19 Oct 2004

highest number of per capita executions in the world

Coments by Mellanie Hewlitt:
The twisted logic of Singapore's judiciary is mind boggling. In a separate case, the death penalty was not imposed on soldiers who held a trainee's head underwater resulting directly in the trainee's death.

However mere possesion of drugs warrants a death penalty whilst pre-meditated murder invokes a lesser sentence (in a military court). Such is the twisted logic which governs Singapore's compliant courts.


Mon Oct 18, 2004 11:04 PM ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Rights group Amnesty challenged Singapore Tuesday to disclose the total number of executions this year, saying the wealthy island has put more people to death since 1991 than any other country on a per capita basis.

"In the absence of full disclosure of official statistics, the organization remains concerned that Singapore may continue to have the highest number of per capita executions in the world," Amnesty International Southeast Asian official Tim Parritt said.

Amnesty's call comes a day before Singapore's Court of Appeal rules on the case of 24-year-old Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, an ethnic Vietnamese man found guilty in March of smuggling 14 ounces of heroin and sentenced to death.

About 400 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking, giving the Southeast Asian island of 4.2 million people possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population, Amnesty said.

Singapore's drug laws are among the world's harshest. Anyone aged 18 or over convicted of carrying more than 15 grammes of heroin faces mandatory execution by hanging.

Nguyen's lawyers appealed the verdict and the London-based human rights group said it would seek clemency from Singapore President S.R. Nathan if the death sentence is upheld.

Amnesty said in January that executions in Singapore were "shockingly high" and "shrouded in secrecy," calling on the state to abolish the death penality by issuing a moratorium on all executions and commuting all death sentences to prison terms.

Singapore's government said it imposed capital punishment "only for the most serious crimes," that the death penalty deterred major drug syndicates establishing themselves in Singapore and that Singapore applied standards of transparency.

Although prison officials confirmed last year that about 400 people had been executed since 1991, government officials declined requests by Reuters to specify how many people have been sent to the gallows this year.

"There is this climate of secrecy," Parritt told Reuters by telephone from London. "It's shrouded with half-disclosure, and that continues. We believe this should be out in full public debate."

Nguyen was arrested at Singapore's airport in December 2002 while in transit from Cambodia to Melbourne. A policewoman discovered a package of heroin taped to his back during a pre-flight security check, and another in his hand luggage.

He said had carried the drugs for a Sydney-based drug syndicate to pay off legal fees owed by his twin brother.

© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the trial still on-going? How did Ms. Hewlitt conclude that it was 'pre-meditated murder' when the four officers are being charged with causing a fatal accident?

Is it normal for an outsider to draw the conclusion that four career officers actually conspired to murder a stranger in full public view, in broad daylight, in an army camp (no less), in front of so many other soldiers?

I find the logic confounding.

Perhaps Mr McDermott would like to ponder on this: by posting someone else's opinion on his own blog site, and then remaining silent gives the impression that he is in agreement. Is that the case?

Possession of more than 15g of HEROIN is considered trafficking. Mr Nguyen was caught with 396g, including one packet strapped on his back and hidden under clothing. (That's 26 times more!) It is not merely a case of "possession" (perhaps for private use) anymore. He admitted to trafficking the drug to pay off the legal fees for his twin brother. The accused admitted to his crime. Everyone knows that Singapore imposes harsh penalties for drug trafficking.

To compare a fatal accident with a clear-cut case of drug trafficking is the real twisted logic here, even if one wants to be compassionate. It's a case of trying too hard to portray Singapore in a bad light.

Unknown said...

It is the use of the death penalty and the extremely high rate of its use that is in question. Yes each court case in Singapore is seen as separate from all others. But a mandatory death penalty undermines the rights of the individual.

I am not anti-Singapore merely anti-death penalty and in particular against the silence and lack of discussion on the death penalty in Singapore.

I however agree that Mellanie Hewlitt has jumped the gun, when referring to an on-going court case in the past tense.

I merely copied and pasted the article from a forum and feel that Hewlitt and comments should be cited out of common courtesy.

Anonymous said...

Yet again, Amnesty International and outsiders trying to meddle with Singapore's internal affairs - or imposing their superiority. By asking us to repeal the death penalty. Come on, what rights does a criminal have when they obviously have had harmed their victims? Had these same bunch of scum thought about the rights of their victims when they committed their crime?

It's really easy for westerners to shove their own brand of democracy down third-world countries' throats isn't it? When it is so obvious they don't quite understand the mindset, social behaviour and social engineering of these third-world countries. Or do they?

I wonder how these same folk react if Singapore - or Singaporeans for that matter - were to poke its nose into their respective countries' judiciary about, say, their real lack of rulings towards unjust treatment of ethnic Asians? We would be told to sod off, or, being hurled at with statements like, "What do you Asians/Third-world types know?" Isn't it?

Unknown said...

Hi anonymous

I had no idea that Singapore was a developing country, considering it has a GDP greater than many European countries, and even if it was, how does that justify the state killing a human being?

Yes drugs kill people, most deaths result from nicotine, alcohol and prescribed drugs and the majority of drug addicts are people addicted to anti-depressants.

Drug addiction is an illness and requires treatment by medical professionals not the judicary.

And as for South East Asian countries making reference to non-south east asian culture ,politics, social problems. Have you read the Straits Times recently?

Racism is unacceptable regardles of the form it takes.But doesn't a mandatory death penalty still undermine the rights of the individual?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Contributor (1) here:

The death penalty is not unique to Singapore and can be traced back to the English common law. It is in use in many countries, including the West. The USA, Japan, Philippines, Greece, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico are just some countries which practise it.

It is ironical that when the Bali bombers were sentenced to death in the Indonesian courts earlier this year, Australian Prime Minister John Howard approved of the judicial decision. When an Australian citizen is given the same penalty in a foreign court, the country's foreign minister Alexander Downer is quick to be quoted as saying that "We don't favour capital punishment and that is a standard position of the Australian government." (Sydney Morning Herald, 21 oct 2004)

The 'high rate' (if one adopts the position of Amnesty International) of the use of the death penalty is merely a reflection of the government's tough stance on crime, especially drugs. It can also be a reflection of police efficiency in cracking drug trafficking syndicates, Singapore's geographical proximity to the notorious Golden Triangle, and even Singapore's air hub status which provides traffickers international connections from Asia to Europe and Australia.

The death penalty remains a contested issue internationally. There is no general agreement on whether it undermines human rights. The UN's International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights does not ban it but allows its use for serious crimes. As to which crimes should be deemed 'serious'- that depends on the position of each sovereign government. The European Union was unsuccessful in two previous attempts to repeal the death penalty in the United Nations- the majority of member countries opposed it.

European nationals brought up in an environment of drug tolerance (I won't use the word 'permisiveness' here) may think local drug laws are harsh. They have every right to oppose the death penalty, just as the Singapore judiciary has every right to do its job.

It is well-known internationally that drug trafficking is punishable by death in Singapore- all foreign visitors are forewarned when they fill in their immigration cards. Mr Ngyuen cannot claim ignorance of local laws. Indeed, he admitted he was well aware of what he was doing.

While I do not have solid statistics to back me up, anecdotal evidence and the general consensus among Singaporeans is that laws should be tough on criminals here, including drug traffickers.

Perhaps Mr McDermott confuses between personal drug use and drug trafficking. Mr. Ngyuen was convicted of the latter since he had more than 15g of heroin on him. A heroin user will probably be sent to jail and given rehabilitation.

Turning to Anonymous Contributor (2) and Mr. McDermott's discussion on Westerners interfering in Southeast Asian affairs, I feel that a clear distinction should be made between newspaper reporting and analysis, and the explicit attempts by foreign governments and civil organizations to tell non-Western countries how their own countries should be run. The former is what every paper strives to do, while the latter is just a blatant exercise of a modern form of colonialism. If need be, governments and organizations should converse privately....especially on non-political issues like crime and punishment.

On a side note, I wonder if this blog site can be configured in such a way that anonymous users can have their own nicks without having to go through the hassle of registering. It prevents confusion since every anonymous contributor will no longer be known as just 'Anonymous' but can easily be recognised.

Unknown said...

Dear Anonymous1

sorry I am unable to reconfigure the settings to allow commmneting without having an account.

"non-political issues like crime and punishment."

Although you make very good points throughout your comment would like to pick up a few aspects. The idea that crime and punishment is non-political. You seem to be claiming that the "Government" and the "Judiciary" are independent. Again this is debated over by academics and organisations outside Singapore. (Try a google seach on Christopher Lingle)

Yes the death penalty is a debated topic on an international scale. Those nation states that agree will the death penalty will obviously vote in favour of keeping the death penalty. Nothing startling in that revelation.

Amnesty does have one strong point of contention and that is the mandatory sentencing to death of ALL drug trafficers.

Also to link amnesty with 'colonialism is to assume that all members of the organisation are "Westerners".

Thanks for engaging in debate Anon1 and anon2. its very much appreciated.

Agagooga said...

Tobacco and fast food companies also harm their "victims". Drug users are aware of the harm they are doing to their bodies (if any - pot is arguably less harmful than tobacco) - why should those who supply them be executed? A look at Prohibition America is instructive and sobering in this misguided war on drugs.

The so-called "mindset, social behaviour and social engineering of these third-world countries" is more often than not a way for authoritarian regimes to legitimise their repression their people. Democracy cannot be implemented wholesale, Western-style overnight, but to appeal to such dubious and nebulous concepts as "Asian Values", say, to oppose it is sophistry.

Raising the spectre of so-called "Cultural Imperialism" and decadent "Western" influence is merely a diversionary tactic.

The death penalty may be accepted in many places, but if historical trends are to be trusted, it is hopeful that one day it will be seen to be as barbaric and irrational as female foot binding, female circumcision, prohibition of miscegeny and other such practices are seen by us today.

J&M said...

Stop slating Singapore.

Singapore has done fantastically well for a country with negligible natural resources. Given the prevalence of crime in the surrounding countries Singapore must be considered a “golden tooth in a rotten mouth”.

Could this have happened without the rigid enforcement of strict laws and an unbending approach crime?

I very much doubt it.

Looking at it from a purely mathematical point of view, far fewer innocent people die in Singapore than in countries ruled by liberal namby-pamby do-gooders who place the rights of drug dealers and murderers above the freedom of law-abiding citizens.

If you want to take crack and heroin then don’t do it in Singapore. If you decide to spark up a spliff whilst walking down Orchard Road with a pack of ecstasy in your pocket then you will not receive any sympathy from me when you literally get “caned” up at Changi jail. It’s your own stupid fault.

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Anonymous said...

Old arguments throughout here, but if you want to see what is happening in a nation that is the polar opposite of Singapore as regards treatment of drug offenders, look at the U.S.. Just about every offender that comes to jail is a drug addict and their addiction is driving their criminal behavior. A drug abuser is a walking crime. I can understand Singapore's approach to drug offenses, and in the larger sense I think their zero tolerance approach to crime and repeat offenders is the right one.

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