Singapore has recently conducted its first execution of a woman in nearly two decades, reigniting the debate surrounding capital punishment for drug-related crimes. 45-year-old Saridewi Djamani was sentenced to death in 2018 after being found guilty of trafficking approximately 31 grams of pure heroin, known as diamorphine, enough to sustain the addiction of about 370 abusers for a week, according to the Central Narcotics Bureau.
For anybody found guilty of distributing more than 500 grammes of marijuana or 15 grammes of heroin, the country’s laws mandate the death penalty. Saridewi’s execution follows the hanging of Mohammed Aziz Hussain, 56, who was executed for trafficking around 50 grams of heroin. Both individuals were given due process, including appeals of their convictions and sentences, as well as petitions for presidential clemency, as confirmed by the narcotics bureau.
Saridewi’s case has attracted attention from various human rights groups, including the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the International Federation for Human Rights, and Amnesty International, who all urged the Singaporean government to halt the execution. These organizations, along with international activists and the United Nations, argue that capital punishment is an ineffective deterrent against drug offenses and disproportionately affects vulnerable and marginalized communities. They emphasize that evidence suggests executing drug offenders does not effectively address drug demand and supply issues.
Singapore’s government, however, maintains that the death penalty is essential for curbing drug-related crime and that it enjoys significant public support. The country defends its judicial processes as fair and ensures that prisoners receive proper legal representation throughout the legal proceedings. Critics of Singapore’s approach to drug offenses point out that prisoners are increasingly representing themselves during their appeals due to a lack of access to legal counsel.
Despite the mounting calls to abolish capital punishment for drug offenses, Singapore has proceeded with executions. Since resuming hangings in March 2022, the country has executed 15 people for drug crimes, averaging one execution per month. The debate over the death penalty in Singapore is far from over, despite global attention focused on the issue.
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