If we are to believe that Singapore is a land of promises where dreams are fulfilled, we should also take into consideration the number of human rights violations committed by its government.
Singapore is believed to have the highest per capita execution rate, relative to its population. It is not known how many prisoners are currently on death row, but the shocking death toll continues to rise.
Official information about the use of the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy. Sone executions, but by no means all, are reported to the press.
In Singapore, we see clearly the absence or moral constraints and the deterrence as well as incapacitation agenda join forces to push up punishment levels beyond what is normally not seen elsewhere.
It is not known how may people the government of Singapore sends to the gallows every year. These people include foreign nationals, many of whom were convicted for drug-related offenses such as becoming an unwitting and unwilling drug mule.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act of Sinapore, any person found importing, exporting or in possession of more than the prescribed amount of drugs receives the death sentence. The Act to some degree reverses the usual burden of proof in common law jurisdictions. Under the Act, any person found in mere possession is presumed to be trafficking.
The Misuse of Drugs Act contains a series of presumptions which shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused. This conflicts with the universal belief in the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Further concerns have also been expressed that the Misuse of Drugs Act allows for secret evidence from informers to be used during trials. The use of testimony from an anonymous witness violates the accused’s right to confront or examine the testimony of the witness because he is deprived of the necessary information to challenge the credibility of the witness.
The use of evidence coming from anonymous witnesses may render the whole trial as unfair.
What then would happen to the innocent person found in possession when the anonymous witness turns out to be the real drug trafficker?
It should not come as a surprise when the government of Singapore sees a utilitarian need to do so, it does not hesitate in the creation of broadly defined offenses called “drift-net” crimes. Such example of a “drift-net” crime is drug trafficking where under the Misuse of Drugs Act, trafficking is defined as “to sell, give, administer, transport or deliver.”
Singapore courts have virtually interpreted the words literally. So long that you are in possession or intend to pass possession to someone else, that is trafficking. If the severe punishment is intended for peddlers and distributors of the drug, then mere possession would not be trafficking but would only constitute the crime of possession, a far less serious crime.
In that effect, by punishing the innocent having mere possession of any drug, the government of Singapore is actually allowing the real traffickers to escape conviction and continually resume their heinous activities.
There is virtually no public debate about the death penalty in Singapore. The government has consistently maintained that it is not a human rights issue. We are therefore led to believe that the taking away of a person’s life, though unwittingly and unwillingly used by the original offenders, is by no means a deterrent to the commission of a crime. In effect, we are led to believe that the cost of effective crime prevention is the accidental punishment of a few innocent persons, which concurrently the price must be paid.
An outspoken value judgment in the official Singapore position is this – even if some innocent person is caught and ensnared, the projected gains in crime prevention nevertheless still outweigh the cost of that eventualit. In effect, it is the better to let 10 guilty persons go free than to convict an innocent one.
The Criminal Law Act is a shocking piece of legislation for it allows the Minister of Home Affairs to detain a person suspected of criminal activity thereby giving no charge, no trial, no sentencing. This in effect is a violation of the right to due process and the right to a fair trial. This is a big contradiction of every individual’s right to a fair trial. Executive detention is, the government feels, an exception of the right to a fair trial.
By imposing death sentences and carrying out high number of executions, Singapore is running counter towards the worldwide trend in the abolition of the death penalty.
The United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) has criticized their use of the death penalty.
The government of Singapore has consistently defended its stance by saying that the death penalty is not a human rights issue. So we then are led to believe that the taking away of a person’s life is not by any means an issue related to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.
The government of Singapore maintains that death penalty is primarily a criminal justice issue and therefore is a question for the sovereign jurisdiction of every nation; the right to life is not the only right..and it is the duty of societies to balance conflicting rights against each other.
We therefore see before us the very essence of perverted implications and absence of moral values.
The criminal justice system of Singapore degrades the person’s rights to life, liberty and the right to a fair trail.
Examine this thought which I impose upon you.
“It is never the real offenders who are caught and punished. The ones who are caught and hanged are often poor, desperate people, who are made use of. By hanging them, we are in effect, helping to perpetuate the plan of the real traffickers. They use people they can afford to lose. If we allow the government of Singapore to continually abuse the right of every Filipino working there, we are allowing the real offenders to get away and the problem will never be solved.”