Singapore defends death penalty

SINGAPORE, Jan 20, 2009 (AFP) - Singapore has defended its use of the death penalty, saying capital punishment had deterred drug traffickers in the city-state, which Amnesty says has one of the world's highest execution rates.

"The introduction of the death penalty for drug trafficking has, we believe, had the deterrent effect... As a result of our policies, thousands of young people have been saved from the drug menace," Minister for Law K. Shanmugam said in reply to an MP's question in parliament. The minister's response was reported in The Straits Times.

The death penalty, carried out by hanging, is mandatory for trafficking more than 15 grams (half an ounce) of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine and 500 grams of cannabis.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International last week asked the city-state to make public "comprehensive information" about its use of the death penalty, and again urged the government to stop executions.

It said the government had yet to provide annual statistics from 1993 to the present.

The Ministry of Home Affairs could not immediately respond to the comment, but in January 2004 it issued a statement saying that 138 people had been executed in the previous five years.

Of those, 110 were executed for drug-related offences, while the rest were for murder or firearms-related crime, the ministry said.

In The Straits Times report, Shanmugam said all capital punishment cases in Singapore were matters of public record, and often reported extensively in the media.

Amnesty said Singapore, with a population of more than four million, has one of the highest per capita execution rates in the world and executed 420 people between 1991 and 2004.

Singapore is one of nine states in the Asia Pacific region that still have the death penalty, Amnesty said.

The watchdog's comments came after Singapore earlier this month hanged a gunman for a rare gangland-style shooting that shocked the city-state, one of Asia's most crime-free cities.

Source: AFP

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