Please see below for an appeal letter from MARUAH to President S.R. Nathan on the case of Yong Vui Kong.
9th February 2011
His Excellency President S.R. Nathan
Office of the President
As we await the decision of the Singapore Court of Appeal on Yong Vui Kong’s appeal, MARUAH is writing to you, Sir, to urge you and our government to nevertheless reconsider Vui Kong’s clemency petition and commute his death sentence. We also ask that the government take steps to bring Singapore into compliance with international human rights norms with regard to the death penalty.
Vui Kong is a 23-year-old Malaysian man who was sentenced to death in January 2009, for trafficking 47 grams of diamorphine (heroin) when he was 19 years old. This offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act carries a mandatory death sentence. The mandatory death penalty deprives an accused person of the opportunity to have the judge consider all relevant factors in sentencing. It is therefore inconsistent with the established norm in customary international law which is against mandatory death penalties.
MARUAH has also pointed this out in our Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission in November 2010 to the Human Rights Council. The Law Society of Singapore too had, in March 2007, sent a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs, arguing to the same effect for judges to be given the discretion on whether to impose the death penalty.
In the UPR report, MARUAH had asked for an immediate repeal of all instances of the mandatory death penalty in Singapore. We also saw the need for the government to conduct a general review of the death penalty, assess its effectiveness and the criminal trial processes in capital cases.
MARUAH is aware that Singapore, as a sovereign nation, has the right to develop its own legal system. However, that right needs to be exercised in accordance with international human rights law and norms. No one country can have the sovereign right to violate human rights. Moreover we believe that customary international law has evolved such that it now prohibits the death penalty, and in particular the mandatory death penalty. As such Singapore’s continued use of the death penalty renders our system inconsistent with international law, which is of concern.
We therefore urge you, Sir, and our government to immediately impose a moratorium on all executions and commute the death sentence of Vui Kong and other convicted persons on death row. We also ask that you, Sir, lead Singapore towards repealing all instances of the mandatory death penalty in Singapore and to ensure that Singapore undertakes a more general review of the death penalty , its effectiveness and the criminal trial process in capital cases. Through such a review, we are confident that we will find a better balance between mercy and justice, without compromising on protecting our society. MARUAH will be happy to be of help in this process if we are called upon to do so.
Vui Kong’s and the lives of others are hanging in the balance. So is Singapore’s reputation as a humane society.
We look forward to hearing from you.
MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore)