A man in was sentenced to death by a Singapore on Friday by a Judge via a Zoom video-call for being the mastermind, authorities believe, behind a heroin trafficking drug deal. In Singapore, the death penalty is used for serious drug related offences. This case is only one of two known cases where a verdict of capital punishment has been delivered remotely.
Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, was told on Friday he would be hanged for masterminding a 2011 heroin transaction whilst the verdict was remote due to the country being placed under lockdown in an attempt to curb coronavirus. It is the first criminal case where a death sentence was pronounced by remote hearing in Singapore it is believed.
“For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing,” a spokesperson for Singapore’s Supreme Court replied citing the restrictions imposed to contain the transmitting of the COVID-19 virus.
Human rights groups have criticised the use of video-calls for delivering capital punishment verdicts, including the other known case in Nigeria earlier which, criminal justice watchdog Fair Trials said, was the first death sentence to be delivered remotely.
Genasan’s lawyer, Peter Fernando, said he did not object to Friday’s judgment being delivered on Zoom.
Mr Fernando commented the judge could be heard clearly via the Zoom Video conference, and as this was the verdict, no other legal arguments were presented (it’s assumed they had been previously presented) and his client will consider an appeal against the sentence.
Both California-based tech firm Zoom have not commented on the use of their software in this manner.
Many court hearings in Singapore have been adjourned during a lockdown until 1st June 2020, while more important cases deemed essential have been held remotely.
Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and has hanged hundreds of people – including tourists and non-Singapore citizens for narcotics offences for decades and rights groups like Human rights Watch have called the use of the death penalty cruel and inhumane and providing a death penalty by use of remote technology in Court’s more so.
Amnesty International’s death penalty advisor Chiara Sangiorgio said: “Whether via Zoom or in person, a death sentence is always cruel and inhumane.”