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Singapore: Unlawful execution shows ‘stubborn embrace’ of death penalty

Protest against the death penalty at Speakers' Corner in Singapore in 2022 © AFP via Getty Images

Tangaraju Suppiah executed by hanging today

Proceedings violated international human rights law and standards

Denied access to lawyer and interpreter during police questioning

‘This unlawful execution shows yet again the staggering failure of Singapore’s stubborn embrace of the death penalty’ - Ming Yu Hah

Responding to the execution by hanging of Singaporean national Tangaraju s/o Suppiah today, Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director, said: 

“This unlawful execution shows yet again the staggering failure of Singapore’s stubborn embrace of the death penalty.

“The many flaws in the case, from lack of access to legal counsel and of interpretation from the point of arrest to the lack of disclosure of key evidence from the prosecution, as well as the continued reliance on the mandatory death penalty renders this execution arbitrary under international human rights law.  

“The country’s highly repressive drug control law includes the mandatory death penalty, which means that judges are not allowed to take into consideration possible mitigating circumstances at sentencing, including circumstances of the crime, background of the defendant or other factors relevant to the case.

“This is a punishment that Singapore’s neighbour Malaysia is in the process of fully abolishing to advance the protection of the right to life. 

“Singapore’s punitive drug policies have failed not only to tackle the use and availability of drugs in the country, but also failed to offer effective protection from drug-related harm.

“The Government of Singapore must take note of the growing trend around the world towards abandoning the death penalty and act accordingly, first by establishing an official moratorium on all executions, then moving towards full abolition.” 

Denied lawyer and interpreter

Tangaraju s/o Suppiah, 46, was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2018 following proceedings that violated international human rights law and standards.  

He was accused of coordinating with two men to traffic one kilogram of cannabis into Singapore in 2013, but he never received the drugs that were allegedly ordered by him.

Tangaraju, a Tamil speaker, was convicted mainly based on statements that he gave during police interrogation with no lawyer or interpreter present, as well as on the testimony of the other men accused of the crime. These men appeared as prosecution witnesses.  

Singapore has executed 12 people since March 2022 following a two-year hiatus. The last known execution was carried out in October 2022.

Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. As of today, 112 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. 

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