Singapore Doubles Down on Executions

Human Rights

The Singaporean government since mid-April has issued at least four execution notices to individuals convicted of drug-related offenses. They are among 36 death row prisoners taking part in a legal action relating to their constitutional right to legal aid following appeal. None of these prisoners currently have legal representation.

The executions of these prisoners have been put on hold, awaiting the outcome of the court application.

But the Singaporean government remains determined to use the death penalty, even as the global trend is towards abolition. On May 8, Singapore’s home minister, K. Shanmugam, announced that the Post-Appeal in Capital Cases Act (PACC), which was passed in 2022, would imminently come into force. This law will severely curtail prisoners’ ability to appeal their convictions and further undermine fair trial and due process rights in capital cases in Singapore.

In his address, in which he defended the country’s use of capital punishment as an “effective” deterrent, the home minister hit out at Singapore’s anti-death penalty activists, who have long been the target of government harassment and intimidation. He publicly named five anti-death penalty advocates, including a media outlet, who because of their activism have previously been subject to orders under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), a law that gives the government broad discretionary powers to censor online content. 

The Singaporean government has a track record of silencing and intimidating opponents of the death penalty. Last year, the authorities suspended the law license of prominent human rights lawyer M. Ravi for five years: the maximum sanction for a lawyer’s misconduct. He was accused of making “grave and baseless accusations of improper conduct” on Facebook against the attorney-general, after M. Ravi managed to have the death sentence of his client, Malaysian national Gobi Avedian, set aside on the grounds of miscarriage of justice.

United Nations experts and governments have repeatedly called on Singapore to abolish, or impose a moratorium, on the death penalty, and to halt the targeting and silencing of anti-death penalty activists. But these efforts have so far been to no avail.

Singapore should demonstrate its commitment to upholding international law and standards by abolishing this cruel and inhumane practice.

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