What you need to know
Eleventh-hour bid to stay the execution of a Nigerian man in Singapore has been dismissed by the court.
A Nigerian man convicted of drug trafficking in Singapore will be executed tomorrow after a final bid to save his life was turned down by the court.
Lawyers for Chijioke Stephen Obioha, convicted of importing drugs in 2007, say the man’s execution is scheduled to take place at 6 a.m. tomorrow.
The Singapore Court of Appeal late this afternoon heard a last minute constitutional challenge from Obioha’s legal team.
However, the appeal was dismissed, a member of the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign told The News Lens International.
Obioha has been in prison in Singapore since his arrest in 2007. He was charged with trafficking 2.6 kilograms of cannabis. In Singapore, 500 grams triggers the automatic presumption of drug trafficking. He was also reported to have been found with keys to a room containing other prohibited substances.
In November 2008, he was sentenced to death under Singapore’s mandatory death penalty law. An appeal was rejected by the courts in 2010.
Amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime, which came into force in 2013, meant Obioha was eligible to apply for re-sentencing. However, his supporters say he refused to apply because he insisted he was innocent and saw applying for re-sentencing as an admission of guilt.
A petition for clemency was rejected in 2015 and his execution set for May that year. One day prior to the execution date, Obioha applied for re-sentencing and was granted a stay of execution. After receiving legal advice that he would be unlikely to qualify as a drug courier – this could potentially have led to the death penalty decision being changed – he later withdrew the application.
The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and other human rights groups have been frantically lobbying the Singapore government to halt the execution.
The organization says the execution would be “clearly unlawful under international law and arguably under Singapore law.”
It argues that Obioha’s case – possibly the longest delay of an execution in Singapore’s history – amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
“[He] has endured more than nine punishing years in prison,” the organization says. “He has been detained not for the purposes of treatment nor rehabilitation but for the purposes of awaiting execution. He has faced unprecedented mental anguish.”
Amnesty International earlier this month reiterated its concerns with Singapore’s drug control laws and use of capital punishment.
“Drug-related offenses do not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law,” it said in a statement. “International law also prohibits the imposition of the death penalty as a mandatory punishment.”
Amnesty International also noted that under Singaporean laws, when there is a presumption of drug possession and trafficking, the burden of proof shifts from the prosecutor to the defendant.
“This violates the right to a fair trial by turning the presumption of innocence on its head.”
As of the end of 2015, at least 26 people remained on death row in Singapore.
Editor: Olivia Yang