Online court proceedings via apps like Zoom have started to be a norm in various countries around the world. The Kenyan Judiciary itself has adopted this for about two months now with hearings held and verdicts given in virtual sessions for safety purposes.
Well, a judge in Singapore sentenced a man to death through a Zoom video call a few days ago. Yep! This makes it one of the only two known cases in the world where a capital punishment verdict has been delivered remotely. The 37-year old Malaysian, Punithan Genasan, was found guilty for devising a heroin transaction back in 2011 and sentenced to death by hanging last Friday. That, however, seems to have sparked a lot of conversation and criticism from various law professionals and rights groups across the globe.
The only other known case was all the way in Nigeria that involved a man who was found guilty of murder. Like the former, the verdict was delivered about two weeks ago via a virtual court hearing that had the convict’s lawyer and prosecutors joining remotely as well. This was followed by strong condemnation from rights groups in the country who described the ruling as “inhumane”. The convict also denied the charge and still remains under custody.
Amnesty International Nigeria Director Osai Ojigho spoke against the ruling saying, “We know many courts are exploring how they can continue cases virtually, but the challenge is how much thought has been given to the process for virtual court sittings. In this case, could this sentencing not be delayed to another time?”
On the other hand, the ruling in Singapore was never denied by the convict although Genasan’s lawyer did state that his client was considering an appeal. But that didn’t hinder the Human Rights Watch from Singapore to condemn the trial as well.
Amnesty International’s death penalty advisor Chiara Sangiorgio did respond to all this stating, “Whether via Zoom or in person, a death sentence is always cruel and inhumane.” Nevertheless, he went ahead to condemn Singapore’s death sentence policy on drug trafficking that defies international law and standards.
No such case or ruling has been heard from Kenya even though it wouldn’t take rocket science to know that objection would arise if there was to be one. The online court hearings held in the country via Zoom so far have, however, faced struggles due to poor connection and background noises among other reasons that have been described to make the hearings “uncomfortable”.
Court proceedings through zoom are just uncomfortable.. but we must get used to it as Advocates! I hope the person who drunk bat soup bites his tongue nqt. pic.twitter.com/2TYfIHI0Z1
— Ochieng Oginga (@ArnoldOginga) April 30, 2020