SINGAPORE – Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty World Day Against the Death Penalty statement

10th World Day Against the Death Penalty

It has been a decade since the World Day Against the Death Penalty was first commemorated. In the past decade, the world has seen a progressive decrease in the use of the death penalty.

According to the latest statistics provided by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, 97 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 8 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes and 36 countries have abolished the death penalty in practice. In total, 141 countries are abolitionist in law or in practice.

Singapore, a country that has been practicing the use of both the death penalty and the mandatory death penalty, will be seeing slight amendments made in the use of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking and homicide.

As we applaud the global changes that have been observed over the past decade and acknowledge the small steps taken by the Singapore Government, we recognise that our work in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty continues. We cannot overlook the fact that the death penalty still exists in our own backyard, guarded defensively by authorities who claim that it is a necessary evil that works as a deterrent towards heinous crimes and drug trafficking.

As the newly formed Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty[1], we  would like to emphasize our position against the use of  death penalty and the mandatory death penalty by stating that:

  1. The death penalty and mandatory death penalty is an irreversible, ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading form of punishment and it fundamentally goes against Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”;
  2. The abolition of the death penalty will contribute to enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights;
  3. The death penalty is not a deterrent for crimes as there are many factors including ignorance, mental conditions and social factors that nullifies any deterrence effect.

Until the death penalty is fully abolished in Singapore, we will continue our call for a paradigm shift in our judicial system and principles – a shift away from the emphasis on retributive justice and move towards the restorative aspects of justice.  With this in view, we make the following recommendations to the Singapore Government:

  1. To continue the current stay on executions and establish an official moratorium to create the time and space for society to explore alternative sentencing options and to work ultimately towards the abolishment of the death penalty;
  2. To make available statistics and other factual information on the use of the death penalty, which is already an accepted recommendation in the Universal Periodic Review by the Singapore Government[2]
  3. Ratify the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] and the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty;
  4. With due regard to articles 10 and 15 of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), recognise that no persons with disabilities – including persons with mental or intellectual disabilities – should be subjected to the death penalty.

We also take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment towards the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore, and express our support and solidarity with friends and fellow abolitionists locally, regionally and internationally.

Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty

13 October 2012

About the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP)

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP) is a collaboration between Think Centre, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and We Believe in Second Chances. We have come together as concerned Singaporeans to advocate for changes that we strongly believe will lead to a better Singapore where every individual enjoys the full “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights” as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights (UDHR).

We are motivated by Article 3 of the UDHR that proclaims “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Every nation including Singapore and every individual must “promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures” ensure “effective recognition and observance among the people”.

Under this collaboration, we work together to enhance our collective capacity to conduct research, projects and events. Through our outreach programmes, we hope to raise awareness and trigger much-needed public debate on issues surrounding the  death penalty in Singapore.


[1]              The Singapore Working Group on Death Penalty comprises the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, We believe in Second Chances and Think Centre.

[2]              Moratorium on the use of the death penalty , Report of the Secretary-General, pg 11, E. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/67/226&referer=/english/&Lang=E

SINGAPORE: Proposed change a welcome step

Government needs to do more to abolish mandatory death penalty for all crimes

Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) welcomes the Singaporean Government’s move towards putting an end to the mandatory death sentencing for drug trafficking and homicide cases, and the moratorium on executions in place until proposed changes in the law are enacted.

Mandatory death sentences are prohibited under international law and Amnesty International therefore calls on the Government of Singapore to abolish mandatory death sentencing unconditionally.

Mandatory death sentences prevent judges from exercising their discretion and from considering all extenuating circumstances in a case.  International human rights law prohibits mandatory death sentences as they have been found to constitute arbitrary deprivation of life and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.  Many courts and judicial bodies around the world have ruled mandatory death sentencing as unconstitutional.

These proposed changes are key in saving the lives of those who are currently in death row in Singapore, particularly the case of Malaysian Yong Vui Kong, who is facing imminent execution.  Yong Vui Kong, who was 19 years old when arrested in 2007, was given a mandatory death sentence for possession of 47g of heroin, which under Singapore’s existing laws amounted to drug trafficking and warranted mandatory death penalty.  Yong Vui Kong was a courier and has identified in a police statement the alleged mastermind of the operation who instigated him to transport the controlled drugs to Singapore.  The charges against the Singaporean alleged to have masterminded the crime have been withdrawn.   Yong Vui Kong’s case has attracted international attention and concern from the diplomatic community.

Amnesty International and the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) joins local groups in Malaysia and Singapore in calling for the Singaporean Government to commute Yong Vui Kong’s sentence.

ADPAN is a cross-regional independent network made up of NGOs, lawyers and activists from 24 countries that are committed to working for an end to the death penalty in their own countries and across the Asia Pacific region.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, believing that the death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.  Amnesty International and ADPAN understand the devastating impact of violent crime and sympathizes with victims of crime and their families.  However, there is no evidence to demonstrate that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.  Victims of crime are doubly victimised by unfair trial procedures which can result in the innocent being executed and the real perpetrators never being brought to justice.

SINGAPORE – Joint letter appealing for Yong Vui Kong to be granted clemency

AI Index: ASA 36/2012.002

8 May 2012

Mr.  K. Shanmugam

Law Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Treasury,
100 High Street, #08-02
Singapore 179434

Dear Minister

OPEN LETTER: CLEMENCY FOR YONG VUI KONG URGENTLY REQUESTED

Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) urge Singapore’s Cabinet to advise the President to grant clemency to Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian who faces imminent execution for drug trafficking. Clemency granted by the President, following advice from the Cabinet, is Yong’s last hope.

On 4 April, Singapore’s Supreme Court rejected Yong Vui Kong’s third and final appeal submitted by his lawyer, M. Ravi. The appeal argued that Yong Vui Kong was subjected to unequal treatment before the law when the Attorney-General’s Chamber decided not to prosecute the alleged mastermind of the drug operation, a Singaporean who was Yong Vui Kong’s former boss. He remains free from prosecution now that all 26 charges against him were withdrawn by the Attorney-General’s office. Yet his former employee, Yong Vui Kong, has spent almost four years on death row and now faces imminent execution.

Yong Vui Kong was 19 when first arrested in 2007 for possessing 47g of heroin.  In 2008 Singapore’s High Court sentenced him to death under the Misuse of Drugs Act – which provides a mandatory death sentence for anyone caught with over 15g of heroin.  The law strips the judiciary of discretion to pass a lesser sentence, or to individualize the sentence in conformity with the degree of culpability of the accused.

In 2005 the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said that Singapore’s execution of another prisoner sentenced to death for trafficking heroin, Nguyen Tuong Van, would violate international legal standards relating to the imposition of the death penalty. “No international human rights tribunal anywhere in the world has ever found a mandatory death penalty regime compatible with international human rights norms,” the Special Rapporteur stated.

In resolution 2005/59, adopted on 20 April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights urged all states that still maintain the death penalty “to ensure… that the death penalty is not imposed… as a mandatory sentence”.

Amnesty International and ADPAN urge Singapore to follow the worldwide trend among common-law countries to ban the use of the mandatory death penalty. The US Supreme Court struck down mandatory penalty in 1976, ruling in Woodson v. North Carolina that “fundamental respect for humanity … requires consideration of the character and record of the individual offender and the circumstances of the particular offense.” In 1983, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the penalty was unconstitutional in Mithu v. Punjab, stating that ““[t]he legislature cannot make relevant circumstances irrelevant, deprive the courts of their legitimate jurisdiction to exercise their discretion.” More recently, in Attorney-General vs Kagula, the Supreme Court of Uganda in 2009 struck down the mandatory death penalty because it prevented courts from considering all specific circumstances of the defendant and of the crime.

Yong Vui Kong’s case has sparked widespread concern around the world.  In his own country, Malaysia, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and Malaysian legislators requested the Singaporean authorities to grant clemency in 2010.

The President of Singapore can only grant a presidential pardon upon the advice of the Cabinet. Clemency for a death sentence has only been granted six times since independence in 1965.  Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network call on you and other members of the Cabinet to ensure respect for international legal standards by recommending the commutation of Yong Vui Kong’s death sentence.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and without reservation.  ADPAN is an independent regional network comprising lawyers, NGOs and civil society groups from 24 countries including Singapore. It campaigns for an end to the death penalty across the Asia-Pacific region.

More than two-thirds of states have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Death sentences and executions are decreasing globally and in Asia. Out of 41 countries in the Asia-Pacific, 28 have abolished it in law or in practice.   Five out of the 10 ASEAN-member states have also abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. Singapore is one of the few remaining countries in the region that still carries out executions.

Amnesty International and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network are appealing to the Singapore authorities to stop the execution of Yong Vui Kong, to establish a moratorium on the death penalty and to suspend executions.

Sincerely yours,

Donna Guest,   Asia Deputy Director International Secretariat , Amnesty International

M. Ravi,  Counsel for Yong Vui Kong  and  Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) member

Joint Letter to Singaporean Minister of Law