MARUAH welcomes the announcement by the Singapore Government today, that the death penalty will no longer be mandatory in certain limited circumstances. At the same time, MARUAH regrets the narrow scope of this move, and notes that the mandatory death penalty remains in place for many other offences.
As highlighted in MARUAH’s submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review of Singapore (https://maruahsg.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/upr-maruah-dp-isa-hrc.pdf) in 2011, the mandatory death penalty fundamentally conflicts with international human rights norms. MARUAH is therefore glad at this first step towards consistency with universal standards of human rights, but calls on the Singapore Government to do much more.
MARUAH President Braema Mathi says, “We applaud the Singapore Government for taking this important first step. But this is only a small step in the right direction, as the mandatory death penalty is fundamentally troubling, and it continues to be applied to a substantial number of criminal offences.”
The Government announced today that it will change the law, such that the mandatory death penalty will not be applied in two types of cases: firstly, where a drug trafficker only played the role of a courier, and the trafficker had substantively cooperated with the police or had a mental disability; and secondly, where there is a homicide but there was no intention to kill. In these cases, the courts may either impose the death penalty, or sentence the convicted person to life imprisonment with caning.
MARUAH is troubled that the mandatory death penalty will continue to be maintained for offences such as intentional murder, kidnapping, firearms offences and drug trafficking where the conditions spelt out by the Government are not met. MARUAH also notes that there has been anecdotal evidence of inadequate due process and fairness in capital trials. Finally, the Government has still not provided convincing evidence of the effectiveness of the death penalty in deterring crime.
Accordingly, MARUAH renews its call, as first articulated in its UPR submission, for the Government: to review the scope of capital offences, so as to ensure that the death penalty is imposed only in the most serious of crimes; to prohibit the imposition of the death penalty in the context of group crimes, where the accused person has not personally intended to commit murder; to review the criminal process to ensure that capital cases undergo the most rigorously fair pre-trial and trial process, including access to counsel immediately upon arrest, an effective system of supervision of the extraction and recording of confessions by the police, and a repeal of the use of presumptions in capital cases; and to publish persuasive, objective evidence of the deterrent effect of the death penalty.