KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Singapore on Wednesday hanged another citizen for trafficking cannabis, the second in three weeks, as it clung firmly to the death penalty despite growing calls for the city-state to halt drug-related executions.
The 37-year-old man was executed after his last-ditch bid to reopen his case was dismissed by the court Tuesday without a hearing, said activist Kokila Annamalai of the Transformative Justice Collective, which advocates for abolishing the death penalty in Singapore.
The man, who was not named as his family has asked for privacy, had been imprisoned for seven years and convicted in 2019 for trafficking around 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of cannabis, she said. His bid to reopen his case was based on DNA evidence and fingerprints that tied him to a much smaller amount, which he admitted to possessing, but the court rejected it, she added. Under Singapore laws, trafficking more than 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of cannabis may result in the death penalty.
“If we don’t come together to stop it, we fear that this killing spree will continue in the weeks and months to come,” she said. Some 60 prisoners are on death row in the city-state, mostly for drug-related offenses, she added.
Singapore executed 11 people last year for drug offenses after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hanging of one particular Malaysian believed to be mentally disabled sparked an international outcry and brought the country's capital punishment under scrutiny for flouting human rights norms.
Three weeks ago, Singaporean Tangaraju Suppiah, 46, was hanged in the first execution this year for trafficking 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cannabis although he was not caught with the drugs. Prosecutors said phone numbers traced him as the person responsible for coordinating the delivery of the drugs, which he denied.
Human rights groups, British mogul Richard Branson and the United Nations have urged Singapore to halt executions for drug-related offenses as increasing evidence shows the death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent. But Singapore authorities insist that all prisoners get due process of law and that capital punishment remains “part of Singapore’s comprehensive harm prevention strategy which targets both drug demand and supply.”
Apart from Singapore, Amnesty International said Indonesia carried out 112 drug-related executions last year by firing squad after a hiatus since 2016. In contrast, neighboring Thailand has legalized cannabis while Malaysia has ended the mandatory death penalty for serious crimes.
This story was first published on May 17, 2023. It was updated on May 18, 2023 to correct the number of prisoners on death row in Singapore. There are some 60 prisoners on death row, not 600.