April 2001, at the 57th session of the UN Commission of Human Rights, the European Union called for a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty. EU hoped for an international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty. This was baffling to the Singapore delegation from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Singapore in Geneva.
Singapore delegates had a signature campaign asking fellow state representative to sign and support their anti-moratorium position on death penalty. They actively advocate and campaign against the moratorium on death penalty!
In 1999, about 85% of known execution were carried out in China, USA, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Singapore joins the ranks of those states that practice and defend the death penalty.
108 countries [out of a total 189 UN member states] have abolish the death penalty in practice that is a majority of UN member states:
- At least 73 countries had abolished the death penalty for all offences by the beginning of 2000.
- Another 13 countries had abolished death penalty for most offences but exceptional crimes, like war crimes.
- A further 22 countries have abolish death penalty in practice (they did not execute anyone in the last 10 years and are know to have establish practice of not carrying out execution).
But the Singapore delegation claim that a large number of members, both inside and outside the Commission, hold the view that it is primarily a criminal justice issue, and that the right to life is not the only right! [Read the full statement below]
While in Singapore, statistics indicate that out of 340 people executed between 1991 and 2000, 247 had been convicted of drug related offence.
We may still wish to turn the face the other way but the death penalty remains with human error and discrimination. This inhumane practice remains a part of Singapore justice system.
Do you think the PAP Singapore government will change its viewpoint on death-penalty and accept the moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty? What will happen this April at the 58th Session of the Commission on Human Rights? ___________________________________________________________ PERMANENT MISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SINGPAORE ICC Building – 20 route de Pre-Bios-1215 GENEVA, Tel: 41-22-929 6655 Fax: 41-22- 929 6658
57th SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS (GENEVA, 19 MARCH – 27 APRIL 2001)
STATEMENT BY THE SINGAPORE DELEGATION ON THE QUESTION OF THE DEATH PEANALTY (ITEM 17a)
57th CHR: THE DEATH PENALTY (ITEM 17a)
STATEMENT BY SINGAPORE
Since 1997, similar draft resolutions on the question of the death penalty had been submitted, firstly by Italy and then by the European Union, to this Commission calling for a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty. This year, the EU has once again submitted an almost identically the same draft resolution with only slight revisions for updating purposes. This means that for five consecutive years, the Comission of Human Rights has been asked to adopt identically the same draft resolution, and which it did adopt, at least for the past 4 years. This is rather baffling to us. We would request the main sponsors, namely European Union member states, to enlighten this Commission about their reason for doing so. Is it because in their view, unless a draft resolution is adopted by consensus or unanimity, it would be devoid of political or moral standing? From the point of view of streamlining and rationalising the work of the Commission, would it be purposeful for the Commission to adopt identically the same resolution year after year? Is it not reasonable to expect that once a Commission has adopted a draft resolution, even though not unanimously, there is no further need to take up the issue again?
We do not have any privileged information; but obviously an answer we can expect to hear from the main sponsors is that they would continue to pursue the same resolution at the Commission of Human Rights year after year until an international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty is reached. This would run counter to the efforts of the Commission, in reviewing its method of work, to optimise the time and resources available to it to focus on issues of priority and urgency, ie to examine massive and persistent violations of human rights and find means to prevent and stop them.
I would not want to go into the substance of the debate on the question of death penalty, since for the past 4 years we have exhausted our discussion on the issue. It suffices for me to say that a large number of members, both inside and outside the Commission, hold the view that it is primarily a criminal justice issue, and that the right to life is not the only right; and that it is the duty of societies and government to decide how to balance competing rights against each other. And indeed, the right of every citizen to live in an enviroment of law and order, without any wanton threat to life and personal safety from criminals.
Mention has been made that the death penalty, imposed for whatever purpose is cited, conflicts with the concept of human rights and human dignity. But this statement carries the assumption that for every capital punishment that is carried out, there has been miscarriage of justice, and that innocents have been executed. Quite the contrary, for those capital punishment carried out under due process of law, few have been cited as miscarriage of justice. Others have therefore argued that it is more the obsession with retribution (a tooth for a tooth, and an eye for an eye) that has led to the sanction of the death penalty. But the political reality is that nationalist sentiments are often the driving force behind the outrage against the death penalty. This is so when the nationals of a particular country are executed in a foreign prison. In a recent case, a government had actually imposed sanctions and cut off all ministerial contacts with another UN member which executed one of its nationals because of drug trafficking.
But such matters go beyond the current debate, when year after year, the main sponsors of the EU draft resolution wanted the Commission of Human Rights to impose an international consensus which a large number of UN members do not accept.
My remarks are not intended to provoke a debate, but would urge members of the Commission to consider their action against what we as members of the UN and of this institution, have strived to preserve the credibility and moral authority of the Commission in carrying out its role as a body to prevent massive and persistent violations of human rights, and not as an arbitrator in a debate which has captivated us ever since Cain slew Abel.