breadcrumb: Ministry of Law’s response to AFP report, “Singapore eases death penalty policy” (14 November 2012)
Ministry of Law’s response to AFP report, “Singapore eases death penalty policy” (14 November 2012)
21 Nov 2012 Posted in Replies
We refer to AFP’s report, “Singapore eases death penalty policy” (14 November 2012). The report covered the recent legislative amendments to the application of the mandatory death penalty to drug trafficking, and quoted Mr Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of the Human Rights Watch. Mr Robertson’s comments are not accurate.
The death penalty is supported by the majority of Singaporeans. During the Parliamentary debates on the amendments, all but one Member of Parliament, (including opposition Members), supported in principle the use of the death penalty for drug trafficking. The death penalty has proven to be a powerful deterrent on drug trafficking in Singapore and is part of a comprehensive drug control framework which has seen the country remain free from the scourge of drugs and its attendant social problems. There is no substantive drug production in Singapore. We have kept trafficking at low levels. Drug abuse rates have gone down since 1994. We are not a transhipment hub, despite our interconnectivity.
Mr Robertson further commented on the Public Prosecutor’s certification on drug couriers’ cooperation. The Public Prosecutor’s discretion is not unfettered. It is subject to judicial review, either on bad faith or malice, which is expressly provided for, and of course, unconstitutionality.
The cooperation mechanism introduced by the Singapore Government is neither novel or unusual. Established jurisdictions such as the US and the UK also have prosecutor-operated mechanisms to recognise cooperation for the purposes of sentencing. The reasons for the cooperation mechanism were also explained in Parliament.
Any credible argument in relation to capital punishment for drug trafficking must recognise the trade-offs involved, and the severe costs many societies pay as a result of the drug menace. Unfortunately, there has been little emphasis on the fact that thousands of lives are destroyed as a result of the drug problem. The rights of these thousands of victims (most of whom are young) does not find much articulation in the general discourse of people like Mr Robertson. He focuses exclusively on the rights of the drug traffickers, who engage in the trade for profit, and ignores the costs of the drug trade. His views on which way Singapore society should go have been stated without any understanding of the viewpoint of the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans. Singaporeans value the right to live in a safe, secure and drug-free environment. The system we have chosen is a careful calibration of the risks that society faces and the punishment that can be imposed.
Last Updated on 23 Nov 2012