The Singapore government must grant clemency to a Nigerian man set to be executed for drug trafficking next week.
Chijioke Stephen Obioha will be hanged on 18 November unless President Tony Tan commutes his death sentence, which was imposed as the mandatory punishment for trafficking.
“Singapore is a week away from brutally ending the life of Chijioke Stephen Obioha for a crime that international law and standards make clear should not be punished by death,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia.
“Time is running out for President Tan to step in and prevent this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment from being carried out. He must use his power to grant clemency before it is too late.”
Chijioke Stephen Obioha was found in possession of more than 2.6 kilograms of cannabis in April 2007, surpassing the amount of 500 grams that triggers the automatic presumption of trafficking under Singapore law.
“Time is running out for President Tan to step in and prevent this ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment from being carried out.”
Josef Benedict, Campaigns Director for Southeast Asia
Under Singaporean law, when there is a presumption of drug possession and trafficking, the burden of proof shifts from the prosecutor to the defendant. This violates the right to a fair trial by turning the presumption of innocence on its head.
Drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes” to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law. International law also prohibits the imposition of the death penalty as a mandatory punishment. Amnesty International opposes the use of the death penalty outright, regardless of the type of crime.
“The death penalty is unacceptable under any circumstances, but the fact that the defendant’s right to a fair trial, in particular his right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, have been violated makes this case especially distressing,” said Josef Benedict.
“It is a reminder of the pressing need for Singapore to immediately re-impose an official moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty, and commute all existing death sentences.”
Chijioke’s family members, who live in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, have been unable to travel to visit him in Singapore and have had limited ability to assist him.
Throughout the proceedings, they have received sporadic and often delayed updates, including when a legal representative was removed from the case.
Chijoke’s brother Anthony described his sibling as “hard-working and educated” and told Amnesty International it was an “unforgettable shock for the family” to learn of his arrest.
“A lot of financial and physical effort has been made by our family towards his defence but due to lack of funds restricting our access to Singapore, it was difficult to carry on with his desire towards [hiring] a defence lawyer [of his choice],” Anthony Chijioke said.
“He had a lot of government-appointed defence counsellors but he wasn’t satisfied with their efforts, and the family were not satisfied with their level of communication with us. We were kept in the dark for a very long while.”
Chijioke Stephen Obioha’s appeal against his conviction and sentence was rejected in August 2010.
After the rejection of his clemency appeal in April 2015, his execution was set for 15 May 2015, but was stayed a day earlier to allow him to apply for resentencing.
His family was only informed on 25 October 2016 that he had withdrawn his application for resentencing earlier in the year, following legal advice that he would not qualify.
Consequently, the Court of Appeal lifted the stay of execution, which is now set for 18 November.
Chijioke Stephen Obioha has appealed once again for clemency from the President, the only person with the power to commute his death sentence.
As of today 103 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and 141 are abolitionist in law or practice.