AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HOME BLOGS Death Penalty Information: Singapore executes 2 Jump to main content
Main navigation
language links Español Français Arabic

Section navigation

Death Penalty Information

Friday, January 26, 2007

Singapore executes 2
Jan. 26

Singapore executes 2 Africans on drug charges despite international
clemency appeals

Singapore executed two Africans on drug trafficking charges Friday despite
pleas for clemency by Nigeria's president, the United Nations and human
rights groups.
Nigerian Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, 21, was hanged at dawn in the city-state
after being convicted of trafficking 727 grams (26 ounces) of heroin
nearly 50 times the 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of the drug that draws a
mandatory death penalty in Singapore, the Central Narcotics Bureau said in
a statement.
A stateless African named Okeke Nelson Malachy, 35, who was convicted as
the person to whom Iwuchukwu was supposed to deliver the drugs, was also
executed Friday, the statement said.
About a dozen activists held an overnight vigil outside maximum-security
Changi Prison, where the execution was carried out. Just before the
hanging, they stood or sat with their heads bowed, holding roses in the
flickering glow of candles on the ground around photos of Iwuchukwu and a
red-and-white soccer jersey said to belong to him.
Rain began to fall on the silent group.
Prominent Singapore-based art critic Lee Weng Choy, 43, said he disagreed
with Singapore's mandatory death sentence regulation, which he said takes
away the discretionary power of the judiciary.
"I also disagree with its justification as a deterrent. The reality is
that drug trafficking has not been reduced to zero, neither has drug use,"
he said at the vigil.
The execution was carried out despite an appeal by Nigerian President
Olesegun Obasanjo, who asked Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
earlier this week to commute the death sentence.
Lee replied Thursday that Iwuchukwu had committed a serious offense under
Singapore law and had exhausted all legal options.
"We did not take the decision lightly," Lee wrote in a letter. "I realize
that Mr. Tochi's family will find Singapore's position difficult to
accept, but we have a duty to safeguard the interests of Singaporeans, and
protect the many lives that would otherwise be ruined by the drug
Singapore's strict drug laws made international headlines and triggered
an outcry in Australia in December 2005 when the city-state executed a
25-year-old Australian heroin trafficker despite numerous appeals from the
Canberra government.
Singapore has said its tough penalties for drug trafficking are an
effective deterrent against a crime that ruins lives, and that foreigners
and Singaporeans must be treated alike.
Human rights group Amnesty International says Singapore has the world's
highest per capita execution rate. Last week it urged its members to push
Singapore's government to grant Iwuchukwu clemency and for a moratorium on
all executions in the country.
The United Nations also urged Singapore on Thursday not to execute
Iwuchukwu because it would violate international legal standards on the
use of the death penalty.
"The standard accepted by the international community is that capital
punishment may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is
based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an
alternative explanation of the facts," said a statement by Philip Alston,
the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary
Iwuchukwu, a footballer, was arrested in November 2004 at Singapore's
Changi Airport after arriving from Dubai with 100 capsules containing
heroin that authorities estimated to be worth 1.5 million Singapore
dollars (US$970,000; 795,930).
At the time of his arrest, Iwuchukwu told narcotics officers the pills
were African herbs that he was supposed to give to a sick friend. He also
told officers that he came to try out for soccer teams playing in the
Singapore League.
Iwuchukwu's family, who live in Nigeria, could not afford to travel to
Singapore to see him while he was on death row, said Princewill Akpakpan,
a lawyer with the Civil Liberties Organization, Nigeria's largest human
rights group.
"The execution will place Singapore in a negative spotlight among
civilized nations of the world," Akpakpan said by telephone on Thursday.
(source: International Herald Tribune)
The views expressed in these pages are those of individual AI campaigners or researchers, and do not necessarily reflect official AI policy.