Singapore should join global trend and establish a moratorium on executions

News
May 2, 2012

Singapore should join global trend and establish a moratorium on executions

Singapore's announcement that it carried out four executions in 2011, after no executions the previous year, flouts the global trend toward abolition of the death penalty and reversed a notable reduction in executions there, Amnesty International said today.

On 27 March 2012, Amnesty International published its annual global figures on the use of the death penalty, noting no confirmed reports of executions in Singapore for 2011. After publication, however, Amnesty International learned that Singapore authorities had reported four executions for 2011.

Amnesty International has repeatedly requested Singapore to make information on the death penalty public, and has written to the authorities requesting this, but has yet to receive a reply. In 2011, the government took the welcome step of publishing its 2010 statistics in its Prison Service's annual report.

International standards and UN bodies urge member states to publish regular information about the use of death penalty. However, gathering information on executions, death sentences and other details about death row inmates was difficult in Singapore without regular and consistent publication of this information by the state.

The Singapore Prison Service said that two people were executed for murder and two for drug trafficking in 2011. These statistics are corroborated by figures from the Ministry of Home Affairs as reported in the Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times, which also published the number of executions carried out each year between 1991 and 2011.

This 20-year series of statistics indicates a progressive reduction in the use of the death penalty in Singapore. According to the press report, more than 70 people were executed per year in both 1994 and 1995, including more than 50 per year for the non-violent offence of drug trafficking. Since 2004, the figures of total executions for each year have been lower than 10; in 2010, no one was reportedly executed. After the good news of 2010, it is regrettable that the authorities resumed executions last year.

Today, a young Malaysian is facing imminent execution in Singapore for a drug conviction. Amnesty International urges the President to halt the execution of Yong Vui Kong, who was sentenced to death in January 2009 for trafficking 47 grams of heroin, a crime committed when he was only 19 years old. Under Singapore's drug laws, a defendant is automatically presumed guilty of drug trafficking in cases where possession of heroin exceeds two grams. The death penalty is mandatory for cases involving more than 30 grams.

Yong's most recent appeal was dismissed by the Courts of Appeal in April. Meanwhile, 26 criminal charges against his former boss, a Singaporean alleged to have masterminded the crime, have been withdrawn by the Attorney-General's chambers.

Yong Vui Kong's case has generated widespread concern, including in his native country Malaysia, where Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and Malaysian legislators have urged Singaporean officials to grant clemency.

More than two-thirds of all countries worldwide have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. In the Asia-Pacific region, 28 countries out of 41 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes either in law or practice, including 13 Commonwealth countries from the region.