Bangkok, May 20 (efe-epa).- A Singapore court has for the first time sentenced a man to the death via video-conference through the Zoom app as a part of measures to combat the COVID-19 epidemic, drawing criticism from human rights organizations on Wednesday.
Punithan Genasan, a 37-year old Malaysian, was given the death penalty for drug-trafficking charges by the Supreme Court on Friday last week the sentence for a drug-trafficking offense to the accused, according to a statement by Amnesty International.
“Whether via Zoom or in person, a death sentence is always cruel and inhumane. This case is another reminder that Singapore continues to defy international law and standards by imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking, and as a mandatory punishment,” said AI’s advisor on death penalty, Chiara Sangiorgio.
Genasan was arrested in Malaysia and deported to Singapore on 21 January 2016, where he was charged with organizing the smuggling of 28.5 kilograms of heroin in 2011 through two accomplices, one of whom has already been sentenced to life imprisonment and the other to death sentence, according to The Straits Times newspaper.
Singapore is among the Southeast Asian countries that gives capital punishment for drug trafficking offenses, along with Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand.
“It is high time the (Singapore) government reviewed its draconian approach and abolished the death penalty once and for all,” said Sangiorgio.
“At a time when the global attention is focused on saving and protecting lives in a pandemic, the pursuit of the death penalty is all the more abhorrent,” she added.
The suspension of face-to-face legal hearings is one of the measures taken against the COVID-19 crisis in Singapore, which was one of the first countries outside China to detect cases of the novel coronavirus.
The Singaporean authorities acted swiftly and firmly to contain the virus, but did not sufficiently monitor the overcrowded lodging facilities for non-qualified workers, where COVID-19 cases have soared in the last two months.
There are currently a total of 29,364 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the city-state of just under six million inhabitants, most of whom are foreign workers. EFE-EPA