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International Mechanism Submissions

Singapore - Universal Periodic Review - Death Penalty - October 2020

The Advocates for Human Rights, along with The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Think Centre, and Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN),?submitted a joint stakeholder report on the death penalty in Singapore for the 38th Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review.?

Use of the death penalty in Singapore continues to be a problem. The State argues that the death penalty is necessary to provide justice to the victims and society and has not adopted recommendations to end the practice. Singapore maintains the mandatory use of the death penalty for intentional killings, drug trafficking offenses unless specific circumstances apply, and a host of other crimes. Although Singapore has restricted the mandatory use of the death penalty in certain instances, the application of the death penalty has become more frequent in practice. Since 2016, Singapore has executed 27 people. In 2018 alone, Singapore executed 13 people—the most in more than a decade. As of September 2020, there are reportedly at least 50 people on death row. Executions imposed for drug trafficking offenses made up approximately two-thirds of executions between 2008 and 2018.

In Singapore, it is difficult to publicly criticize the State. In 2018, Singapore once again extended the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions Act), which gives the Home Affairs Minister the right to direct detention of persons without trial. Singapore also uses legislation to restrict the publication of online information and to restrict the right of peaceful assembly. These laws make it difficult for people to make change internally; activists and attorneys have been targets of government harassment for criticizing the use of the death penalty.

The joint stakeholder report for the Universal Period Review suggests several recommendations for the Singaporean Government including:

  • Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), its Second Optional Protocol, and the Convention against Torture.
  • Impose an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to the ultimate abolition of the death penalty. In the meantime, amend laws to ensure that the death penalty is an available punishment only for crimes in which the person eligible to be sentenced to death committed an intentional killing.
  • Eliminate the mandatory death penalty and provide the courts with full judicial discretion in determining whether the death penalty should be imposed in all cases, taking into account the facts and circumstances of the offense, as well as any mitigating considerations relating to the defendant, in deciding on an appropriate penalty.
  • Cease prosecution and harassment of attorneys representing defendants in criminal proceedings and human rights defenders expressing opposition to the death penalty.
  • Repeal domestic laws authorizing restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly that contradict international norms, such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act.
  • Repeal legislative authorization for use of detention without trial, such as the Internal Security Act and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.