Two people on death row for drugs are scheduled to be executed tomorrow, in violation of international law

LONDON [6 July 2022] – The government of Singapore is scheduled to execute Kalwant Singh and Norasharee bin Gous tomorrow, 7 July. Both Singh and bin Gous were arrested for drug offences and have already spent several years on death row. After a two-year pause in executions, Singapore has resumed executions for drug offences at an alarming rate this year. If carried out, these would be the third and fourth executions in Singapore this year, all of which have been for drug offences.

An open letter published this week calls on the United Nations’ major human rights and drug control bodies to intervene and help stop these impending executions. Harm Reduction International, together with the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), the Network of Asian People who Use Drugs (NAPUD), the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and  99 other organisations and human rights experts from over 50 countries are calling on the United Nations to urge Singapore to immediately halt the executions.

“The government of Singapore is acting in violation of international human rights law,” said Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International. “The international community must urge Singapore to stop using this inhumane punishment that disproportionately impacts marginalised people,” she added.

Kalwant Singh is a Malaysian national arrested for a drug offence when he was 23 years’ old. His trial has revealed the economic circumstances that pushed Singh into committing the drug offence, including having to repay a debt to an illegal money lender. Norasharee bin Gous was arrested in relation to the same case, based purely on the testimony of another co-accused, who was spared the death penalty based on this testimony. Both Singh and bin Gous were notified of the scheduled execution last Thursday, 30 June. They were tried in connection to the same drug transaction, and despite being found to be mere drug couriers, they were sentenced to the mandatory death penalty. Their cases mirror the vast majority of death penalty cases in Singapore and around the world; the death penalty for drugs disproportionately impacts poor people as well as racial and ethnic minorities. These cases are also often ridden with concerns about fair trials.

The letters sent to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reiterate that the death penalty for drug offences violates international human rights and drug control standards.

At least 30 people are currently on death row for drugs in Singapore and are thus at imminent risk of execution. According to research by Harm Reduction International, although 35 retain the death penalty for drug offences, Singapore is one of only six countries to have carried out executions for drug offences in the past five years (China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Vietnam).


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Suchitra Rajagopalan – Tel: (+44) 7518 457 693

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NOTES:

  1. Harm Reduction International is a leading NGO working to reduce the negative health, social and legal impacts of drug use and drug policy.
  2. Harm Reduction International has monitored use of the death penalty for drug offences worldwide since our first ground-breaking publication on this issue in 2007. We provide regular updates on legislative and practical developments related to the use of capital punishment for drug offences, a practice which is a clear violation of international human rights law.