A family photo of Nguyen Tuong Van

08 November 2005 :

activists in Singapore protested against the planned execution of Nguyen Tuong Van, a convicted Australian drug carrier, and urged the government to relax its harsh drug laws. Speakers at a forum, organised by Singaporean civil rights group Think Centre, said that Singapore's tough drug laws were not in line with international standards. Nguyen, 25, was arrested at Singapore's Changi airport while in transit from Cambodia to Australia in December 2002. He was sentenced to death in March 2004 for carrying almost 400 grams (0.9 lb) of heroin.
Singapore had rejected Australia's appeals for clemency.
"Singapore is really an outlier, a minority even among countries with developed economies, which has such outdated laws that call for automatic executions for certain crimes," Alex Au, a speaker at the forum, said.
"In many countries, the mandatory death sentence is only used for heinous murders, not for drug offences where the punishment does not fit the crime," said Au.
M. Ravi, a Singapore lawyer who had defended two high-profile death penalty cases in the city-state, said he would make a last-ditch appeal by filing a complaint to the United Nations against the Singapore government, alleging that Nguyen's execution would be a serious miscarriage of justice and would violate Singapore's constitution.
The lawyer called on Australian Prime Minister John Howard's administration to raise the issue at the International Court of Justice -- a move which would compel the Singapore government to stave off the execution pending an inquiry.
"Mr. Howard has told the Australian media that he would pursue any other opportunities that present themselves and I am telling him that there is this avenue which he can pursue," Ravi told the forum.

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