22 Sep 2020

No Discrimination in Scheduling of Judicial Executions, and Clarification on Disclosure of Inmate’s Letters to the Attorney-General’s Chambers

1.     Syed Suhail Bin Syed Zin (‘Syed Suhail’) filed an application to the High Court for permission to commence judicial review proceedings against the Singapore Prison Service (SPS), to stay the execution of his sentence. He alleges (inter alia) that the order for judicial execution violates his Constitutional right to equal treatment under Article 12, as differential treatment has been applied between foreigners and Singaporeans in the scheduling of his judicial execution. His application was dismissed by the Honourable Justice See Kee Oon on 17 September 2020, and the appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal today. Parties have been directed to file further submissions, and will return to the Court of Appeal on a date to be fixed after 6 October 2020.


2.     The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denies all allegations of discrimination or impropriety in the scheduling of judicial executions. All prisoners sentenced to capital punishment are accorded due process according to the law. A judicial execution will only be scheduled after an inmate has exhausted all legal channels for appeal and clemency, regardless of whether the prisoner is a Singaporean or a foreigner.  In 2019, four judicial executions were carried out – two were Singaporeans and two were foreigners.  Such allegations are baseless and will be comprehensively addressed in MHA’s response which will be filed before the next hearing date. As the matter is presently before the Courts, we are unable to comment further on this.


3.     During the hearing, counsel also referred to a letter written by Syed Suhail to his then-counsel (the ‘Letter’), which had been extended by the SPS to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). The SPS wishes to clarify the circumstances surrounding the Letter. 


4.     During a hearing before the Court of Appeal on 3 May 2018, Syed Suhail informed the Court that he wished to introduce evidence from his uncle for the purposes of the appeal, having given the Court various reasons during the trial for not calling his uncle as a defence witness. The hearing was then adjourned for parties to look into this request and the Court of Appeal allowed the AGC to file a response if it thought that Syed Suhail was abusing the process of the Court.


5.     In the preparation of its response, AGC approached SPS to check whether Syed Suhail had expressed any prior intention to call his uncle as a witness. SPS’s checks revealed that Syed Suhail had informed the Superintendent of his intention to call his uncle as a defence witness. He had also written four letters to his uncle.


6.     In this context, SPS extended a copy of these letters, and one letter to his then-counsel (i.e. the Letter) to the AGC  on 10 May 2018 and 7 June 2018. At that time, there was no legal prohibition in the Prisons Act or Regulations against doing so.


7.     At the hearing before the Court of Appeal today, counsel for Syed Suhail was invited by the Court to explain how prejudice was caused by extending the Letter to the AGC, but was unable to do so. As the matter is presently before the Courts, we are unable to comment further on this. 

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