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Activists commemorate 9th World Day Against the DeathPenalty

10 October 2011

Activists commemorate the 9th World Day Against the Death Penalty

Singapore: On Sunday, 9 October 2011, nearly 20 local activists and supporters gathered together at the Speakers' Corner to commemorate the 9th World Day Against the Death Penalty. The event, jointly organised by the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, We Believe in Second Chances and Think Centre, is part of a global movement started since 2003, to mark October 10 as a World Day against the death penalty across the world. This year's World Day focuses on the inhumanity of the death penalty as a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.

In a statement (Annex) read out at the gathering, it was reiterated that the death penalty “is an ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment and it fundamentally goes against Article 3 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights that states "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person".” The Singapore Government however, guards its 'right' to impose the death penalty and had been the leading opposition voice in the United Nations against calls for a moratorium on death penalty. Most recently it rejected recommendations to abolish or to impose a moratorium made during Singapore's Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council (6 May 2011).

Today the world is increasingly moving away from accepting the use of death penalty with two thirds of the world's countries having already abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Concerned Singaporeans continues to urge the Singapore Government to rethink its current stance on the death penalty and impose a moratorium to create the time and space for society to explore alternate sentencing options and to work ultimately towards its abolishment.



Statement delivered on 4.30pm, 9 October 2011, Speakers' Corner, Hong Lim Park, Singapore

Dear Friends,

We are here today to commemorate the World Day Against the Death Penalty. We would like to once again express our solidarity, with groups and individuals all over the world, in calling for a worldwide end to the use of the death penalty on this day. We believe that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights.

The death penalty is an ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment and it fundamentally goes against Article 3 of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights that states "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person".

To date, two thirds of the world's countries have already abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. This is confirmed by the increase in the number of states supporting a UN General Assembly's resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to abolishing it since 2007. Efforts made by activists and organizations all over the world who have worked for years to persuade their governments to abolish this form of punishment have also contributed greatly to this development.

In Singapore, it seems that we still remain in the dark ages keeping company with other countries that continues to uphold this abhorrent practice. Locally, the application of the death penalty is problematic as it is rendered as mandatory sentencing, for categories of crimes such as drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping, treason and certain firearms offences.

The majority of publicly known capital cases are related to drug trafficking and related offenses. This is largely due to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) whereby anyone found carrying the stipulated amount of controlled drugs listed in Section 17 of the Act, shall be presumed to be in possession for the purpose of drug trafficking unless proven otherwise. This meant the presumption of innocence is not guaranteed and the burden of proof shifted to the accused. When convicted, the accused persons are almost guaranteed to meet the hangman unless his clemency plea is accepted by the President of Singapore of which, not a single appeal has succeeded in the last 12 years.

It has been repeatedly pointed out that the mandatory death penalty (MDP), effectively ties the judges' hands and deny them of the discretion to look into the mitigating factors. For example, outside of drug-related offences the MDP is also applied against crimes of passion such as murders committed in the spur of the moment when emotions are running high, as well as offenders of unsound mind or sub-par intellect. Such instances only fails to prove the much vaulted deterrence factor of the death penalty that is often purported by the State, and there is always the risk of error in applying the death penalty.

The death penalty has been reduced to an exercise in administrative expediency, with the government withholding crucial statistical figures on the State's use of the death penalty from the public sphere. Without the necessary facts and figures corroborating the efficacy of the death penalty as a deterrent, the government cannot continue to insist anecdotally that the death penalty is effective in curbing specific crimes.

A conflicting message is also being sent out to our society: we do not condone murder nor do we allow euthanasia, and persons who attempts suicide are committing a crime but yet we allow the Government the liberty of prescribing death and execute premeditated killings, even for non-violent and non-heinous crimes. At what cost to the sanctity of life do we want to maintain peace and security for our society?

We call for a paradigm shift in our judicial system and principles, a shift away from the emphasis on retributive justice as can be seen with the State pre-occupation with the death penalty, towards the emphasis on restorative aspects of justice.

Thank You.


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