URGENT ACTION: Mercy for Kho Jabing

Kho Jabing, a 31-year-old Sarawakian on death row in Singapore, had his clemency petition rejected by the President, on the advice of the Cabinet, on 19 October 2015. He has exhausted all legal avenues and is at risk of being executed soon.

Jabing and fellow Sarawakan Galing Anak Kujat were first sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2010, in a case of robbery with assault which led to the death of construction worker Cao Ruyin in 2008.

In 2011, the Court of Appeal decided to lower the Galing’s charges, and convicted him of robbery with hurt. Galing was then sentenced to 18 years and 6 months in jail, with 19 strokes of the cane. Kho Jabing’s sentence was affirmed, and he remained on death row.

After amendments to the Penal Code – which allows judges sentencing discretion for certain categories of murder – were enacted in 2013, Kho Jabing’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment with 24 strokes of the cane. However, the Prosecution decided to appeal against the outcome of the re-sentencing.

On 14 January 2015, Jabing’s death sentence was reinstated after a five-judge panel at the Court of Appeal decided he had exhibited a “blatant disregard for human life” in a 3-2 decision. Both dissenting judges stated that there was “reasonable doubt whether Jabing’s blows were all afflicted when the deceased was laying on the ground”, which made it “unsafe to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he acted in a way which exhibited a blatant disregard for human life”.

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty has written an open letter (see below) to the Cabinet, calling for mercy for Jabing. We encourage you to do the same. You can send your letter to the following:

President of Singapore
His Excellency Tony Tan Keng Yam
Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 67353135
Email: istana_feedback@istana.gov.sg

Prime Minister of Singapore
Lee Hsien Loong Prime Minister’s Office
Istana Annexe, Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
Fax: (65) 63328983
Email: lee_hsien_loong@pmo.gov.sg

Minister of Law and Home Affairs
Mr. K Shanmugam
100 High Street, #08-02 The Treasury, Singapore 179434
Fax: (65) 6332 8842
Email: k_shanmugam@mlaw.gov.sg

Dear distinguished Ministers,

We are writing this letter of appeal for Kho Jabing, whose petition for clemency was rejected on 19 October 2015. We urge the Cabinet to reconsider his clemency in light of the fact that there was no unanimous decision even at the highest court of the land, and our learned judges were split in their opinion of whether the death penalty was appropriate in his case.

We also seek the compassion of the Cabinet for the family of Jabing, who have gone through much suffering since his original sentencing. His father passed away while Jabing’s case was ongoing, and Jabing’s sister Jumai believes that her father’s illness prior to his death was due to Jabing’s incarceration, which came as a great blow for him. His mother, who has been unable to work due to health reasons, has lost both her sources of financial support and has been living on the goodwill of her neighbours and minimal state welfare ever since then.

On top of her ill-health, the thought of losing Jabing, her only son, is too much for his mother to bear. We cannot imagine the effect his death will have on her wellbeing.

We understand the grievousness of his offence but hope that he will be given a second chance and a more meaningful way to atone for his crime.

We hope that our Ministers will be compassionate and consider all factors related, especially the impact of capital punishment on Jabing’s family, and exercise mercy by commuting his death sentence to that of life imprisonment.

Yours sincerely,
Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty

12 thoughts on “URGENT ACTION: Mercy for Kho Jabing”

  1. Sane voices should prevail and execution should be stopped as revenge will not solve the problem. State is under legal obligation to respect the right to life and violation of this right to life is against all civilized norms and principle of dignity.

  2. I plead with you, on behalf of Jabing, to forgive this person.

    Please do not carry out the execution. It can do no good. It is horrific.

  3. If he can avoid death penalty by garnering votes from the public, there would be more of such cases in future. DO we really want to plead for murderers? Lets not forget that the Singapore that we are living in has been enjoying decades of security where crime rates are low. This is due to the strict laws governing this country. If he can get away with murder, by changing his sentence to a life imprisonment, then where is the deterrence? Any one can then commit a murder here with or without intent and then use such channels and tactics to gain clemency. Whether or not he harbor the intention to kill the victim, the fact still stands that the victim is dead. Have you all realized how much grief it has caused the family members of the deceased?
    He committed a murder with or without intent and that is a fact, and he should be hanged. Yes, everyone deserve second chances, but its a murder we are talking about here, its as simple as that. If you want to compare the laws of other countries against ours, compare their crimes rates with us and you will see the effects of a strict law.

    1. Firstly, life imprisonment is not “getting away” with murder. Life imprisonment is still a long and harsh punishment, one that a High Court and two Court of Appeal judges felt was appropriate. Secondly, there is NO EVIDENCE to show that the death penalty is any more of a deterrent than life imprisonment, and we cannot simply draw a direct link between the death penalty to the relative safety of Singapore because there are many variables in what is a highly complex situation.

      Since you talk about comparison between countries, a study was done comparing Singapore to Hong Kong in terms of homicide rate, and it was found that the numbers weren’t too different despite one having capital punishment and another not.

      When it comes to sentencing for murder, intent is important. The punishment needs to fit the crime and the criminal, which is why our judges should be allowed the discretion to way all the facts and choose the appropriate punishment. In Jabing’s case, one High Court judge and two Court of Appeal judges did not think that the death penalty was appropriate because there was not enough evidence to allow them to truly understand what the sequence of events were.

      1. what’s wrong with “a life for a life”.
        He took someone’s life.
        Even if he didn’t mean it, he caused extreme pain to the murdered victim’s family.
        they lost the bread winner too.
        Don’t they deserve sympathy.
        This teaches Jabing a lesson that he should not go out and rob people just because he’s poor.
        What’s more trying to hurt someone so extremely to the point of causing death?
        Sure, he’s probably learnt his lessons, but a life was taken and he shall have to pay it with his own life.
        Good riddance.

        1. We do not believe that finding the death penalty problematic contradicts the concern we have for families of victims. The death penalty does little to address the pain and and trauma that families go through when they lose a loved one – in fact, it simply inflicts the same pain and trauma on to another family. How does this help victims’ families? There are so many other ways in which society can support victims’ families. The death penalty is merely a placebo.

  4. you people will first appeal for life sentence.
    Then what? Parole? Then these murderers will be free to roam the streets and cause more hurt.
    Think about the consequences.

    1. Yes, we do think about the consequences. We are also concerned with whether the system we have today is sufficient in *preventing* crime rather than just executing individuals. There is no evidence that the death penalty works as a deterrence; in fact, it could be distracting us from more holistic measures that can be adopted to deal with crime.

  5. This case is dragging for too long, wasting money and time.
    This is robbery and murder! Since Jabing had committed 2 serious crimes, he should be punished for causing grief to the victim’s family members. To warn everybody in Singapore not to commit crime. Keep Singapore a safe place to live in. Not to send the wrong message to people that is ok to commit crimes or kill somebody in Singapore. Only life imprisonment and your family can visit you anytime + Singapore will pay for the murder’s family expenses. So not to worry.

    I urge Singapore ministers to quickly settle this and move on.

    1. The taking of a life cannot be so easily justified as “sending a message”. In fact, there isn’t even concrete evidence that this “sending a message” works as a way to deter crime.

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