Drug Addicts and Death Penalty in Singapore

Posted by under Features on 13 July 2001

In late 1970s, there were about 20,000 heroin addicts and by 1989 Reduced to around 9,000 addicts. In 1995, there were 7,700 drug addicts in rehabilitation centres and 80% of the newly registered addicts were young citizens under the age of 30. Drug addiction is common among the poor and young school dropouts.

In 1996, after treatment relapse rates among drug addicts remained above 70 percent. In 1997, those arrested for drug offenses numbered 4750. Reports indicate that drug addiction is disproportionately high among poor, unemployed, Malay males with low education`.

Drug addiction continues to be a serious problem among the poor and low educated in Singapore despite harsh anti-drugs laws. Persistent drug addicts who have been admitted more than twice to a drugs rehabilitation centre are treated as criminals who may be imprisoned for up to 13 years and caned. The death penalty is mandatory for anyone, over the age of 18, found in possession of more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of morphine or cocaine, or 500 grams of cannabis. It is presumed to be trafficking in drug, unless the contrary can be proved.

Drug addiction will continue as long as the social conditions pushing it exists when these conditions are alleviated the demand for illicit drugs will surely drop. Society should give the addicts an opportunity to integrate and provide access to decent jobs. Society is, partly, responsible for this unhealthy trend! But it seems drug abusers, those in possession of drugs and minor traffickers, are put to death or imprisoned while those behind the crime escape.

Drug addiction: Rational and Humane approach
Statistics indicate that out of 340 people executed between 1991 and 2000, 247 had been convicted of drug trafficking. Drug addiction is disproportionately high among young people coming from broken families, the poor and the unemployed with low education - the excluded people of Singapore. Many of those convicted for drug offense and face death penalty are from these social background. We may still wish to turn the face the other way but the death penalty remains with human mistakes and discrimination. This inhumane practice remains a part of our justice system.

The mandatory death sentence must be removed. The laws have to be changed to permit judicial discretion and fairness for drug cases.

Under the current practices judges are helpless to do anything about the a disproportional number drug addicts who are young school drop-outs, poor and broken family background. They face heavy sentencing and death.

At the whim of an overzealous CNB officer or the prosecutor, a drug addict or a "runner" could be serving long term prison sentences or sentence to death for not volunteering to supply information against other suspects.

Drug addicts are used and abused by both the traffickers and the police. The police do target the drug addicts as incidence of crime is higher among addicts.

A more rational approach will save more lives. A change in approach to The drug problem is needed. We should remove mandatory capital punishment for simple possession of drugs.

Injustices: Remedies

All evidence should be properly disclosed in capital cases - no withholding of evidence - which can lead to wrongful convictions.

All detainees should get a fair look at evidence against them to review and rebut the evidence in the course of due process.

No secret evidence from informers should be used against detainees. The CNB and police should end the practice of using undisclosed evidence against the addicts.

There is a strong need to challenge evidence based on suggestive interviews, expose biased police investigation, and track down evidence withheld by the prosecution.

Where miscarriages of justice have occurred and wrongly convicted and executed - the death sentence is too late for an appeal.

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