Two United Nations human rights experts on summary executions and on torture today urged the Government of Singapore not to carry out the execution of Kho Jabing, a Malaysian national who was sentenced to death in 2010 after being found guilty of unintentional murder.
In a press release, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that at the time the sentence was issued against Mr. Jabing – who is 31 years old – Singaporean legislation imposed the mandatory death sentence for all murder convictions. But based on the Penal Code Amendment Act, passed in 2013, he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane in 2013.
However, in January 2015, the Court of Appeal re-imposed his death sentence, and his execution was scheduled for 20 May, despite the fact that the Penal Code Amendment Act keeps the mandatory death penalty for intentional murder only, while giving the courts the possibility to impose life imprisonment and caning in cases where there was no intention to cause death.
“Mr. Kho Jabing’s actions do not meet the threshold of ‘most serious crimes’, making his execution a violation of the right to life,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions, Christof Heyns.
“International law only allows the death sentence for premeditated and deliberate acts with lethal consequences. I urge the Government to immediately halt its plans to execute Mr. Kho Jabing,” he added.
The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern that, despite recent reforms, Singaporean legislation still foresees a mandatory death sentence for intentional murder.
“This is incompatible with international law, so the Government must pursue legal reform that will put an end to mandatory death sentences, in line with international human rights and fair trial standards,” he noted.
“Reinstating the death penalty, based on the facts in this case, is appalling and amounts to mental cruelty,” added the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.
The experts also expressed alarm by reports that four persons were executed (three of them for drug-related crimes, which do not meet the threshold for ‘most serious crimes’) in Singapore in 2015, and appealed the Government to reinstate the official moratorium declared in 2011.