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Singapore: UN experts condemn continued use of death penalty for drug-related crimes

28 April 2023

GENEVA (28 April 2023) – UN experts* today strongly condemned Singapore’s execution of Tangaraju s/o Suppiah on Tuesday (26) and called on the Government to impose an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in the country.

Tangaraju, a 46-year-old Tamil national from Singapore, was executed despite claims that he had not been provided with adequate interpretation during police interrogations. He was subsequently convicted of drug trafficking.

“The death penalty can only be carried out after a legal process with every possible safeguard that ensures a fair trial, including legal representation at every stage of proceedings and necessaryinterpretation in all oral proceedings,” the UN experts said.

The rate of execution notices for drug-related offences in Singapore was “highly alarming”, they said.

“States that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose capital punishment for the ‘most serious crimes’,” the experts said. “Under international law, only crimes of extreme gravity involvingintentional killing can be considered as ‘most serious’. Drug offences clearly do not meet this threshold.”

They also raised concerns about discriminatory treatment of individuals belonging to minorities, such as Tangaraju, and reports of reprisals against their legal counsel.

Tangaraju was sentenced to the death penalty under Singaporean law, which makes capital punishmentmandatory for certain offences, including drug-related convictions. The mandatory sentencing law stripsjudges of discretion to consider individual cases, context and circumstances, the experts said.

“We reiterate that the mandatory use of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life, since it is imposed without taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or circumstances of the particular offence,” they said.

The UN experts expressed alarm by the de facto suspension of the moratorium on the death penalty by the Government in 2019. They urged the Government of Singapore to review, without delay, the scope of the death penalty, particularly with regard to drug-related offences. “Singapore must ensure that theimposition of the death penalty and its implementation is strictly limited to cases involving intentional killing,” the experts said.

“Any measures to abolish the death penalty should be seen as progress towards the realisation of theright to life. By extension, the resumption of executions results in less protection of the right to life,” they said.

The experts: Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;Ms. Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Mr. Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Ms. Ganna Yudkivska (Vice-Chair on Follow- Up), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo and Mr. Mumba Malila Working Group on arbitrary detention; Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on theIndependence of Judges and Lawyers; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, and Mr. Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name ofthe Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page - Singapore

For further information and media requests, please contact: Anna Fischer (+41 22 928 93 22/ [email protected]) or write to [email protected].

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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