Death Penalty Undermines Human Dignity And Right To Life

Media Release

11 July 2012

Think Centre (TC) welcomes the Singapore Government's move to review the mandatory death penalty.Think Centre has consistently appealed for gradual abolition of the death penalty and to seek alternatives to the death penalty. But sadly, Singapore continues to execute prisoners by hanging.

This review is long overdue, but necessary, in line with international human rights standards. The revision will provide judicial discretion to judges to lessen the number of death penalty sentences to drug couriers, persons with mental disability, and murder cases. This change is a potential life-saver for alleged couriers who have thus far been most vulnerable and regular victims of mandatory death penalty.

TC calls for moratorium on and abolition of death penalty

TC has been campaigning for a moratorium and abolition of death penalty since 2000s. We view the death penalty as a "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment" and are opposed to the death penalty being meted for drugs, murder, and other crimes. But sadly, Singapore will continue to legally execute prisoners by hanging. TC regrets the Executive's stand that mandatory death penalty should continue to apply in most circumstances, which is inconsistent with the UN High Commissioner's call on Human Rights recent call.

TC has consistently appealed for gradual abolition of the death penalty and to seek alternatives to the death penalty. TC's submission and oral statement to the United Nations Universal Periodic Reporting (UPR ) session in 2011 called for abolition of mandatory death penalty with a view to total abolition. The Singapore government's argument that death penalty is an effective deterrent to serious crimes is not well substantiated. There is no conclusive evidence to show that it is any more effective than other form of punishments.

Death penalty is an act of vengeance that is detrimental to building a civilized society, and demeaning to all. Its continued use disregards human compassion, care and concern and does not give a chance for human beings to change. We, as a society, should adopt a system where justice is meted out in a fair and humane manner. A moratorium will allow the public to discourse and re-examine both purpose and effectiveness, and salvage the lives of victims of miscarriages of justice. There are alternative punishments to the death penalty and we should not continue our practice of killing another human being in the name of justice.

Right to Life is fundamental

A more rational and humane approach is overdue and exigent. TC makes the following recommendations to the Parliament, Government and fellow citizens to:

· Adopt a rights-based approach in the pursuit of death penalty moratorium and abolition legislation;

· Remove the mandatory death penalty for more serious offences besides drugs and murders;

· Support the Judiciary in its exercise of full judicial discretionary powers without fear or favour of the Executive, in order to achieve fairness for drug, murder and all cases;

· Support a fairer and more transparent open-trial system for proper disclosure of capital cases, less investigative biases, less use of undisclosed evidence, track down withheld evidence etc;

· To take the opportunity to have more open dialogues, discussions and debates about the merits and suitability of the death penalty for crime deterrence in the context of a maturing society vis-a-vis the need for Singapore to respect and adhere to international human rights norms.

TC urges the public to show greater compassion in a caring and sharing society, respect the values and expectations of society for social justice, as conscience of society evolves and matures such that there is unequivocal recognition of sanctity of life. TC looks forward to engaging the government, creating societal awareness and CSO capacity-building efforts to bring Singapore in line with international human rights standards and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

In solidarity,

Kong Soon Tan
Think Centre


Sources and Relevant Links:

Note: Think Centre's call to right to life in connection with capital punishment is guided by the desirability of abolition of the death penalty which has been expressed on numerous occasions by the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Committee, the Economic and Social Council and Security Council[ in its resolutions 808 (1993) of 22 February 1993 and 955 (1994) of 8 November 1994].

ABC Singapore set to ease death penalty laws 10 July 2012



Singapore set to ease death penalty laws, Credit: ABC.
10 July 2012

Statement of High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay at the
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