Singapore executes its war on drugs

Transformative Justice Collective (Singapore)


Singapore executes its war on drugs

1 November 2022
East Asia Forum

In October 2022, Singapore reportedly executed one person, bringing the total number of people executed in the city-state between March–October 2022 to 11. While the details of the reported 11th execution have not been made public, the 10 people who were executed earlier in the year were all sentenced to death after being convicted of drug trafficking. They were mostly of an ethnic minority background or Malaysian citizens.

All but one of the death sentences was related to heroin trafficking, with one person executed for trafficking cannabis. At a time when an increasing number of jurisdictions around the world are revising their drug laws, such as Thailand regulating the sale and use of cannabis, executing a person for carrying cannabis highlights the extreme nature of death penalty sentences.

Singapore’s concurrent Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam justifies his insistence on retaining the death penalty by arguing that if he ‘removed the death penalty, the flow of drugs into Singapore would be much higher’. But that is difficult to prove.

The available data on the supply of illicit drugs in Singapore only shows the quantities of drugs seized by law enforcement agencies. Data on the quantities of seized drugs cannot accurately portray the size of drug markets given the clandestine nature of production and distribution.

The best available data on drugs in the region is published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. In its most recent report on synthetic drugs in East and Southeast Asia, the Office recorded a 10 per cent increase in the amount of methamphetamine seized in Singapore from 2020–2021. Every single Southeast Asian country identified methamphetamine as their primary drug of concern.

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  • International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)