Singapore's tough antidrug sentencing laws requires the judge to hand down a death sentence once guilt is established. Mitigating facts are not considered at all. Remonstrations to the Government wouldn't work. PM H.S Lee can't be seen to pressure the Courts over this.
The story of Nguyen Tuong Van is one most tragic, and almost melodramatic, given that he had smuggled heroin to pay off his twin brother's drug related debt. As a country that prides itself on its Confucian values, the President of Singapore could have granted a pardon for the unusual circumstances surrounding the case of a man who took a stupid risk to save his twin brother.
The Australian Government, sensing that there is no sufficient public support for Nguyen, is not pressing for ICJ to intervene, arguing that Singapore is only a signatory to the drug trafficking related treaty, and not the rest.1
Lex Lasry QC makes a point that it was up to Singapore to decide whether it would consent to accept the International Court's jurisdiction. It is up to the Australian government to put the ball in Singapore's court.
Mr Howard doesn't seem to have any principled stand against the use of the death penalty.2
Here is the PM's track record so far:
- Supports the death penalty being meted out to the Bali bombers (who were Indonesian)
- Given greenlight for the State Liberal parties to use the death penalty as an election policy
- Intended to intervene if Schapelle Corby was given the death penalty.
New South Wales Countril for Civil Liberties has a more detailed discussion about John Howard and his position on the death penalty.
1Contrast this to the attention the government Australia had given to Schapelle Corby, who was jailed in Bali on a similar charge.
2There is no death penalty in Australia, and the Australian police were to cooperate with police in other countries up to the point where assistance will lead to a death sentence.