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 – Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty World Day Against the Death Penalty statement

10th World Day Against the Death Penalty

It has been a decade since the World Day Against the Death Penalty was first commemorated. In the past decade, the world has seen a progressive decrease in the use of the death penalty.

According to the latest statistics provided by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 97 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 8 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 36 countries have abolished the death penalty in practice. In total, 141 countries are abolitionist in law or in practice.

Singapore, a country that has been practicing the use of both the death penalty and the mandatory death penalty, will be seeing slight amendments made in the use of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking and homicide.

As we applaud the global changes that have been observed over the past decade and acknowledge the small steps taken by the Singapore Government, we recognise that our work in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty continues. We cannot overlook the fact that the death penalty still exists in our own backyard, guarded defensively by authorities who claim that it is a necessary evil that works as a deterrent towards heinous crimes and drug trafficking.

As the newly formed Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty[1], we  would like to emphasize our position against the use of  death penalty and the mandatory death penalty by stating that:

  1. The death penalty and mandatory death penalty is an irreversible, ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment and it fundamentally goes against Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”;
  2. The abolition of the death penalty will contribute to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights;
  3. The death penalty is not a deterrent for crimes as there are many factors including ignorance, mental conditions and social factors that nullifies any deterrence effect.

Until the death penalty is fully abolished in Singapore, we will continue our call for a paradigm shift in our judicial system and principles – a shift away from the emphasis on retributive justice and move towards the restorative aspects of justice.  With this in view, we make the following recommendations to the Singapore Government:

  1. To continue the current stay on executions and establish an official moratorium to create the time and space for society to explore alternative sentencing options and to work ultimately towards the abolishment of the death penalty;
  2. To make available statistics and other factual information on the use of the death penalty, which is already an accepted recommendation in the Universal Periodic Review by the Singapore Government[2]
  3. Ratify the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] and the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty;
  4. With due regard to articles 10 and 15 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), recognise that no persons with disabilities – including persons with mental or intellectual disabilities – should be subjected to the death penalty.

We also take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment towards the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore, and express our support and solidarity with friends and fellow abolitionists locally, regionally and internationally.

Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty

13 October 2012

About the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP)

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP) is a collaboration between Think Centre, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe in Second Chances. We have come together as concerned Singaporeans to advocate for changes that we strongly believe will lead to a better Singapore where every individual enjoys the full “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights” as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights (UDHR).

We are motivated by Article 3 of the UDHR that proclaims “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Every nation including Singapore and every individual must “promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures” ensure “effective recognition and observance among the people”.

Under this collaboration, we work together to enhance our collective capacity to conduct research, projects and events. Through our outreach programmes, we hope to raise awareness and trigger much-needed public debate on issues surrounding the  death penalty in Singapore.

[1]              The Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty comprises the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, We believe in Second Chances and Think Centre.

[2]              Moratorium on the use of the death penalty , Report of the Secretary-General, pg 11, E.

SINGAPORE: Proposed change a welcome step

Government needs to do more to abolish mandatory death penalty for all crimes

Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) welcomes the Singaporean Government’s move towards putting an end to the mandatory death sentencing for drug trafficking and homicide cases, and the moratorium on executions in place until proposed changes in the law are enacted.

Mandatory death sentences are prohibited under international law and Amnesty International therefore calls on the Government of Singapore to abolish mandatory death sentencing unconditionally.

Mandatory death sentences prevent judges from exercising their discretion and from considering all extenuating circumstances in a case.  International human rights law prohibits mandatory death sentences as they have been found to constitute arbitrary deprivation of life and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.  Many courts and judicial bodies around the world have ruled mandatory death sentencing as unconstitutional.

These proposed changes are key in saving the lives of those who are currently in death row in Singapore, particularly the case of Malaysian Yong Vui Kong, who is facing imminent execution.  Yong Vui Kong, who was 19 years old when arrested in 2007, was given a mandatory death sentence for possession of 47g of heroin, which under Singapore’s existing laws amounted to drug trafficking and warranted mandatory death penalty.  Yong Vui Kong was a courier and has identified in a police statement the alleged mastermind of the operation who instigated him to transport the controlled drugs to Singapore.  The charges against the Singaporean alleged to have masterminded the crime have been withdrawn.   Yong Vui Kong’s case has attracted international attention and concern from the diplomatic community.

Amnesty International and the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) joins local groups in Malaysia and Singapore in calling for the Singaporean Government to commute Yong Vui Kong’s sentence.

ADPAN is a cross-regional independent network made up of NGOs, lawyers and activists from 24 countries that are committed to working for an end to the death penalty in their own countries and across the Asia Pacific region.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, believing that the death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.  Amnesty International and ADPAN understand the devastating impact of violent crime and sympathizes with victims of crime and their families.  However, there is no evidence to demonstrate that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.  Victims of crime are doubly victimised by unfair trial procedures which can result in the innocent being executed and the real perpetrators never being brought to justice.