Category Archives: News Updates

WBSC’s Individual Report for Singapore’s UPR 2016

 In June this year, We Believe in Second Chances submitted our individual report to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of the stakeholder’s report that will be taken into consideration during the Universal Periodic Review which Singapore will be undergoing in January, 2016.
Our report provides a statistical overview of the death penalty regime since the amendments were brought into force in 2013. Various problems with the death penalty regime such as the lack of a statutorily prohibition against the execution of the mentally ill and the lack of sufficient notice given before the execution were highlighted.

The following recommendations were made:
  • Recommendation 1: The number of offences punishable with death should be reduced as far as possible. The state should take concrete steps towards abolition of the death penalty.
  • Recommendation 2: The MDP should be removed for all offences, and judges be given full discretion in deciding whether to impose the death sentence, as an interim step towards abolition of the death penalty.
  • Recommendation 3: The execution of those who are mentally ill at the time of execution should be statutorily prohibited.
  • Recommendation 4: The Cabinet should be statutorily or constitutionally required to consider the offender’s personal representation in deciding whether to grant clemency.
  • Recommendation 5: The government should:
    • Make available statistics and other factual information regarding the death penalty as stated in the accepted recommendation during the last UPR; and
    • Facilitate independent criminological studies on the deterrent effect of the death penalty compared to alternative punishments such as life imprisonment.
  • Recommendation 6: The government should provide at least 2 months of advanced notice to inmates and their families before executions.

Our report can be accessed here: WBSC_INDIVIDUAL ORGANIZATION REPORT (UPR)

#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?