30 Oct 2005

Stop hanging people!

Yet another fine article from Yawning Bread.


I think it's time I said it: judicial murder is wrong.

It is particularly distressing to me that Singapore is one of the black spots on the world map for this. An article by Amy Tan of Reuters, 'Singapore death penalty shrouded in silence' said,

The government revealed recently, only in reply to a question in parliament, that 340 people were hanged between 1991 and 2000.

In a response to a Reuters query, it also said 22 people were executed for drug trafficking in 2001 and 17 in the year before.

Singapore has one of the highest execution rates in the world relative to its population, Amnesty [International]'s Parritt said.

-- Reuters 12 April 2002


Whenever this charge of being too quick with the noose is levelled at the government, they always say capital punishment works. It has deterrence value. Yet if they are so proud of doing the right and effective thing, it strikes me as strange how much they wish to hide it.

The same report by Reuters said,

"We do have a general policy not to give any information on the death penalty," a prison official told Reuters.


As you can see in the sidebar, the identity of the hangman was also supposed to be a secret until an Australian news organisation found him.

Now, before we discuss the claimed deterrence value of judicial murder, an important facet of the Singapore case must be made plain. An estimated 70% of death sentences are given out not for murder, but for drug trafficking, which means the retributive arguments for capital punishment -- a life for a life -- do not apply. This must be borne in mind in the discussion to follow.

The death sentence is mandatory -- that is, the judges have no discretion to reduce the sentence -- if the accused is found trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin, or the equivalent of heroin. Hence, 30 grams of cocaine would also get you the death sentence. We have had this law since 1975.

The prosecutor does not have to prove that you were trafficking. He only needs to prove possession, and the law makes the presumption that you're trafficking.


to continue reading this well researched article

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