FORWARDED APPEAL (Singapore): Australian national faces imminent death by hanging 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Amnesty International regarding an Australian national named Van Tuong NGUYEN (25), who has been charged with the death penalty and could be hanged very soon.

According to the information we have received, Van Tuong Nguyen was convicted for drug trafficking and his appeal for clemency was rejected by the President on 21 October and he is now facing imminent execution. Although a date has not yet been announced, it is likely the hanging will be carried out within weeks.

Even though Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) strictly restricts a sentence of death to be imposed only for the “most serious crimes” such as intentional murder, the Singapore government have been using the death penalty for non-violent drug offences. We have previously reported that two Africans were sentenced to death in Singapore on drug trafficking charges (See further: FA-22-2005). Also, in May 2005, a father of two children was hanged amidst the appeals from various human rights organization, including the AHRC, asking clemency to save his life(for details see: UP-60-2005). There are a number of prisoners, including foreign nationals, facing the death penalty in Singapore (please see: UA-24-2003), however, the government has continued to carry out punishment instead of addressing these problem.

The AHRC strongly condemns that such action of the Singapore government is a violation of the right to life which is one of the most fundamental of human rights. It is also a clear violation of the ICCPR which Singapore is a state party.

Please send an appeal letter to the President of Singapore calling for moratorium on Van Tuong Nguyen’s execution. Please also urge the Singapore government to abolish the death penalty and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on all executions. We also recommend you to write to the embassies of Singapore in your respective country.

You can also join the Think Centre’s online petition calling for the Singapore government’s moratorium on death penalty at:

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)


Singapore: Imminent Execution: Van Tuong NGUYEN (m), Australian national

PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 36/003/2005
24 October 2005

UA 279/05 Imminent Execution

SINGAPORE Van Tuong NGUYEN (m), aged 25, Australian national

Australian national Van Tuong Nguyen, who has been condemned to death in Singapore, had his appeal for clemency rejected by the President on 21 October, and is now facing imminent execution. A date has not yet been announced, although the hanging is likely to be carried out within weeks.

An Australian of Vietnamese origin, Van Tuong Nguyen was arrested at Singapore’s Changi airport in transit from Cambodia to Australia in December 2002, after police found a package of heroin strapped to his back and a second package in his backpack.

In March 2004 Van Tuong Nguyen, a former salesman, was sentenced to death for
importing 396.2 grams of heroin into Singapore. He was convicted under the Misuse of Drugs Act, which carries a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin. In October 2004 the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal against the death sentence.

Van Tuong Nguyen, who had no previous criminal record, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and moved to Australia with his mother and twin brother when he was six months old. He told investigating officers that he had agreed to carry the drugs in order to pay off debts owed by his twin brother. He said he did not know how much he was being paid for the trip. It was his first trip outside Australia. Since his arrest he has shown remorse and cooperated fully with the authorities. The Australian Federal Police have confirmed that, while in custody, Van Tuong Nguyen assisted their investigation into the
international drugs syndicate for which he had worked.


There is usually very little public debate in Singapore about the death penalty, partly as a result of tight government controls on the press and civil society organisations. However, the case earlier this year of Shanmugam s/o Murugesu, who was sentenced to death after he was found in possession of just over one kilogram of cannabis, sparked unprecedented public discussion. In April and May, local activists organised a public forum, petitions, vigils and other events to campaign for Shanmugam’s life to be spared, and to raise awareness in Singapore about the cruel and arbitrary nature of the death penalty. The authorities refused to allow an Amnesty International representative who attended the public forum to address the meeting. Shanmugam was hanged on 13 May. His lawyer was reportedly subjected to attacks on his character in government-controlled newspapers over his work on the case.

In April, the Singapore Law Society Gazette published a commentary on Van Tuong Nguyen’s Appeal Court decision, arguing that there was “light on the path” because “it is now open to an accused to show … that a mandatory death sentence is cruel and inhuman punishment under customary international law”.

Singapore, with a population of just over four million, has the highest per capita execution rate in the world. More than 420 people have been executed since 1991, the majority for drug trafficking. The Singapore government has consistently maintained that the death penalty is not a human rights issue. The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for a mandatory death sentence for at least 20 different offences and contains a series of presumptions which shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defence. Prisoners facing execution may be granted clemency by the President, but this is extremely rare.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation of one of the most fundamental of human rights: the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and there is no escaping the risk of error, which can lead to the execution of an innocent person. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has called for the death penalty to be eliminated for drug-related offences. In April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) renewed calls upon all states that retain the death penalty to abolish it completely and, in the meantime, to establish a moratorium on executions.



The President
His Excellency S R Nathan
Office of the President
Istana, Orchard Road
Republic of Singapore 0922
Faxes:0065 738 4673


1. Mr. Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
Atten: Lydie Ventre
Room 3-016, c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (general)

2. Mr. Miles Kupa
High Commissioner to Singapore
Australian High Commission
Level 2, 25 Napier Road
Singapore 258507
Tel: +65 6836-4100
Fax: +65 6735-1242

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

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Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : FA-33-2005
Countries :
Issues : Death penalty,