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The Death Penalty In Singapore

Picture of Prianka Ghosh
Updated: 26 September 2016
Singapore first introduced the death penalty while it was still a British colony and had the second highest number of executions per capita in the late 1990s, when 13.83 people in one million faced execution. However, executions have become much less frequent in the city-state with zero executions in 2012 and 2013. The most recent execution took place on May 20th of this year, when Kho Jabing was executed for his part in an armed robbery that resulted in a murder after his appeal was dismissed. The Singaporean government maintains the use of capital punishment because they feel that it is the main thing that keeps the city-state so safe, and according to a 2005 survey in The Straits Times, a significant majority of Singaporeans agree with this stance.

If you’re a traveler, the things to be aware of are the three main crimes that can lead to an execution sentence, which are murder, unlawful use of a firearm, and drug trafficking. According to Amnesty International, prisoners in Singapore are informed four days before their execution date, given a last meal of their choice, within reason, and allowed prolonged visiting time with family. All executions are carried out on Friday mornings at dawn by hanging, as they have always been. Besides execution, another way that Singapore controls crime is through caning. There are many laws that travellers should be familiar with before making a trip to the city-state.

Previously, Singapore had a mandatory death penalty that stipulated that anyone convicted of murder must be sentenced to death and there were no other considerations undertaken. In 2013, the government amended the mandatory death penalty law. From then, the judge could consider mitigating factors that resulted in the murder and choose a sentence of either death or life imprisonment with caning. Caning is a torturous process where prisoners are held down and repeatedly whipped with a long cane.

The rule against the unlawful use of a firearm is not one that is commonly an issue for travellers, however, drug trafficking is a real problem. Drug trafficking is by far the most common offense of the three and the primary reason for executions. The laws are very specific and very strict. Substances are classified into three categories and Class A has clearly set amounts that lead to a conviction or worse, the death penalty. For example, 15 grams of cannabis is enough to be presumed trafficking and someone carrying over 500 grams will be automatically sentenced to death. For cocaine, just 3 grams are needed for trafficking to be presumed and 30 grams will lead to execution.

Travellers need to understand that the laws in Singapore are serious, and they should never expect that they are exempt from the law as foreigners or travelers. The Singaporean government has previously executed an Australian national after a high-profile case, proving that your home country will likely be unable to extradite visitors who find themselves in a precarious position.

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© WerbeFabrik/Pixabay