Clemency appeal for Kho Jabing
Join Press Release by : Amnesty International Malaysia, Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), SUARAM, We Believe In Second Chances and Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign.
Civil society in Malaysia and Singapore today jointly called on the Singaporean President to grant clemency to Kho Jabing, a Sarawakian on death row in the island state who received an eleventh hour reprieve from the hangman’s noose in Singapore last Friday. Rallying alongside Kho’s family in Kuala Lumpur today, non-governmental organisations Amnesty International Malaysia, the Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, SUARAM and Singaporean outfits We Believe In Second Chances and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign jointly called for Kho, on death row for murder, to be shown leniency.
“Amnesty International Malaysia is urging the President of Singapore to commute Kho’s sentence to life imprisonment. Although Kho was found guilty of murder, there are sombre questions as to whether he had intended to cause death,” its Executive Director Shamini Darshni said in a statement.
Kho was scheduled to hang a week ago on 6 November but was awarded a temporary reprieve less than 24 hours to his execution after his lawyer filed a last-minute criminal motion asking for the court to make a ruling on arguments to quash the his death sentence.
“While we do not seek to downplay the seriousness of the crime or its consequences, the death penalty is the most final and irreversible of punishments. Passing the ultimate sentence of death when doubt clearly exists is a travesty to the justice system,” Shamini said.
Kho worked as a labourer in Singapore and was first convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for the murder of China national Cao Ruyin, 40.
When amendments to the mandatory death penalty came into force in 2013, Kho was eligible to apply for resentencing. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane by the Singapore High Court. However, a 3-2 decision at the Singapore Court of Appeal in January has sent him back to death row. The Court of Appeal has set 23 November 2015 to hear the criminal motion by lawyer Chandra Mohan K Nair.
It is crucial to note that the final death sentence was passed with only a slim majority and was not a unanimous decision. Two of the five appeal judges did not feel that the death penalty was appropriate for Kho’s crime, and felt that there was reasonable doubt as to whether he had acted with a “blatant disregard” for human life.
“It is absolutely wrong to execute Kho where some judges have expressed doubts on his intention to disregard human life, a crucial element to be proven in the offence he was charged with. In fact, the judges pointed out that there were uncertain facts, and the execution of Kho is deemed unsafe,” KLSCAH’s Civil Rights Committee said.
It elaborated: “However, the legal system in Singapore allows for the death penalty to be upheld by a simple majority of judges' decision, disregarding the dissenting judgement, and thus disregarding doubts. This is exactly why the death penalty should be abolished for the system itself creates injustice. While we fight for the best in Kho’s latest criminal motion in court, we make a plea to the President of Singapore for clemency and to commute the death sentence to imprisonment. This is to right the wrong and the injustice done in this case.” We Believe in Second Chances and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign echoed this concern, finding it troubling that Kho would be sent to the gallows on a simple majority decision from the Court of Appeal.
“No intent to kill was ever found, nor was a clear sequence of events established. The irreversible nature of the death penalty leaves absolutely no room for error. We therefore urge Singapore's Cabinet to advice the President to grant Kho clemency in order to prevent a wrongful execution,” said founding member of We Believe in Second Chances, Kirsten Han.
SUARAM Executive Director Sevan Doraisamy said that it opposed the death penalty in principle and believed that the death penalty was ill-suited as a punishment for Kho.
“In light of the dissenting judgment by three of the judges that have heard Kho's case and the deep remorse expressed by Kho himself, SUARAM appeals to the President of Singapore to grant clemency, spare Kho the death penalty and give him a chance to live and repent for his actions,” he said.
The collective emphasised that substantive research over the years has proven that death penalty has been ineffective in dealing with crime.
“We call on both Singapore and Malaysia, which still have the death penalty in their law books, to do away with this cruel intention for punishment and impose an immediate moratorium on capital punishment,” it said.
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