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Singapore executes woman for 1st time in nearly 20 years for drug offence | CBC News


Singapore conducted its first execution of a woman in 19 years on Friday, and its second hanging this week, for drug trafficking despite calls for the city-state to cease capital punishment for drug-related crimes. 

Activists said another execution is planned next week.

Saridewi Djamani, 45, was sentenced to death in 2018 for trafficking about 31 grams of diamorphine, or pure heroin, the Central Narcotics Bureau of Singapore said. It said the amount was “sufficient to feed the addiction of about 370 abusers for a week.”

Singapore’s laws mandate the death penalty for anyone convicted of trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis and 15 grams of heroin.

Djamani’s execution came two days after that of a Singaporean man, Mohammed Aziz Hussain, 56, for trafficking around 50 grams of heroin.

The narcotics bureau said both prisoners were accorded due process, including appeals of their convictions and sentences, and petitions for presidential clemency.

Human rights groups, international activists and the United Nations have urged Singapore to halt executions for drug offences and say there is increasing evidence it is ineffective as a deterrent.

“Singapore’s inhumanity toward persons ensnared in their draconian drug law really knows no bounds,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Friday.

Still common, but in small number of countries

Singapore authorities insist capital punishment is important to halting drug demand and supply.

Executions for drug offences comprised 37 per cent of the known global death penalty total in 2022, according to Amnesty International’s annual capital punishment report, with China, Iran and Saudi Arabia carrying out the most. Human rights groups say Singapore has executed 15 people for drug offences since it resumed hangings in March 2022, an average of one a month.

Of the 883 executions Amnesty tracked in 2022,  just 13 involved female prisoners, though the rights groups said reliable totals in China and Vietnam were difficult to obtain.

Anti-death penalty activists said the last woman known to have been hanged in Singapore was 36-year-old hairdresser Yen May Woen, also for drug trafficking, in 2004.

Transformative Justice Collective, a Singapore group which advocates for the abolishment of capital punishment, said a new execution notice has been issued to another prisoner for Aug. 3. It said that prisoner is an ethnic Malay citizen who worked as a delivery driver before his arrest in 2016. He was convicted in 2019 of trafficking around 50 grams of heroin and his appeal was dismissed last year, it said.

The group said the man had maintained in his trial that he believed he was delivering contraband cigarettes for a friend to whom he owed money, and he didn’t verify the contents of the bag, as he trusted his friend.

Although the High Court found he was merely a courier, the man still had to be given the mandatory death penalty because prosecutors didn’t issue him a certificate of having co-operated with them, it said.

Critics say Singapore’s harsh policy punishes low-level traffickers and couriers, who are typically recruited from marginalized groups with vulnerabilities. They say Singapore is also out of step with the trend of more countries moving away from capital punishment. Neighbouring Thailand has legalized cannabis, while Malaysia ended the mandatory death penalty for serious crimes this year.


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