Has Singapore ever executed an innocent person?

The following was posted by US journalist Peter Krouse on his Facebook page:

My last day in Singapore, another journalist and I met with Kasiviswanathan “K” Shanmugam, the country’s foreign minister and minster of law, in a coffee shop near the parliament building to ask follow-up questions to a previous meeting. I wanted to know more about the country’s harsh drug laws, which call for the death penalty in cases where specific amounts of drugs are found. I asked if Singapore ever executed an innocent person for drug crimes, and he said while he hasn’t done a case-by-case study, he didn’t think so. One of his assistants followed up a short time later with an email to me that read, “I haven’t gone through the facts of each case, but I have complete faith in our judiciary.”

With a law like the Misuse of Drugs Act where the burden of proof is put on the shoulders of the accused rather than the prosecution, it remains a possibility that innocents have been executed in Singapore’s decades-long history of using capital punishment.

Here is a small selection of cases that Second Chances would encourage everyone – including Law Minister K Shanmugam – to take a look at. We don’t know for sure if they have been wrongfully sentenced or executed, and yet the details of their cases throw up disturbing questions:

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi

“In summing up the evidence, Justice Kan noted that “There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out on his own.””

Rozman bin Jusoh

On 24 November 1993, an undercover officer from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) approached Rozman bin Jusoh, a 22-year-old Malaysian, asking him if he had cannabis. Rozman told the officer that he did not have any cannabis. Undeterred by this reply, the officer insisted that Rozman find some cannabis for him. Rozman replied, “We will see tomorrow”.

A clinical psychologist who had examined Rozman was also called to testify. She found that Rozman had an IQ of 74, which was borderline. Having also observed Rozman during the trial, she testified that Rozman could be easily manipulated by others and would not think deeply about the consequences of his actions. She also thought that Rozman might not be capable of discerning right from wrong.

Roslan bin Bakar

In the petition, Roslan reiterated his claim of innocence, saying that the drugs in question never belonged to him, but to one “Yusof bin Kassim also known as Kimo”.

He said that “while in remand, Yusof bin Kassim, Nuradaha Putra bin Nordin, Norzainy bin Zainal, Mohamed Zamri bin Mohamed Sopree and Pausi bin Jefridin had all conspired to pin the blame on [him] for the drug transaction… so that Yusof bin Kassim would be exonerated and the capital charge against the others would be withdrawn or reduced”.

These are only three out of the hundreds of death penalty cases for drug offenses in Singapore, but it doesn’t mean that they are the only three problematic cases. As anti-death penalty campaigners we are all short-handed and unable to go through as many case documents and records as we would like to, but we believe that it is likely that there may be other cases with cause for concern – not because of a crooked or untrustworthy judiciary undeserving of our faith, but because human error is, at the end of the day, inevitable.

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