The Singaporean authorities must immediately halt the imminent execution of 31-year-old Malaysian national Kho Jabing amid concerns his death sentence was re-imposed at the last stage and on the basis of a disputed reconstruction of the circumstances of the crime, Amnesty International said today.
“We urge the President of Singapore to immediately halt Kho Jabing’s execution and reconsider the decision to reject his clemency application. The decision to take his life is based on disputed facts and even the country’s Apex Court was divided on the life and death decision in his case. With no legal avenues left, clemency is the only way to safeguard Kho Jabing’s life,” said Josef Benedict, Campaigns Director for South East Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International.
In 2010 Kho Jabing and a co-defendant were charged with murder, punishable at the time by the mandatory death penalty. After Singapore reviewed its mandatory death penalty laws in 2012 and allowed sentencing discretion for unintentional murder, the High Court resentenced Kho Jabing to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane, but the prosecution appealed.
At Kho Jabing’s resentencing, the five-judge bench unanimously established that the death penalty should be imposed if the murder he committed exhibited “…viciousness or a blatant disregard for human life”.
However, despite all five Supreme Court judges agreeing that there was not enough evidence available in Kho Jabing’s case to allow for a precise reconstruction of the murder, they failed to agree whether it was possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the murder was particularly vicious. Three judges found that his actions did deserve to be punished by death, while the other two held that the evidence available did not prove that he had hit the victim more than twice, necessary to meet the criteria for “blatant disregard”. The death penalty was therefore re-imposed with a close three-to-two majority and with no further avenue for legal appeal.
“The holes in the evidence available in Kho Jabing’s case, and the disagreement between the judges, raise questions that go beyond his case. These deal with the impact of the legal reforms of Singapore’s mandatory laws, particularly the use of Singapore’s power to grant clemency. A man could now be killed after such a disputed life and death decision. International safeguards guarantee in all cases the right for anyone sentenced to death to appeal against the death sentence, but Kho Jabing is left without any legal avenues. The President of Singapore must reconsider his earlier rejection of clemency for Kho Jabing and stop this execution immediately,” said Josef Benedict.
In 2011 Kho Jabing’s co-defendant was spared the death sentence after his conviction was commuted to ‘robbery with hurt’.
“The dithering lack of consensus over Kho Jabing’s sentence is just another indication of why the death penalty must end. We are calling on the Singaporean authorities to immediately re-impose an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty for good,” said Josef Benedict.
The last execution announced in Singapore was carried out on 17 April 2015 for intentional murder, an offence which still carries the mandatory death penalty.
As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice; three more countries – Fiji, Madagascar, and Suriname – have abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 2015. One more US state, Nebraska, has also become abolitionist and the Governor of Pennsylvania established an official moratorium on executions earlier this year.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.