Singapore’s continued reliance on mandatory death sentences has filled death row with minor drug offenders, argues Amnesty International.
The report, “Cooperate or Die” said death penalty reforms introduced in 2013 reduced the numbers being sentenced to death, but had moved life and death decisions into the hands of the public prosecutor instead of judges.
Amnesty said 17 death sentences were issued over the past three years for murder and drugs offences and 10 prisoners were hanged.
In the mid-1990s Singapore was the world’s busiest executioner per capita and implemented dozens of death sentences per year.
“Singapore likes to paint itself as a prosperous and progressive role model, but its use of the death penalty shows flagrant disregard for human life. The country relies on harsh laws that overwhelmingly target drug offenders on the lower rungs of the ladder, many of whom will come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Amnesty’s death penalty specialist Chiara Sangiorgio.
“The reforms introduced in 2013 were a step in the right direction and have allowed some people to escape the gallows, but in key respects they have been flawed from the outset.
“Singapore is influential beyond its size in both Asia and the rest of the world. The government should move forward from these reforms towards ending capital punishment once and for all,” he added.
The Lion City has long defended its use of the death penalty as an effective deterrent against drug use.
The NGO said the majority of convicts sent to death row in the last four years had possessed small amounts of drugs and were driven to the trade by unemployment or debt.
The 2013 reforms meant that drug carriers should be able to avoid death row by co-operating sufficiently with the authorities during the investigation or trial. However, the public prosecutor and not a judge decides whether this criteria has been met with Amnesty accusing the Singaporean judiciary of a lack of transparency in the process.
“The use of mandatory death sentences in Singapore must end immediately. Although there has been a reduction in such sentences in the last few years, the fact that they are still used at all is cause for deep concern,” Chiara Sangiorgio.
Singapore’s legal system is set up to discourage drug use. Picture credit: Wikimedia