AMNESTY CHALLENGES SINGAPORE ON EXECUTIONS
SINGAPORE - Rights group Amnesty challenged Singapore
Tuesday to disclose the total number of executions this year, saying
the wealthy island has put more people to death since 1991 than any
other country on a per capita basis.
"In the absence of full disclosure of official statistics, the
organization remains concerned that Singapore may continue to have the
highest number of per capita executions in the world," Amnesty
International Southeast Asian official Tim Parritt said.
Amnesty's call comes a day before Singapore's Court of Appeal rules on
the case of 24-year-old Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, an ethnic
Vietnamese man found guilty in March of smuggling 14 ounces of heroin
and sentenced to death.
About 400 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for
drug trafficking, giving the Southeast Asian island of 4.2 million
people possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to
its population, Amnesty said.
Singapore's drug laws are among the world's harshest. Anyone aged 18
or over convicted of carrying more than 15 grammes of heroin faces
mandatory execution by hanging.
Nguyen's lawyers appealed the verdict and the London-based human
rights group said it would seek clemency from Singapore President S.R.
Nathan if the death sentence is upheld.
Amnesty said in January that executions in Singapore were "shockingly
high" and "shrouded in secrecy," calling on the state to abolish the
death penality by issuing a moratorium on all executions and commuting
all death sentences to prison terms.
Singapore's government said it imposed capital punishment "only for
the most serious crimes," that the death penalty deterred major drug
syndicates establishing themselves in Singapore and that Singapore
applied standards of transparency.
Although prison officials confirmed last year that about 400 people
had been executed since 1991, government officials declined requests
by Reuters to specify how many people have been sent to the gallows
"There is this climate of secrecy," Parritt told Reuters by telephone
from London. "It's shrouded with half-disclosure, and that continues.
We believe this should be out in full public debate."
Nguyen was arrested at Singapore's airport in December 2002 while in
transit from Cambodia to Melbourne. A policewoman discovered a package
of heroin taped to his back during a pre-flight security check, and
another in his hand luggage.
He said had carried the drugs for a Sydney-based drug syndicate to pay
off legal fees owed by his twin brother.