Singapore defends death penalty for drug trafficking

November 22, 2012 - 6:30:36 am


SINGAPORE: Singapore yesterday hit back at critics of its limited easing of the death penalty for drug trafficking, saying some rights campaigners give more importance to prisoners than their victims.

“Unfortunately, there has been little emphasis on the fact that thousands of lives are destroyed as a result of the drug problem,” the Ministry of Law said in a statement.

“Singaporeans value the right to live in a safe, secure and drug-free environment. The system we have chosen is a careful calibration of the risks that society faces and the punishment that can be imposed.”

Parliament last week passed legal reforms abolishing mandatory death sentences in some drug trafficking and murder cases, giving fresh hope to 34 inmates awaiting hanging -- the only form of execution.

They can now be re-sentenced to life imprisonment under certain conditions.

Judges will have discretion to impose life imprisonment on a person convicted of murder if the individual did not intend to kill.

They can also impose a life term on a drug courier who cooperated with authorities in a “substantive way” or is suffering from an abnormality that “substantially impaired his mental responsibility for committing the offence”.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, welcomed the reforms last week but raised questions about the requirement for the public prosecutor to certify that a drugs courier cooperated with police. “It’s not clear at all what constitutes substantive cooperation,” he said.

Robertson also said that “this is just the first step in a long journey and there needs to be a lot more done before Singapore can say that it is a rights-respecting government”.