Singapore: Report exposes highest execution rate in the world

The city-state has hanged more than 400 people in the last 13 years. According to recent UN figures Singapore's per capita execution rate of 13.57 executions per one million population is nearly three times higher than the next country on the global list, Saudi Arabia (1).

Information about the use of the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy and it is not known how many prisoners are currently on death row.

Amnesty International UK Media Director Lesley Warner said:
'The number of people being executed in Singapore is absolutely horrendous. It's time for the government of Singapore to end its refusal to talk openly about the subject. By imposing death sentences and carrying out high numbers of executions, Singapore is defying the global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.'

The new report, Singapore: The death penalty - A hidden toll of executions, examines how the death penalty often falls disproportionately and arbitrarily on the most marginalised or vulnerable members of society. The report details cases including that of Rozman Jusoh, a 24-year-old labourer from Malaysia, executed in 1996 despite having a reported IQ of 74.

Drug addicts are particularly vulnerable. Many have been hanged after being found in possession of relatively small quantities of drugs.

Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act contains several clauses which conflict with the universally guaranteed right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and make a death sentence mandatory for at least 20 different drug-related offences. For example, any person found in possession of a key to anything containing controlled drugs is presumed guilty of possessing those drugs and, if the amount exceeds a specified amount, faces a mandatory death penalty for 'trafficking'.

Lesley Warner continued:
'Such provisions erode the right to a fair trial and increase the risk of executing the innocent. Moreover it is often the drug addicts or minor drug pushers who are hanged, while those who mastermind the crime of trafficking evade arrest and punishment.'

Despite claims by the government that the death penalty has been effective in combating the trade in illegal drugs, drug abuse continues to be a problem particularly among marginalised young people. Observers have drawn attention to the need to combat the social conditions which can give rise to drug abuse and addiction, rather than resorting to executions as a 'solution'.

Lesley Warner concluded:
'We are urging the government of Singapore to impose an immediate moratorium on executions and commute all pending death sentences to prison terms. We are also calling on the authorities to end the secrecy about the use of the death penalty and encourage public debate.'

Background

1. According to the UN Secretary-General's quinquennial report on capital punishment (UN document: E/CN.15/2001/10, para 68), for the period 1994 to 1999 Singapore had a rate of 13.57 executions per one million population, representing by far the highest rate of executions in the world. This is followed by Saudi Arabia (4.65), Belarus (3.20), Sierra Leone (2.84), Kyrgyzstan (2.80), Jordan (2.12) and China (2.01). The largest overall number of executions for the same period took place in China, followed in descending order by Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, Nigeria and Singapore.

The full report is available online at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa360012004

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