A man charged with drug trafficking offenses was sentenced to death by Singapore's Supreme Court over a Zoom video call last week, leading to criticism from international human rights groups.
The move marks the first death sentence in Singapore issued via a remote video conference call and is only the second known case of capital punishment being handed down remotely, Reuters reported on Wednesday
Punithan Genasan, a 37-year-old Malaysian, was informed via the remote video call he would be hanged for orchestrating an illegal heroin sale in 2011, according to court documents seen by Reuters.
"For the safety of all involved in the proceedings, the hearing for Public Prosecutor v Punithan A/L Genasan was conducted by video-conferencing," an official for the Supreme Court said, specifically mentioning the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced government agencies and groups around the world to go digital in recent weeks.
Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, told The Guardian the remote context of the verdict was needlessly callous.
"The absolute finality of the sentence, and the reality that wrongful convictions do occur around the world in death sentence cases, raise serious concerns about why Singapore is rushing to conclude this case via Zoom," Robertson said.
According to Amnesty International, Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and is one of four known countries that still execute offenders of drug-related charges.
"This case is another reminder that Singapore continues to defy international law and standards by imposing the death penalty for drug trafficking," said the group's death penalty adviser Chiara Sangiorgio.
Last year, four people were executed in Singapore for murder and drug trafficking charges, while 13 were sentenced to death the year prior, according to Statista.
Reuters reported that Genasan's lawyer, Peter Fernando, did not object to the ruling but said his client could consider an appeal.
The criminal justice watchdog Fair Trials says the first death sentence delivered via a remote meeting call was for a man in Nigeria earlier this month.
Representatives for Zoom did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.