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Singapore: Amnesty International calls for scheduled execution for Muhammad Ridzuan be halted

Muhammad Ridzuan bin Md Ali
Muhammad Ridzuan bin Md Ali
Amnesty International today called on the Singapore authorities to halt the execution of a Singaporean man scheduled for Friday 19 May 2017 and to immediately re-establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Muhammad Ridzuan Bin Md Ali, a 32 year old-Singaporean national, was sentenced to death on 10 April 2013 after he was convicted of trafficking diamorphine under the Misuse of Drugs Act. 

His four subsequent appeals were rejected, most recently in December 2016. His family learned of the rejection of his clemency application on 15 May 2017.

In 2013 the High Court judge found that Muhammad Ridzuan Bin Md Ali’s involvement was restricted to that of a “courier”. 

Since November 2012, the courts of Singapore have had the discretion not to impose the death penalty in certain circumstances. 

In drug trafficking cases, defendants may be spared the death penalty if they are found to have been involved only in transporting, sending or delivering a prohibited substance, or only offered to commit these acts (as “couriers”) and if the Public Prosecutor can certify that they cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau to disrupt further drug-related activities. 

Both conditions must be met in order for judges to have the discretion to impose a sentence of life imprisonment with caning or death.

However, the Attorney General refused to issue a certificate of cooperation in Muhammad Ridzuan Bin Md Ali’s case and he was therefore sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. 

Mohammad Ridzuan Bin Md Ali’s co-defendant, who was also convicted of drug trafficking and found to be a “courier” at the same trial in 2013, was instead issued with a certificate of cooperation by the prosecution and was sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane. International human rights law requires that the use of the death penalty be restricted to the “most serious crimes”.

The UN Human Rights Committee has on numerous occasions found that drug-related offences do not meet the criterion of “most serious crimes”, a finding reiterated by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The mandatory imposition of the death penalty is against international human rights law. The UN Human Rights Committee has said that “the automatic imposition of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life, in violation of article 6, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in circumstances where the death penalty is imposed without any possibility of taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or the circumstances of the particular offence”.

Furthermore, under Singaporean law, when there is a presumption of drug possession for the aim of trafficking, the burden of proof shifts from the prosecutor to the defendant. This violates the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. 

Amnesty International calls on the authorities of Singapore to immediately halt the execution of Muhammad Ridzuan Bin Md Ali and any other prisoners and swiftly move to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

The authorities of Singapore introduced a moratorium on executions in July 2012, to allow the Parliament to review the country’s mandatory death penalty laws. 

Since executions resumed in 2014, the authorities of Singapore have executed at least 11 people, including eight convicted of drug trafficking and three of murder. 

At least seven new mandatory death sentences were imposed for drug trafficking in 2016 and at least 38 people were on death row at the end of the year.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally as a violation of the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. 

As of today, 141 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice; in the Asia Pacific region, 19 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and a further eight are abolitionist in practice. 

There is no evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect on crime.

Source: The Online Citizen, May 18, 2017


ADPAN calls on Singapore to immediately halt the imminent execution of Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali


The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) urges the government of Singapore to halt the execution of Mr Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali, 31, now said to be scheduled on 19 May 2017. 

We call on the President of the Republic of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam to show mercy and grant Ridzuan clemency.

Muhammaad Ridzuan and Abdul Haleem were both convicted for 2 charges of trafficking in diamorphine under s 5(1)(a) of the MDA read with s 34 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed). However, only Abdul Haleem received the certificate of substantive assistance. This resulted in them receiving different sentences. Abdul Haleem was sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane, and Muhammaad Ridzuan was given the mandatory death sentence.

In Singapore, for drug offences carrying the mandatory death penalty, it is only when the Public Prosecutor issues the certificate of substantive assistance pursuant to s 33B(2)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185, 2008 Rev Ed) will the courts have the discretion to hand down other sentences, other than the death penalty. In Muhammaad Ridzuan's case, despite having provided the necessary information to the Central Narcotics Bureau as to who gave him the drugs, with full name and identification, he was not given the Certificate, thus leaving the judge with no choice but to sentence him to death.

ADPAN is disheartened by the seemingly arbitrary issuance of the Certificates of Substantive Assistance by the prosecution. Discretion on sentencing must be with the courts. It is totally unjustifiable for the Public Prosecutor to have the ultimate power to decide who gets issued the Certificate, consequently, who gets to live or who not.

While we understand Singapore's public health concerns on the entry of illegal drugs, we strongly oppose the use of death penalty as a solution. There is no evidence of efficacy of the death penalty in solving addiction or the entry of prohibited substances, even in Singapore. Despite carrying out executions, the Singaporean authorities continue to arrest drug mules and intercept large amounts of illegal drugs. The death penalty has shown to be not a deterrent.

Ridzuan was not raised in the best of circumstances, having to grapple with poverty that pushed him into working a series of jobs to contribute to his family's income. Ridzuan did not get the best opportunities in life and he has realised his wrongdoings while in prison, and we believe he has demonstrated the potential for rehabilitation. His family has attested how he renewed showing more maturity in his words and actions. The execution on Friday, if to take place, will deprive a changed man of his right to life. In a statement, his family have pointed out that there would be no opportunity for him to commit a similar crime if his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

The death penalty is an affront to human dignity. It disregards the right to life, the very basis of all human rights. ADPAN believes that these rights should be protected by the State at all times. We therefore ask the President and the Government of Singapore to show mercy and stop Ridzuan's execution, and to establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) is an independent cross-regional network committed to working for an end to the death penalty across the Asia Pacific region. ADPAN is made up of NGOs, organizations, civil society groups, lawyers and individual members, not linked to any political party, religion or government and campaigns against the death penalty. It currently has members in 28 countries: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam, UK, USA.

Source: adpan.org, May 18, 2017


2 charged for same crime but only 1 will hang - Prosecutor's role raises questions


The 2 men were charged for the same crime of drug trafficking but because of a technicality, only 1 of them will be hanged.

On Wednesday, his clemency appeal to the President was rejected. In Singapore, clemency petitions are decided by the Cabinet, and the President has no choice but to accede to it.

The fate of 32-year old Muhammad Ridzuan bin Md Ali is now sealed, pending some miracle, and he will be executed on Friday.

He was arrested along with Abdul Haleem in 2010 for trafficking 72.5g of heroin into Singapore.

Abdul Haleem, however, was spared the death sentence because he was granted the Certificate of Cooperation (COC) by the Prosecutor, while Muhammad was denied one.

Muhammad's pending execution has thus once again shines the spotlight on what anti-death penalty activists call a flaw in the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) - the Public Prosecutor's powers vis a vis the COC.

In Singapore, the Attorney General is also the Public Prosecutor, unlike in some other countries where the 2 roles are separate.

Under Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), a trafficker can be spared the death sentence if he satisfies 2 criteria:


  • That his role in trafficking drugs was that of a courier, and nothing more
  • That the Prosecutor has issued him a COC
  • The convict should also have helped in "disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore."


The Prosecutor, during the court case, has in fact certified that Muhammad was a mere courier. However, for unknown reasons, the Prosecutor also decided not to issue him the COC which would have allowed Muhammad to apply to the court to have his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane, as was the case with Abdul Haleem.

"Despite the finding by the Court that Ridzuan was a mere courier, the Public Prosecutor refused to give Ridzuan a certificate of substantial assistance," Eugene Thuraisingam, Muhammad's lawyer, posted on his Facebook page following the president's rejection of clemency.

"The Public Prosecutor however gave his joint trafficker, Abdul Haleem a certificate of substantial assistance. Ridzuan was therefore sentenced to death, while Abdul Haleem was given a certificate of substantial assistance and sentence to life imprisonment."

During sentencing by the courts, Abdul Haleem had asked to be given the same sentence as Muhammad Ridzuan, if the latter was sent to the gallows.

The Straits Times reported the exchange between Abdul Haleem and judge Tay Yong Kwang:

Choking with emotion, he [Abdul Haleem] told Justice Tay Yong Kwang: "If you are sparing my life and not sparing his life, I'd rather go down with him."

But the judge replied: "The court does not have complete discretion to do whatever you want me do."

Abdul Haleem then pointed out that he and his friend faced the same charges.

The judge told him: "You have certification from the Attorney-General's Chambers, he does not."

In effect, the Public Prosecutor now has power over the courts as well: if the Public Prosecutor does not issue a convict with the COC, the courts cannot commute his sentence.

Yet, in the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), the Prosecutor's decision making, in whether a COC is issued or not, is shrouded in secrecy and not even the highest court in the land, the Court of Appeal, can question it, or conduct a judicial review of it unless "it is proved to the court that the determination was done in bad faith or with malice."

The MDA states:

"THE ISSUE OF THE CERTIFICATE WILL BE DETERMINED BY THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR IN HIS SOLE DISCRETION. NO ACTION OR PROCEEDING SHALL LIE AGAINST THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR IN RELATION TO ANY SUCH DETERMINATION UNLESS IT IS PROVED TO THE COURT THAT THE DETERMINATION WAS DONE IN BAD FAITH OR WITH MALICE."

In short, the Prosecutor has iron-clad, virtually unfettered powers to decide whether a person gets to live or die.

Such dubious decisions, done behind closed doors and with complete non-transparency, can result in inexplicable outcomes, as it is with Muhammad's case, where 2 men charged for the same crime can receive exactly opposite punishments.

"Ridzuan told the [Central Narcotics Bureau] who gave him the drugs," said his sister Noraisah. "He gave them a description, with full name and identification. I feel that this information is quite strong, and I don't know why they said that they are still not happy with it."

No one knows why the Prosecutor decided to issue Abdul Haleem the COC, while denying the same to Muhammad Ridzuan because the Prosecutor is not required by law to release or explain his reasons, either to the convict's lawyers or even to his family.

Everything is decided behind a veil of silence and secrecy.

It is disturbing that a person can be condemned to his death just because he is deemed to not have "substantively assisted" the police in "disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore."

Whether drug trafficking activities are "disrupted" or not depends on so many different factors, most of which would be beyond the control of the inmate.

For example, it would depend on whether the authorities actually act on information provided by the inmate.

It would also depend on whether the authorities take the appropriate action, or are competent in doing so.

And how would an inmate incarcerated on death row in Changi Prison in Singapore be able to "disrupt" drug activities "outside Singapore"? Would this not depend entirely on how the authorities act on the information provided by the inmate?

With the law prohibiting any judicial review or questioning of the Prosecutor's decision, except when such decision is proved to have been made on bad faith or malice, there really is no way of knowing if the Prosecutor has done the right or necessary thing in acting on the information provided by the inmate.

Clearly, this practice of vesting the Prosecutor with so much power is highly flawed.

His decision and decision-making process are effectively unquestionable, giving him seemingly unfettered authority.

Such absurdity has resulted in decisions which allow one person to be spared death while another, charged for the same crime, is sent to the gallows.

The rule of law insists that decisions, especially those involving capital punishment which are irreversible, must be made according to the law, and must be opened to review or question.

In 2011, lawyer M Ravi filed a constitutional challenge on the case of Yong Vui Kong, which centred on whether the Cabinet's decision in granting clemency is opened to judicial review.

The Court of Appeal, in its ruling, said "the making of a clemency decision pursuant to Art 22P is now 'not a private act of grace from an individual happening to possess power ... [but] a part of the [c]onstitutional scheme'."

Article 22P refers to the president's powers to grant clemencies.

The Court of Appeal said that if "conclusive evidence is produced to the court to show that the Cabinet never met to consider the offender's case at all, or that the Cabinet did not consider the Art 22P(2) materials placed before it and merely tossed a coin to determine what advice to give to the President, the Cabinet would have acted in breach of Art 22P(2)."

The Court added:

"IF THE COURTS CANNOT INTERVENE TO CORRECT A BREACH OF ART 22P OF THIS NATURE, THE RULE OF LAW WOULD BE RENDERED NUGATORY."

Would it also not follow that if the courts are unable to intervene and question the Prosecutor's decision on granting the COC, there is a risk that the Prosecutor could make an erroneous decision based on wrong facts or even on superficial whims which, under existing laws, could result in the death of an inmate?

Yet the law says such decisions "shall be at the sole discretion of the Public Prosecutor... unless it is proved to the court that the determination was done in bad faith or with malice."

The granting, or not, of a COC by the Prosecutor, to borrow the words of the Court of Appeal, is 'not a private act of grace from an individual happening to possess power.'

It is in fact from constitutional powers vested in him which should make him accountable, and not protected behind a wall of opacity.

And if he is to be accountable, then surely his decisions must be opened to judicial review.

Why was Haleem Abdul spared death, while Muhammad Ridzuan was not?

How is it that a person can be condemned to death just simply because he is deemed to not have "substantively assisted" the police?

How did we arrive at a law which says that not cooperating with the police is, effectively, a capital offence?

Source: theindependent.sg, May 18, 2017


Petition for stay of execution for Muhammad Ridzuan rejected by Singapore President


Human rights lawyer, M Ravi has shared that the President of Singapore, Mr Tony Tan rejected his petition for a stay of execution for death row inmate, Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali, 32. 

Mr Ravi was informed by the principal private secretary to the president via a letter to him on Thursday evening.

In his petition that was submitted on Thursday morning, Mr Ravi wrote the the impending execution of Ridzuan is not only unlawful under Articles 9(1) and 12 of the Singapore Constitution, but is also in breach of customary international law.

He noted that if the Singapore government has decided to wait for the outcome of the decision in the Malaysian Courts in respect of two other death row inmates, Prabagaran and Datchinamurthy, it must then stay the execution of Ridzuan.

He then asked that the President to convene a Constitutional Tribunal under Article 100 of the Singapore Constitution so that judges can determine the constitutionality of the warrant of execution.

Earlier On Wednesday, 17 May 2017, Muhammad Ridzuan's clemency appeal against his capital charge to the President was rejected.

He will be due to hang tomorrow morning, Friday, 19 May 2017, at 6am.

Source: The Online Citizen, May 19, 2017

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