Singapore on Wednesday hanged another citizen for trafficking cannabis, the second in three weeks, as it clung firmly to the death penalty despite growing calls for the city-state to halt drug-related executions.
The 37-year-old man was executed after his last-ditch bid to reopen his case was dismissed by the court Tuesday without a hearing, said activist Kokila Annamalai of the Transformative Justice Collective, which advocates for abolishing the death penalty in Singapore.
The man, who was not named as his family has asked for privacy, had been imprisoned for seven years and convicted in 2019 for trafficking around 3.3 pounds of cannabis, she said. His bid to reopen his case was based on DNA evidence and fingerprints that tied him to a much smaller amount, which he admitted to possessing, but the court rejected it, she added. Under Singapore laws, trafficking more than 1.1 pounds of cannabis may result in the death penalty.
“If we don’t come together to stop it, we fear that this killing spree will continue in the weeks and months to come,” she said. Some 60 prisoners are on death row in the city-state, mostly for drug-related offenses, she added.
Three weeks ago, Singaporean Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, was hanged in the first execution this year for trafficking 2.2 pounds of cannabis although he was not caught with the drugs. Prosecutors said phone numbers traced him as the person responsible for coordinating the delivery of the drugs, which he denied.
Human rights groups, British mogul Richard Branson and the United Nations have urged Singapore to halt executions for drug-related offenses as increasing evidence shows the death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent. But Singapore authorities insist that all prisoners get due process of law and that capital punishment remains “part of Singapore’s comprehensive harm prevention strategy which targets both drug demand and supply.”
Apart from Singapore, Amnesty International said Indonesia carried out 112 drug-related executions last year by firing squad after a hiatus since 2016. In contrast, neighboring Thailand has legalized cannabis while Malaysia has ended the mandatory death penalty for serious crimes.
Thirteen death row inmates have been hanged since Singapore resumed executions in March 2022 after a hiatus of more than two years.
Tangaraju Suppiah’s execution sparked an international outcry, with rights groups pointing to “many flaws” in the case, but the Singapore government said his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Activists said they will continue to push for Singapore to abolish capital punishment as it has no proven deterrent effect on crime.
“The call to the Singapore government (to scrap the death penalty) has been loud and clear globally, and we will repeat the call: Singapore has to halt the executions,” Amnesty International’s executive director for Malaysia Katrina Jorene Maliamauv told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
“They have to commute all existing death sentences.”
Among those hanged last year was Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, whose execution sparked international condemnation because he was deemed to have a mental disability.
“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,”Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director Ming Yu Hah said in a statement last month. “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.”