Singapore has executed a man, Tangaraju Suppiah, for attempting to smuggle 1kg of cannabis into the country. The execution has drawn criticism from human rights organizations and activists who believe that Singapore’s use of the death penalty for drug offenses is too harsh. Despite calls for law reform, Singapore has maintained its strict drug laws and mandatory death penalty for drug offenses.
Calls for Clemency Ignored as Singapore Executes Drug Smuggler
A Singapore man convicted of attempting to smuggle about 1 kg of cannabis was hanged today, prompting criticism from human rights organizations and activists who consider the sentence too harsh. Many other countries, including nearby neighbors like Thailand, have taken a more lenient approach to drugs and the death penalty.
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Singapore Maintains Hardline Stance
While more and more countries worldwide are legalizing cannabis, Singapore maintains some of the strictest drug laws. The country’s government believes that the death penalty deters drug traffickers and must remain in place to maintain public safety.
Tangaraju Suppiah, a 46-year-old Singaporean, was executed Wednesday at Changi Prison, the Singapore Prison Service said in a statement.
Calls for Clemency and International Criticism
In the days leading up to Tangaraju’s execution, family members and activists made public appeals for mercy and questioned the meaning of his conviction. The European Union Office in Singapore and the UN Human Rights Office also urged Singapore authorities not to carry out the execution.
Tangaraju was sentenced to death in 2018 for “complicity in smuggling more than 1 kg (1,017.9 grams) of cannabis,” according to a statement from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). The court found that he was in telephone contact with two other men who tried to smuggle cannabis into Singapore.
Earlier appeals against his conviction and death sentence were dismissed by the courts in 2019, and petitions for presidential clemency also proved unsuccessful, CNB added.
Strict Drug Laws and Use of Death Penalty
“Singapore takes a zero-tolerance stance on drugs and takes a multi-faceted approach to combating them,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement in response to international criticism of Tangaraj’s execution.
“The death penalty is an essential component of the criminal justice system in Singapore and effectively maintains security and public order in Singapore.”
Singapore Defends Use of Death Penalty
The Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs also rejected allegations made by human rights groups, arguing that the case against Tangaraju had been “proven beyond reasonable doubt” and that the evidence “unequivocally showed that he coordinated the delivery of drugs for smuggling.”
The Singapore ministry’s statement was released in response to foreign criticism, including from British billionaire Richard Branson, a staunch opponent of the death penalty.
“Killing people for allegedly smuggling cannabis is particularly cruel and misguided, given that more and more countries are implementing sensible drug policies, decriminalizing and regulating cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes,” Branson wrote on his blog.
The European Union delegation in Singapore has also called on authorities to halt executions. Nonetheless, the Singapore government continues executions, last year carrying out eleven death sentences, all for drug trafficking offenses.
Under the law in Singapore, anyone caught smuggling, importing, or exporting certain quantities of illegal drugs, such as methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, or cannabis products, receives a mandatory death sentence.
Singapore Remains Defiant in the Face of Calls for Law Reform
Singapore, however, has remained defiant in the face of calls for law reform. This defiance is despite many other countries, including neighboring Malaysia, have introduced sweeping legal reforms to abolish the mandatory death penalty and reduce the number of crimes, including drug offenses, subject to the death penalty – a move that human rights advocates have welcomed.
(Featured image courtesy of Trishnu Kaur)
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