The execution of a Singaporean charged with drug trafficking has been scheduled for April 21, just four days after the man's appeal for clemency was rejected by the president of Singapore.
Jeffrey Marquez Abineno, 52, on Nov. 28, 2014 was convicted by the Singapore High Court for trafficking 45.26 grams of diamorphine. He was sentenced to death on Dec. 3, 2014, after failing to be certified by the public prosecutor for having provided “substantive assistance” in disrupting drug trafficking activities.
Abineno’s appeal for a presidential pardon was rejected on April 17, and his execution was scheduled.
Local abolitionist groups, We Believe in Second Chances and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, released a joint statement on April 19 noting the short time between the rejection of Abineno’s appeal for clemency and the scheduling of his execution. The organization says this gives his lawyers very little time to review his case and pursue alternative legal avenues.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for two of Abineno’s fellow death row inmates — Malaysians S Prabagaran and K Datchinamurthy — submitted their cases to the Malaysian High Court for judicial review to compel the Malaysian government to intervene and bring the cases to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The lawyer, N. Surendran, argues that Singapore’s drug prosecution regime constitutes a breach of a fair trial. The Malaysian High Court dismissed the applications on March 27, and both cases have now gone to the Malaysian Court of Appeals, where it is pending review.
However, the Singapore Prison Services has refused visitation rights for Surendran.
Co-founder of We Believe in Second Chances, Kirsten Han, told The News Lens that if the Malaysian Court of Appeals approves the case and the ICJ rules that the Singaporean system breached the right to a fair trial, all capital drug cases in Singapore would be affected.
But it is unlikely Abineno will escape the gallows. “He has come to the end of the process. Unless lawyers can find a new legal argument or evidence it will be very difficult to get the court to hear his case again,” Han said.
“If the ICJ ultimately rules that Singapore’s current drug prosecution regime breaches the accused’s right to a fair trial, Jeffrey and his family would pay the high price of him being one of the last men hanged under a regime found to be in breach of customary international law,” We Believe in Second Chances said in a statement.
Singapore retains the mandatory death sentence for a range of crimes, including drug trafficking, murder, terrorism-related offenses resulting in death and more.
In 2016, Singapore sentenced four people to death, two were for drug related offenses.
Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which came into force in 2013, allowed courts to impose a life sentence instead of the death penalty if the accused is found to be “only a drug courier,” or "suffering from such an abnormality of mind that it substantially impaired his mental responsibility for committing the offence."
The public prosecutor must also certify that the convicted offender has provided “substantive assistance” to the anti-narcotics police in disrupting drug trafficking activity in Singapore or overseas.
The Singapore government does not publicize the numbers of people on death row, but We Believe in Second Chances estimates that the current number stands at around 20.
Han told TNL an execution took place this March, but Singapore’s prison authorities refused to confirm the case, citing “confidentiality reasons,” despite the fact that capital cases should be a matter of public record.
Editor: Olivia Yang