The IBC And the Big Question in Singapore
The president of the IBA (International Bar Association) Fernando Pombo in his message (posted on IBA website) to different bar associations and lawyers delegates to the IBC (International Bar Conference) held in Singapore between 14th and 19th of October 2007, described Singapore as the most conducive commercial nerve centre in the world, citing the World Bank's rating of the country in 2006 as the "most business friendly economy in the world".
He said that this host country to the last IBC had played a significant role in improving the world economy. These encomiums were to give justification to the hosting right of Singapore and also give credence to some of the events scheduled for the Bar Conference.
According to the International Bar Association, the three major topical issues mapped out for discussion at the conference were:
(1) are lawyers aware of the cultural differences in the world and are they able to deal with them?
(2) importance of rule of law to international business; and
(3) the many faces of corruption-efforts, challenges and opportunities for the future.
These were important issues discussed at the IBC by the legal gurus from different parts of the world. The first issue, needles to say, will be so useful to especially the international lawyer who should be conversant with the cultural diversity of different countries which may be part of the philosophical or jurisprudential basis of their laws.
The second topic will help champion the course of justice and fair play in international business arena while the last topic will deal with a cankerworm eating the fabric of the wider society especially the developing countries of the world.
IBC is poised towards dealing a devastating blow to these problems in international legal arena but their arrow failed to target the bull's eye.
Permit me to state here that Singapore has a very obnoxious criminal justice system which would have either denied them of this hosting right or presented an opportunity for addressing the issue. One would have thought that human right in international order especially the issue of capital punishment which the host country to the last IBC has stuck to like water sticks to muslin bag would have been a strategic issue to revisit at the IBC considering the recent ugly developments which have attracted comments, nay, outcry from the Transparency International and other international humanitarian agencies for the abolition of the archaic practice.
The adamant disposition paid to this call recently snuffed life out of a Nigerian national in Singapore, what analysts described as wilful and inexcusable homicide on Tochi Amara Iwuchukwu a 19 year old boy accused of carrying 727 grams of diamorphine or heroine.
Tochi was "murdered" by Singapore despite the statement by Kan Ting Chiu in his judgement that there was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contain diamorphin, trial which was described by United Nations Human Right expert, Philip Alston, as failing to meet international standard for criminal prosecution.
What is then the future of mankind in the face of unreasonable disregard to the fundamental right to life of man by countries like Singapore and the rest? This is the big question the IBA has missed among the topical issues to be resolved at the IBC.
It is often argued that international law does not abolish death penalty in toto; there is evidence to show that it is rapidly losing hold on death penalty. The most significant demonstration of this trend is the coming into force of the International Criminal Court Treaty.
Article 5 of the ICC Treaty even though provides for terrible crimes like Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes of Aggression as being within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court nevertheless sapped the Court of jurisdiction to apply death sentence on all of them. The provisions of other International Laws are not left out in substantiating this trend. Article 77 of the Statute of Rome provides that subject to Article 110 thereof, the Court may impose penalties ranging from fines to life imprisonment (and not death).
What of the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR (International Convention on Civil and Political Rights) which abolishes death penalty stating in its Article 1 that no one within the jurisdiction of a state party shall be executed.
Though Singapore claims the right to decide how to handle their criminals, they can still not escape the duty to be transparent imposed by Article 14 of ICCPR which insists on fair and public trial. It is now known that Singapore gags their press in order to carry out untold clandestine execution of their so-called criminals which made Amnesty International in 2004 to write a report on Hidden Toll of Execution in Singapore.
This report exposed a lot of lacunae in this country's death penalty jurisprudence.
Despite this ugly state of Singaporean criminal justice laws, the IBA handled their three point agenda at the conference in a way that the big question in Singapore lingered unanswered.
Elias Offor, Esq.
13 Hughes Street, Alagomeji,