government: parliamentary republic
state of civil and political rights: Partly free
constitution: 3 June 1959, amended in 1965
legal system: based on common law
legislative system: Unicameral Parliament
judicial system: Supreme Court, chief justice is appointed by the president with the advice of the prime minister, other judges are appointed by the president with the advice of the chief justice; Court of Appeals.
religion: Buddhist 42.5%, Muslim 14.9%, Taoist 8.5%, Hindu 4%, Catholic 4.8%, other
death row: 23 (as of end of 2015 according to the Singapore Prison Service)
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 3
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
Convention on the Rights of the Child (made reservation to Art.37 which prohibits the application of the death penalty to minors under eighteen)
Capital crimes are: murder, treason, offences against the President, illegal possession of arms, kidnapping and causing an innocent person to be executed by bearing false witness.
On 7 July 2014, a Bill to amend the Radiation Protection Act was passed in Parliament allowing for the imposition of the death penalty for nuclear-related offences that cause harm or death. There are no nuclear facilities in Singapore at the moment, so this aspect of the Act prepares for future scenarios. It can also be used in a situation where an incident happens in the region but the resulting radiation affects Singapore.
Executions are carried out at dawn. Relatives are generally informed a week previous to the scheduled date. Official statistics on executions were unusually released.
The war on drugs
Singapore has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world, and its customs forms warn arriving travellers of “death for drug traffickers” in no uncertain terms.
Anyone aged 18 or over who is convicted of carrying more than 15 grams (0.5 ounce) of heroin, or 30 grams (1.1 ounces) of cocaine, 500 grams (17.6 ounces) of cannabis or 250 grams (8.8 ounces) of methamphetamines faces mandatory execution by hanging. Moreover, in 2001 Singapore’s highest court ruled that the act of helping dealers pack heroin into smaller sachets for sale is as bad as selling the drug. So anyone who does the packing faces a death sentence.
In November 2012, following the periodic general review started in July 2011, Singapore’s Parliament passed relevant amendments to the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code abolishing the mandatory death sentences in some drug trafficking and murder cases, and making the process of appeal automatic in cases where the accused has been given the death sentence. Under the revised Penal Code, the mandatory death penalty will only apply to cases where killings were intentional. In addition, the mandatory death penalty will continue to apply in most cases, particularly for those who manufacture or traffic in drugs and those who fund, organise or abet drug trafficking. Otherwise, the court will decide if the accused should be given the death sentence or life imprisonment. The court may also order caning in cases where life imprisonment is ordered. All existing cases of 32 inmates on death row, whose appeals had been dealt with previously, would be considered for re-sentencing under the new law.
All existing cases, if eligible, would be considered for re-sentencing under the new law. From 1 January 2013 until 31 December 2015, sixteen drug offenders have had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment under the new regime.
Top secret death
In 2015, Singapore hanged four people, one for murder and three for drug trafficking, according to the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) annual report. At least five new death sentences were imposed, including four for drug-related crimes and one for murder.
The SPS does provide the number of executions each year in its annual report, but other important information, such as the number of individuals on death row, and their names and background (i.e. gender, nationality and socio/economic background) are not publicly disclosed.
The Singapore government had released a press statement on the executions of Muhammad bin Kadar in April 2015, but it did not make any announcements on the other three executed in 2015. “We Believe in Second Chances” found out about two of these executions in December 2015 through death row inmate Kho Jabing, later executed in May 2016.
In 2014, Singapore hanged two men for drug trafficking, in the first executions carried out in the city-state. In July 2011, executions were suspended as part of a general review of the drug situation and the death penalty that led to a new legislation in November 2012.
The last executions had taken place in 2011, when two people were put to death for murder and two for drug trafficking.
Singapore executed at least 436 people between 1991 and 2016 (as of 30 June), most of them for drug-related crimes.
As f 31 December 2015, twenty-three people were on death row in the city-state, according to the government.
On 27 January 2016, Singapore was reviewed under the UPR of the UN Human Rights Council. In response to questions on the death penalty, the Government said no civilised society glorifies in the taking of lives. Singapore applies capital punishment to deter the most serious crimes such as murder and drug trafficking.
On December 19, 2016, Singapore voted against the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly. At the Third Committee, Singapore introduced an emendment to the text of the Resolution aiming at reaffirming the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems, including determining appropriate legal penalties, in accordance with their international law obligations which was approved with 76 votes for, 72 against and 26 abstentions.