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Singapore Executes Man for Drug Offence After Flawed Trial

Singapore has executed a Malaysian man who was given a mandatory death sentence after heroin was found in a car he had borrowed. He was hanged on the morning of July 14.

Prabagaran Srivijayan, a 29 year-old Malaysian man, was arrested in April 2012 after 22.24 grams of heroin was found in the armrest of a car that he had borrowed. Under Section 17 of Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, anyone found possessing a quantity of heroin over two grams “shall be presumed to have had that drug in possession for the purpose of trafficking”. Schedule 2 of the Act states that trafficking over 15 grams of heroin must be punished by a mandatory death sentence.

Refworld, an online publication run by the UN Refugee Agency, has accused the Singaporean government of "[falling] short of international fair trial standards", as authorities consistently denied Srivijayan access to his attorneys throughout the legal process.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had expressed "grave concern" that the execution was taking place despite Srivijayan having a pending appeal on the matter with the International Court of Justice.

The OHCHR’s statement, released on July 12, reads:

“We deeply regret that in recent months, four individuals have been executed for drug-related offences in Singapore. Under international law, the death penalty may only be used for ‘the most serious crimes’ which has been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing. Drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold.”

Srivijayan was executed at dawn on July 14 at the country’s notorious Changi Prison. As TalkingDrugs has reported, numerous executions have taken place at Changi Prison, including the hanging of Chijioke Stephen Obioha. Obioha, a 31 year-old chemistry graduate and aspiring football player, was killed by the state after being found in possession of a quantity of cannabis that exceeded the mandatory death penalty threshold.

Singapore defines its drug policy approach as harm prevention, which supposedly aims to stop drug harms from occurring by preventing drug use from taking place. A senior minister has described one of harm prevention's tenets as the imposition of “tough, swift, and uncompromising… robust enforcement”.

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific, has said that "the circumstances around [Srivijayan's] case make the Singaporean authorities’ eagerness to go ahead with the execution even more disturbing. Not only has Prabagaran Srivijayan’s legal team highlighted serious flaws in his trial, there is also an appeal on his case pending in Malaysia. Singapore would be flaunting international law if this execution is carried out.”

Despite protests from the UN, the European Union, and other countries’ governments, Singapore has consistently followed through on executions of foreign nationals for drug offences in recent years.

After this morning's execution, UN Human Rights Asia tweeted that they "condemn [the] execution of Prabagaran Srivijayan for [a] drugs offence in Singapore", and warned of the country's apparent increase in imposing the death penalty for drug offences.

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