A Statement on World Day Against the Death Penalty

Today, on the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the Transformative Justice Collective (TJC) reiterates its call on the Singapore government to work towards abolishing the use of the death penalty. 

We note with disappointment the Singapore government’s failure to commit to abolishing the death penalty during its third review under the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). 

Singapore did not accept any of the recommendations calling for it to take steps towards the abolition of the death penalty in law and in practice. Singapore did, however, accept several recommendations to continue reviewing the use of the death penalty. 

In explaining this decision, Ambassador Umej Bhatia, Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva, noted that: 

  1. There is “no international consensus against the use of the death penalty”, and the  “death penalty is not prohibited by international law”.
  1. The death penalty in Singapore is reserved “only for the most serious crimes” such as murder, drug trafficking and the use of firearms.
  1. The death penalty has “been an effective deterrent against [murder, drug trafficking and the use of firearms]”. 

In response to the Ambassador, the TJC points out that: 

  1. There is, in fact, a clear global trend towards abolishing the death or not practising it, as noted by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN General Assembly has repeatedly adopted resolutions calling for an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to abolition, receiving support from the overwhelming majority of States, including most recently in December 2020
  1. Even for States that still retain the death penalty, the death penalty may only be imposed for “the most serious crimes”, which only includes crimes involving “intentional killing”, according to the UN Human Rights Committee and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. This international standard does not include drug trafficking and the use of firearms.
  1. There is no conclusive evidence that the death penalty is more effective than any other punishment at deterring crime, as we have previously stated. A punishment as harsh as the death penalty cannot be maintained simply out of a belief that it works.

The TJC recommends that the Singapore government puts into place an immediate moratorium of the death penalty, with a view to eventually abolishing capital punishment. While we fully agree with the government that it is important to ensure the safety and security of all Singaporeans, we believe that this can be done in a manner that respects the right to life and the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 

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