MHA refutes Malaysia NGO's claims against S'pore's execution method, issues Pofma correction orders against parties

The Malaysia-based LFL said in a statement that the Singapore Government approved of the "unlawful methods" that are used to cover up an execution if the rope breaks during the execution. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has slammed Malaysia-based non-governmental organisation Lawyers for Liberty's (LFL) allegations about Singapore's execution method as "untrue, baseless and preposterous".

It has also invoked the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) and ordered the LFL and three parties that have shared the allegations - Singaporean activist Kirsten Han, The Online Citizen website and Yahoo Singapore - to correct the false statements.

This is the fifth case where Pofma has been invoked since it came into effect on Oct 2 last year.

On Jan 16, LFL said in a statement that prison officers in Singapore were instructed to kick the back of the neck of a prisoner with great force to break it if the rope breaks during a hanging and that the Singapore Government approved of "unlawful methods" that are used to cover up an execution if the rope breaks.

"These allegations are entirely unfounded," MHA said on Wednesday (Jan 22).

Singapore executes its condemned prisoners by hanging.

The ministry said that all judicial executions in Singapore are carried out in strict compliance with the law.

"All judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others. The law also requires a coroner (who is a judicial officer of the State Courts) to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to satisfy himself that the execution was carried out duly and properly," MHA said.

It added: "For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any 'special training to carry out the brutal execution method' as alleged. Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with."

The ministry said that the LFL has a history of publishing sensational and untrue stories to seek attention in the hope of getting Malaysian prisoners who have been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore off the death penalty.

"Those who traffic drugs in Singapore harm and destroy the lives of countless Singaporeans. These traffickers must be prepared to face the consequences of their actions," MHA said.

In November 2019, convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Abd Helmi Ab Halim had his death sentence carried out after an unsuccessful petition to Singapore's President for clemency.

In May 2019, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said that almost 30 per cent of drug traffickers caught in Singapore in 2018 were Malaysians, and nearly 30 per cent of the heroin seized, by weight, was brought in by Malaysians. He added that one in five traffickers who brought in drugs above the threshold that brings the death penalty was also a Malaysian.

On Wednesday, MHA also said that it has instructed the Pofma office to issue corrections against the LFL as well as three other parties: Ms Han's Facebook post that shared LFL's statement; The Online Citizen, which has an article that contained the falsehoods; and Yahoo Singapore's Facebook post which shared an article that contained the falsehoods.

"They will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts or articles stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods," MHA said.

Ms Han said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that she had sent questions to the Singapore Prison Service about the claims made by LFL but did not receive a response. She appended the correction notice to her post on Wednesday afternoon, adding: "I originally shared this post because the allegations that were made by Lawyers for Liberty, concerning a process about which very little information is publicly available, were extremely serious and disturbing."

She also raised concerns over how this affects the ability of journalists, activists and ordinary citizens to follow up on allegations. "In the interests of dealing with 'fake news', I hope that government and public agencies can be more responsive to queries from journalists and/or civil society groups when they are seeking information that can clarify matters," she said.

Separately, The Online Citizen said it has filed an application to the minister to cancel the Correction Direction it received.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty said that it will not comply with the correction notice and demanded that the notice be "unconditionally withdrawn with immediate effect".

The group says it stands by its original statement, which is based on evidence from "former and current Singapore prison officers... with impeccable service records". It added that it is "outrageous and unacceptable" for Singapore to issue such a notice to a Malaysian organisation.

Yahoo Singapore complied with the Pofma order on Thursday. It added a correction notice to a Facebook post related to an article on LFL on Jan 16 where the Malaysia-based NGO made allegations about Singapore's execution method.

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