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A Death Sentence for Trafficking 15 Grams of Heroin? Singapore Groups Say No More.

Screenshot from the campaign video of The Online Citizen.

Screenshot from the campaign video of The Online Citizen.

In 2011, Singapore placed a moratorium on mandatory death penalties for heroin traffickers, but it resumed executions last year. Human rights groups have urged Singapore to reconsider its decision and join the majority of the world in abolishing capital punishment.

Second Chances cites a 2009 study comparing homicide rates in Singapore and Hong Kong that suggests the death penalty “is no more effective than alternative forms of punishments.” The paper also notes “socioeconomic factors and the likelihood of getting caught have more influence over crime than the severity of punishment.” The group disputes the authorities’ claim that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime, pointing out how capital punishment makes even small offenses a matter of life and death, motivating criminals to be more violent.

Priscilla Chia, the director of Second Chances, argued that alternative sentences can be used to punish criminals:

While law is an expression of societal values, state-sanction murder is not the only way to express moral outrage at the conduct of murderers and drug traffickers. It can be expressed equally through alternative sentences such as life imprisonment.

The Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty, a coalition that opposes the death penalty law, described its position on the issue:

Singapore should not resort to the death penalty without concrete proof of its necessity, especially if alternative forms of punishment can have the same effect. The inevitability of human error within the system also makes the chances of wrongful executions far too high a cost for us to use capital punishment as an instrument of justice.

For its part, the government says the death penalty is working to discourage crime.

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