All posts by Kirsten

Halt the execution of Chijioke Stephen Obioha

We Believe in Second Chances urges the President and Cabinet of Singapore to halt the imminent execution of Nigerian national Chijioke Stephen Obioha, whose execution has been scheduled for Friday 18 November.

Chijioke was arrested on 9 April 2007 and subsequently charged with trafficking 2,604.56 grammes of cannabis. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by the High Court in November 2008. Under Singaporean law, trafficking more than 500 grammes of cannabis is sufficient to attract the mandatory death penalty. A search of his rented room also turned up items like a utensil for smoking cannabis and a weighing scale.

Amendments were made to Singapore’s mandatory death penalty regime in 2012, and came into force in 2013. These changes meant that Chijioke was eligible to apply for re-sentencing, but he refused to do so because he insisted that he was innocent and felt that applying for re-sentencing would be an admission of guilt. His clemency petition was rejected in 2015 and his execution set for May that year.

One day before his execution, Chijioke decided to apply for re-sentencing, and was granted a stay of execution to do so. However, he later withdrew his application after being advised that he was unlikely to qualify as a courier under the amendments – one of the requirements that need to be fulfilled before one has a chance to escape the gallows. The stay of execution was lifted in October this year.

It is our view that the mandatory death penalty is a disproportionate and ineffective punishment to deal with the issue of drug trafficking. There is no evidence that this final and irreversible punishment is a more effective deterrent than alternative options, and our experience consistently emphasises that it is often disadvantaged individuals near or at the bottom of a drug syndicate’s hierarchy who face the gallows.

We also note that Chijioke has endured a very long period of 9 years in prison, much of it on death row. He is very far away from home, and has not been able to see his family in this time. We understand that death row inmates are kept in their cells for 23 hours a day, with only about a hour of ‘yard time’. We cannot underestimate the extreme psychological toll of being stuck on death row, facing imminent execution in such conditions.  

We urge the Cabinet of Singapore to halt the execution. It is still not too late to advise the President to grant clemency to Chijioke.

We also call upon all concerned individuals to contact the President and Cabinet of Singapore to add their voices to this plea for Chijioke’s life. Contact details for the President and members of the Cabinet are listed below.

President Tony Tan: tony_tan@istana.gov.sg

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: lee_hsien_loong@pmo.gov.sg

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean: teo_chee_hean@pmo.gov.sg

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam: tharman_s@pmo.gov.sg

Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan: khaw_boon_wan@mot.gov.sg

Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang: lim_hng_kiang@mti.gov.sg

Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say: lim_swee_say@mom.gov.sg

Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim: yaacob_ibrahim@mci.gov.sg

Minster for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen: ng_eng_hen@mindef.gov.sg

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: v.bala@mfa.gov.sg

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam: k_shanmugam@mlaw.gov.sg

Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong: gan_kim_yong@moh.gov.sg

Minster for Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran: s_iswaran@mti.gov.sg

Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat: heng_swee_keat@mof.gov.sg

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu: grace_fu@mccy.gov.sg

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing: chan_chun_sing@pmo.gov.sg

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-jin: tan_chuan-jin@msf.gov.sg

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong: lawrence_wong@mnd.gov.sg

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli: masagos_zulkifli@mewr.gov.sg

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng: ng_chee_meng@moe.gov.sg

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung: ong_ye_kung@moe.gov.sg

UPDATE: Funding for #SaveJabing

When we heard that Jabing’s clemency petition had been rejected, we launched a fundraising appeal to raise money to fly his mother Lenduk and sister Jumai to Singapore, as well as to campaign for his sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.

We are grateful that many friends and supporters of We Believe in Second Chances and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign came forward to contribute towards the expenses that would be incurred in the struggle to save Jabing.

As of 16 November we have raised $4,305.


 

As promised, we will be releasing updates as to the funding situation, and what our expenses have been:

Flights: $844.11
We flew Jumai and Lenduk from Miri to Singapore on 26 October. When Jabing’s execution date was scheduled, we flew his cousin Juliah from Miri to Singapore so that she could provide support to both Jumai and Lenduk. When Jabing’s execution was stayed, we flew Juliah home to Miri so that she could get back to work. We have also flown Jumai, Lenduk and a representative from Second Chances to Kuala Lumpur to engage with Malaysian human rights groups and campaign in Malaysia.

Accommodation: $1,151.24
We booked the family accommodation in a hostel in Singapore, and had to extend their stay in the hostel a few times.

Other travel costs: $213.05
These costs include taxi costs that were incurred in the course of the campaign, such as taxi rides to meetings with lawyers, or to court. Some compensation was also given to volunteers in the event they had to take a taxi to the hostel to meet the family, or had to go home late at night after meetings.

Food and other expenses: $1,135.88
This includes meals as well as other expenses such as medication for Lenduk, top-ups for SIM cards and an allowance to the family for their needs while in Singapore.

Legal: $20
Although Mr Chandra Mohan is taking on Jabing’s case pro bono, we are hoping to cover other legal expenses such as the costs that come with swearing affidavits, filing fees, photocopying and other administrative costs.

For Jabing: $174.60
This is for costs incurred that are directly related to Jabing, such as the clothing that the prison wanted his family to buy for his pre-execution photo shoot.

We still have a little over $700 for the #SaveJabing campaign and for his family. We anticipate more costs in terms of flights – in case other trips to Malaysia are required for the campaign – and accommodation, as well as legal costs and other expenses.

If you would like to support our efforts, please get in touch with either Second Chances (contact@secondchances.asia) or the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (rachelabsinthe@gmail.com) to find out how you can donate/contribute to the campaign.

Apart from contributions to these running expenses we are also accepting pledges in case the worst happens and we do not succeed in saving Jabing. In that case, the family might require assistance in terms of funeral/repatriation costs. Pledging means that you are allowing us to call on you and rely on the amount you have pledged when the need arises.

#SaveJabing: The families of death row inmates

Lenduk sat on the sofa, tired and dejected. It’d been a tough day, having to sit through another meeting once again discussing potential funeral arrangements even though she’d only just been to visit her son in Changi Prison.

“Do you think your mother would like to speak to a counsellor?” we asked Jumai.

“I think she would like to speak to Inah. She helped us the last time and spoke with my mother. Her brother’s cell is next to Jabing’s.”

I rang Inah this evening while on the way to meet Jumai and Lenduk for dinner. She was still in the office. “We’re going to meet for dinner, feel free to join us if you like. They were hoping to meet you today,” I said.

Inah was there within the hour.

It was the first time I’ve seen Lenduk smile. Jumai stretched out her arms to give Inah a hug, then broke down completely. They held each other for awhile, crying. Perhaps they were crying for both their brothers. Across the table Lenduk dabbed her eyes with a tissue, then pressed her face into Inah’s shoulder when it was her turn for an embrace.

There is no one who can understand the stress and anxiety that Jumai and Lenduk have been through like the family of another inmate. Inah’s brother, Roslan, is also on death row under very problematic circumstances. She has been trying for years to save him.

People like Inah, Jumai and Lenduk are not usually the people we think of when we talk about victims, but they are victims too. They have committed no crime, yet suffer the pain and turmoil of losing a loved one through one of the most deliberate ways a person can be killed. They know that the gallows are looming, yet are often limited in the things they can do to snatch their loved one from the brink.

There is no support for the families of death row inmates. There is often no sympathy at all, as society turns its back on their family member, and by extension, on them. If the relative on death row is the sole breadwinner of the family, it becomes even harder for the family to emerge from poverty. When the execution is done, it is the family who bears the cost of death rites, the emotional trauma of loss, and perhaps even the financial and practical support needed in their lives.

It is only natural then that people start to look out for each other, meeting at Changi Prison and exchanging words of encouragement, signing one another’s petitions to plead for clemency, or simply being together in shared anguish. While working with the families of death row inmates in difficult times we have seen moments of generosity, solidarity and care that is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting.

One might say, “Yes, they suffer, but the families of the victims their relatives murdered or caused to die suffer too.”

But how does capital punishment support the families of victims, whether they’re victims of crime or of state violence? The sufferings and marginalisation of families of death row inmates do not alleviate the struggles of the families of murder victims. Neither side can access the social, emotional and financial support needed to rebuild their lives after tragedy strikes – it is simply assumed that the death penalty will restore the balance and bring the matter to a close.

Does the pain of one family really cancel out the heartbreak of another? Or does capital punishment simply leave victims on all sides?