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Singapore: End wave of hangings and immediately impose moratorium on executions

Responding to the execution of Malaysian national Kalwant Singh in Singapore, together with that of another man, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research Emerlynne Gil said: 

“Singapore has once again executed people convicted of drug-related offenses in violation of international law, callously disregarding public outcry.”  

“Going against a worldwide trend towards abolishing the death penalty, Singapore is just one of four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years. The death penalty is never the solution and we oppose it unconditionally. There is no evidence that it acts as a unique deterrent to crime.” 

The death penalty is never the solution and we oppose it unconditionally.

Emerlynne Gil, Deputy Regional Director for Research

Despite the court finding that his role was limited to the transportation of drugs, Kalwant was denied a certificate of substantive assistance by the prosecution. He was then sentenced by the court to the mandatory death penalty. His application for a last minute stay, which asked for a review on the decision not to issue him with a certificate, was rejected by the Court of Appeal a day before the execution. 

Last week, in a media interview, Minister of Law K Shanmugam publicly defended the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences in Singapore, citing the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) recognition of problems caused by drugs in Southeast Asia. 

“Contrary to what the Singaporean authorities have claimed, both the UNODC and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) – the UN bodies tasked with crime prevention and drug policy – have condemned the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences and have urged governments to move towards abolition. In fact, the UN Common Position on drugs has always been to urge governments to shift away from punitive responses because of their ineffectiveness in reducing drug trafficking or in addressing the use and supply of drugs.” 

“The government has a duty to protect human rights for all, and its use of the death penalty is a blatant violation of human rights. We urge the Singaporean authorities to immediately stop this latest wave of hangings and impose a moratorium on executions as a step towards ending this shameful and inhuman punishment.” 

Background 

Kalwant Singh, a Malaysian national, was convicted and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2016 for drug trafficking in 2013. The High Court found him to have been a “courier”, but the prosecution did not provide him with a certificate of substantive assistance, a requirement for the judges to be able to decide between the death penalty and life imprisonment with caning. His conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2016. 

Singaporean authorities set his execution for 7 July 2022, leaving his family little time to make arrangements to travel from Malaysia. Another man was also convicted in the same case and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. His execution was also set for 7 July.  

Singapore has carried out four executions this year, all of people convicted of drug offences, after a pause of over 2 years during the pandemic. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. As of today, 110 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds are abolitionist in law or practice.