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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Singapore defends hangings, says drug crimes on the rise

Singapore has among the world’s toughest anti-drug laws, but says drug-related crimes have been on the rise recently. (AFP pic)
SINGAPORE: Drug trafficking into Singapore is on the rise, its law minister said as he defended capital punishment for serious drug crimes.
“We have seen an increase in the number of people coming in from countries trying to traffic,” law minister K Shanmugam told Reuters.
He did not elaborate on what type of illegal drugs were being smuggled in.
Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and imposes long jail terms on convicted users.
It has hanged hundreds of people – including dozens of foreigners – for narcotics offences over past decades, rights groups say.
Malaysian-based rights group Lawyers for Liberty recently said that up to 10 prisoners in Singapore had their clemency petitions rejected in July.
“It indicates that Singapore is preparing for an execution binge, in total disregard of international legal norms and decent world opinion,” the group had said.
Singapore does not disclose information about clemency petitions and decisions.
Singapore, which has warned against a global trend to ease drug laws, reported 13 executions in 2018 – 11 for drug offences.
Amnesty International said it was the first year since 2003 that the number hangings reached double-digits.
Globally, Amnesty recorded the lowest number of executions in the past decade in 2018.
Shanmugam said the higher number of executions last year was also partly due to a hiatus in executions in the year before while parliament reviewed the death penalty.
He said there remained “very strong support for the government’s current position” on drugs even as some neighbouring countries ease their tough stands.
In Malaysia, parliament voted last year to remove the death penalty as mandatory punishment for drug trafficking.
In Thailand, there has been debate on broader liberalisation of laws around marijuana after the drug was legalised for medical use and research in 2018.
But Shanmugam said Singapore took a different stance.
“In the places where they have legalised marijuana … crime has gone up … medical costs and hospitalisation costs have gone up significantly, much more than the tax dollars that the state had hoped to receive,” he said.
“Leave aside the economic costs, the social costs in terms of lives and the trauma and families has been very significant.” - FMT

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