SINGAPORE – Yong Vui Kong’s Death Sentence lifted following Landmark Decision

Yong Vui Kong 2

In a landmark decision made on 14 November, Singapore’s High Court lifted the death sentence on Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian man, aged 25. After six years in death row, Yong instead received a life sentence and 15 strokes of the cane.

ADPAN, NGOs, lawyers and activists from around the world are celebrating the news that Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian man, who was arrested in 2007 aged 19, for possessing 47g of heroin and sentenced to death in 2009 under Singapore’s strict mandatory death penalty laws, has been spared the death penalty.

Yong’s lawyer and ADPAN member M. Ravi launched a series of appeals in the Courts appealing for Yong Vui Kong. This included challenging the constitutionality of Singapore’s mandatory death penalty laws. In 2011 all death sentences in Singapore were suspended whilst a review affecting the mandatory death penalty was carried out. In late 2012, Singapore’s Parliament decided that certain mandatory death penalty laws be changed, including the Misuse of Drugs Act allowing the courts to give discretion in imposing the death penalty in certain cases if they prove that they did not intend to cause death.

ADPAN remains concerned that Yong Vui Kong faces caning –a violation of the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which could also amount to torture.

Following the court’s decision, M Ravi, said, “This is the happiest day of my client’s life. He feels intense gratitude towards all who have worked so hard to save him from being executed…for their commitment and dedication to saving his life”.

“Yong has spent six years facing the prospect of losing it after an unfair judicial process” said ADPAN Coordinator, Louise Vischer, “this is a significant ruling for the many who have supported Yong Vui Kong in lifting this death sentence and for others who have been sentenced under Singapore’s strict drugs laws”.

ADPAN has a membership in Singapore and across the region. ADPAN works for an end to the death penalty across Asia-Pacific.

ADPAN members in Singapore:

  • Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC)
  • We Believe in Second Chances
  • Think Centre
  • Singaporeans for Democracy (SFD)

SINGAPORE – Joint letter appealing for Yong Vui Kong to be granted clemency

AI Index: ASA 36/2012.002

8 May 2012

Mr.  K. Shanmugam

Law Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Treasury,
100 High Street, #08-02
Singapore 179434

Dear Minister


Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) urge Singapore’s Cabinet to advise the President to grant clemency to Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian who faces imminent execution for drug trafficking. Clemency granted by the President, following advice from the Cabinet, is Yong’s last hope.

On 4 April, Singapore’s Supreme Court rejected Yong Vui Kong’s third and final appeal submitted by his lawyer, M. Ravi. The appeal argued that Yong Vui Kong was subjected to unequal treatment before the law when the Attorney-General’s Chamber decided not to prosecute the alleged mastermind of the drug operation, a Singaporean who was Yong Vui Kong’s former boss. He remains free from prosecution now that all 26 charges against him were withdrawn by the Attorney-General’s office. Yet his former employee, Yong Vui Kong, has spent almost four years on death row and now faces imminent execution.

Yong Vui Kong was 19 when first arrested in 2007 for possessing 47g of heroin.  In 2008 Singapore’s High Court sentenced him to death under the Misuse of Drugs Act – which provides a mandatory death sentence for anyone caught with over 15g of heroin.  The law strips the judiciary of discretion to pass a lesser sentence, or to individualize the sentence in conformity with the degree of culpability of the accused.

In 2005 the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said that Singapore’s execution of another prisoner sentenced to death for trafficking heroin, Nguyen Tuong Van, would violate international legal standards relating to the imposition of the death penalty. “No international human rights tribunal anywhere in the world has ever found a mandatory death penalty regime compatible with international human rights norms,” the Special Rapporteur stated.

In resolution 2005/59, adopted on 20 April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights urged all states that still maintain the death penalty “to ensure… that the death penalty is not imposed… as a mandatory sentence”.

Amnesty International and ADPAN urge Singapore to follow the worldwide trend among common-law countries to ban the use of the mandatory death penalty. The US Supreme Court struck down mandatory penalty in 1976, ruling in Woodson v. North Carolina that “fundamental respect for humanity … requires consideration of the character and record of the individual offender and the circumstances of the particular offense.” In 1983, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the penalty was unconstitutional in Mithu v. Punjab, stating that ““[t]he legislature cannot make relevant circumstances irrelevant, deprive the courts of their legitimate jurisdiction to exercise their discretion.” More recently, in Attorney-General vs Kagula, the Supreme Court of Uganda in 2009 struck down the mandatory death penalty because it prevented courts from considering all specific circumstances of the defendant and of the crime.

Yong Vui Kong’s case has sparked widespread concern around the world.  In his own country, Malaysia, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and Malaysian legislators requested the Singaporean authorities to grant clemency in 2010.

The President of Singapore can only grant a presidential pardon upon the advice of the Cabinet. Clemency for a death sentence has only been granted six times since independence in 1965.  Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network call on you and other members of the Cabinet to ensure respect for international legal standards by recommending the commutation of Yong Vui Kong’s death sentence.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and without reservation.  ADPAN is an independent regional network comprising lawyers, NGOs and civil society groups from 24 countries including Singapore. It campaigns for an end to the death penalty across the Asia-Pacific region.

More than two-thirds of states have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Death sentences and executions are decreasing globally and in Asia. Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific, 28 have abolished it in law or in practice.   Five out of the 10 ASEAN-member states have also abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Singapore is one of the few remaining countries in the region that still carries out executions.

Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network are appealing to the Singapore authorities to stop the execution of Yong Vui Kong, to establish a moratorium on the death penalty and to suspend executions.

Sincerely yours,

Donna Guest,   Asia Deputy Director International Secretariat , Amnesty International

M. Ravi,  Counsel for Yong Vui Kong  and  Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) member

Joint Letter to Singaporean Minister of Law

URGENT ACTION: Yong Vui Kong – Third appeal against death sentence rejected

Further information on UA: 296/09 Index: ASA 36/002/2012 Singapore Date: 5 April 2012


THIRD APPEAL AGAINST DEATH SENTENCE REJECTED Yong Vui Kong ’s third appeal application against his death sentence was rejected on 4 April. Only an act of clemency from the President of Singapore can stop his execution from going ahead. Yong Vu i Kong has already spent over four years on death row.

In January, Yong Vui Kong’s lawyer submitted an appeal application stating that Yong Vui Kong should not be executed due to unequal treatment by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. This is because while Yong Vui Kong has been sentenced to death, the 26 charges brought by the Attorney-General’s chambers against his boss, a Singaporean alleged to have masterminded the crime, have been withdrawn.

In the court ruling on 4 April, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong stated that the appeal was rejected because “it has absolutely no merit on the law and on the facts”. The ruling said that the appeal contained “mere assertions” and some were “contrary to evidence”.

This was the third appeal for Yong Vui Kong which has been rejected. The previous appeal applications focused on challenging the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking and seeking judicial review of the clemency process.

Yong Vui Kong was only 19 when he was arrested for trafficking 47 grams of heroin into Singapore. Under Singapore’s drug laws, a defendant is automatically presumed guilty of drug trafficking in cases where possession of heroin exceeds two grams. This provision violates the defendant’s right to be presumed innocent of a crime until proven guilty. In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for trafficking more than 30 grams of heroin. Yong Vui Kong’s last hope is clemency from the President of Singapore, who can grant this only on the advice from the Cabinet. Clemency for a death sentence in Singapore has only been granted six times since independence in 1965.

Official government figures state that there were four executions in 2011, two of them for drug-related offences. Between 2004 and 2010, at least 26 Singaporeans and 12 foreigners were hanged.

Please write immediately in English, Mandarin or your own language:

Call on the Singaporean authorities to stop the execution of Yong Vui Kong;

Demand that they suspend all executions and the imposition new death sentences, and commute all death sentences as a step towards total abolition of the death penalty;

Call on them to revoke legislation establishing mandatory death sentences.


President of Singapore

His Excellency Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam

Office of the President

Orchard Road, Singapore 238823

Email: Or fill-in the comment form at the President’s office via:


Foreign Minister of Malaysia

His Excellency Datuk Seri Anifah Amam

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Wisma Putra No.1 Jalan Wisam Putra, Precinct 2 62602 Putrajuya, Malaysia

Fax: +60 3 8889 1717

Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:


The Online Citizen

An online Community of Singaporeans

(an alternative news source for Singapore)


Salutation: Your Excellency


Additional Information

Singaporean law makes the death penalty mandatory for trafficking more than 30 grams of heroin. In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said, “Singapore’s decision to make the death penalty mandatory keeps judges from considering all of the factors relevant to determining whether a death sentence would be permissible in a capital case.“

Name: Yong Vui Kong

Gender m/f: male

Further information on UA: 296/09 Index: ASA 36/002/2012 Issue Date: 5 April 2012