A Malaysian human rights lawyers organization on Thursday denounced “brutal” practices adopted by the Singaporean authorities during the executions of death row convicts in the city-state.

In Singapore, where the death penalty is carried out by hanging, prison officials have been instructed to kick the back of the necks of the prisoners – no more than two times – if the rope snaps during the execution, according to Lawyers for Liberty (LFL).

The guidelines are intended to break the neck of the prisoners without leaving marks of the blows and to be consistent with death by hanging, in case an autopsy is carried out later.

A Changi prison official, who had been part of the execution team and unidentified for legal reasons, told LFL that he received special training to apply this method, which is illegal under the city-state’s law. LFL said he is prepared to testify at the appropriate forum.

“This could not have been done without the knowledge and approval of the Home Minister and government,” the organization said in a statement.

“Quite clearly, the Republic of Singapore has been knowingly carrying out executions by methods prohibited by both Singapore law, as well as international law,” the statement added.

The Malaysian organization claims to have evidence to prove the use of these methods and has expressed its readiness to meet with the Singaporean authorities.

The city-state’s government protects death row execution data under the Official Secrets Act.

The Australian think-tank Lowy Institute estimates that six to nine prisoners were executed in Singapore in 2018, while Amnesty International puts the number of people on death row at more than 40, many of them convicted for drug trafficking.

LFL has urged the Singaporean government to impose a moratorium on all executions while an investigation is carried out.

It also asks the government to provide Malaysia with the names of its citizens executed by such methods and to compensate the families of those unlawfully executed.

Both Singapore and Malaysia, where the death penalty is also applied, defend capital punishment as a deterrent against drug trafficking, murder and other crimes in the face of criticism from human rights organizations such as LFL, which deny the effectiveness of this punishment and demand its abolition. EFE-EPA