Singapore hanged a Malaysian heroin trafficker on Friday, despite appeals from his homeland to stay a “heart-wrenching” execution that critics said was too extreme for a low-level drug mule.
The city-state, known for strict enforcement of laws and low crime rates, steadfastly maintains that capital punishment is an effective deterrent against crime despite appeals from rights groups to soften its stance.
Abd Helmi Ab Halim was sentenced to death in 2017 for transporting 16.56 grams (0.58 ounces) of heroin from Malaysia to neighbouring Singapore, according to court documents.
The execution was “extremely disproportionate”, said N. Surendran of Lawyers for Liberty, a Malaysian human rights NGO which had appealed for clemency for the trafficker.
“He was a low-level drug mule, the amount that he was alleged to have transported was paltry,” he told AFP, adding it was just above the 15-gram threshold for a mandatory death penalty for trafficking.
Malaysia also has capital punishment but a reformist government which swept to power last year has said it will soften its policies, likely by abolishing the mandatory death penalty for some crimes, and executions are currently on hold.
Earlier this week, Malaysian Law Minister Liew Vui Keong called for Singapore to reconsider the hanging, saying it was “heart-wrenching to see a fellow citizen (is) to be executed, for circumstances entirely uncompelling.”
“Justice must be tempered with mercy, and I implore Singapore to do so,” he had said.
Following the hanging, Singapore insisted it had the right to use capital punishment against drug offenders and expected other countries to respect its laws, the city-state’s Straits Times newspaper reported.
“Singapore’s laws apply equally to all, regardless whether the offender is Singaporean or foreign,” the law and interior ministries said in a joint statement.
Amnesty International recorded 13 executions last year in Singapore, 11 of them for drug-related offences.