Singapore failing to provide important information on death sentences

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 May, 2011, 12:00am


I refer to the letter from Singapore Consul General Ker Sin Tze ('Author not prosecuted in Singapore for writing about death penalty', May 15). It was in reply to comments on Liz Gooch's article in Postmagazine ('Given enough rope', May 1).

The consul general stated that the article 'chose to repeat groundless allegations by anti-death-penalty campaigners that they were unable to access government statistics on capital punishment.'

Every year, Amnesty International requests statistics on death sentences and executions from countries that practise capital punishment, but Singapore has not provided this. But anti-death penalty campaigners are not the only ones unable to access these statistics.

The Law Society of Singapore's former president, Michael Hwang, said in 2008 the Singapore government had not made public the detailed statistics of crime and punishment which would facilitate research on issues such as the effect of the death penalty on crime.

Other countries have also raised the issue. Earlier this month, at the United Nations' review of Singapore's human rights record, the Netherlands asked, 'Could the government provide statistics on past executions and death sentences handed down by the courts?'

According to the consul general, 'Statistics on capital punishment are published in the Singapore Prison Service's annual report.' But the Prison Service Annual 2008, which is the latest annual report available on the government website, does not contain any such information.

A death sentence is irreversible, allowing no remedy for miscarriage of justice. Singapore imposes mandatory death by hanging for crimes such as murder, unlawful possession of firearms and drug trafficking. Judges have no discretion to take account of mitigating circumstances. If suspects are found in possession of illegal drugs over a certain weight, they are automatically presumed guilty.

The Singapore government has robustly defended its use of the death penalty. So why does it still not provide information on the number of death sentences, executions and details about those executed? If the government has published such statistics, as the consul general claims, he should be able to provide them.

Sarah Carmichael, Southeast Asia co-ordinator, Amnesty International Hong Kong