Australian PM rules out taking Singapore to court

Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday ruled out taking Singapore to the International Court of Justice to prevent the execution of an Australian heroin trafficker, saying the move could be counterproductive in the bid to save his life. On Monday, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer talked with lawyers about appealing to the Netherlands-based International Court of Justice in a desperate attempt to save Vietnam-born Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, who is set to be hanged in Singapore on Dec. 2.

"The more international constructs ... that are brought to bear on the issue, the less likely, rather than the more likely, it is for the Singaporean government to change it's mind," Howard told reporters.

"I'm sorry to have to say this," he said, "but I do not believe the government of Singapore will change its position."

Downer had said Australia would face the dual hurdles of persuading Singapore to recognize the court's jurisdiction, and getting the court to hear the case.

Howard, who was visiting Pakistan, said Tuesday that Singapore's government had the power to save the man's life. He was arrested at the city-state's Changi Airport in 2002 en route from Cambodia to the southern Australian city of Melbourne carrying 396 grams (14 ounces) of heroin.

Howard said he has met the man's refugee mother and felt desperately sorry for her. He said he wished he could use his power as prime minister to save her son's life.

"It's a matter for the government of Singapore, and I don't know that we help her suffering by pretending that there are things that can be done that are going to bring about the change, other than the only thing that will bring about the change, and that is a change in the attitude of the Singaporean government," Howard said.

Lawyers cannot go to the International Court of Justice without government support, because it only judges cases between governments, reports the AP. I.L.

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