in ye olde Common Law it wasn't up to the judges or courts to MAKE laws but to FIND the law — to determine who was harmed, and what the next course of action should be.

It gets into a nonsense when you add "victimless crimes" to the mix. Then up the stakes by executing people who commit victimless crimes.

You are correct: there are no grey areas in S'pore law, it is black and white. It is the WORDS of the law which count, not the SPIRIT of the law. This is a sad fact, but a real fact nonetheless.

> I am afraid that international law or not, he is going to hang. Is it right, is it wrong? <

It isn't only TOTALLY WORNG. It's UNJUST as well.

clyde said...

Execution because the law supercedes what is ethical/logical doesn't make the setence right. It makes it obsene and the judicial court a gross waste of space. What makes the death sentence in SG so special is that the justice system gives an absolute zero surival chance to people who are genuinely innocent. We take the cake really on this... by taking the death penalty one step further and denying them a fighting chance. It's everything people fear most about the death penalty.

But hey, the end justifies the means.

Matilah_Singapura said...

> We take the cake really on this... by taking the death penalty one step further and denying them a fighting chance. It's everything people fear most about the death penalty. <

On the other side of the coin, the day a state official is charged with treason and sentenced to die, is the day the trap is sprung on the trapper.

Now that's what I call justice