Singapore's First Execution in Six Months: Controversy over the Death Penalty Continues

In a world where many countries have abolished the death penalty, Singapore remains one of the few that still uses it, with some of the world's toughest anti-narcotics laws. The recent case of Tangaraju Suppiah, a Singaporean man scheduled to be hanged next week for conspiring to smuggle a kilogram of cannabis, has once again brought this controversial issue to the forefront.

While Singapore argues that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against drug trafficking, rights groups such as Amnesty International strongly oppose it, calling it "extremely cruel" and a violation of international law. In fact, in many parts of the world, including neighboring Thailand, cannabis has been decriminalized, with authorities abandoning prison sentences.

What is particularly troubling about Tangaraju's case is that he was convicted of "abetting by engaging in a conspiracy to traffic" cannabis, even though he never actually handled the drugs. Moreover, he was questioned by the police without legal counsel and was allegedly denied a Tamil interpreter, raising concerns about the fairness of his trial.

Singapore resumed execution by hanging in March 2022, after a hiatus of more than two years. Since then, eleven executions have been carried out, all for drug offences. Among those hanged was Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, whose execution sparked a global outcry, including from the United Nations and British tycoon Richard Branson, because he was deemed to have a mental disability.

The controversy over the death penalty continues to rage on, with many questioning its effectiveness as a deterrent and its compatibility with international human rights law. As the world debates this issue, Tangaraju's fate hangs in the balance, a stark reminder of the high stakes involved in the war against drugs.


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