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Singapore plans to relax mandatory death sentences in certain cases

The Singapore government on Monday announced plans to ease mandatory death penalty sentencing requirements for murder and drug trafficking. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean [official profile] announced to the parliament that by the end of the year the government will put forth draft legislation to provide judges more leeway to deal with certain drug and murder cases [Reuters report]. A convicted drug trafficker, for example, could avoid execution if the individual acted only as a courier, with no other part in the supply or distribution of the drugs, and has a mental disability that substantially impairs appreciation for the gravity of the act. In such a case a judge would be empowered to sentence the convict to life in prison with caning. Singapore maintains a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs, hanging hundreds convicted of illegal drug offenses and imposing long prison sentences on convicted users. Another proposal announced to parliament is to restrict mandatory death penalty sentences to cases where there was an intent to kill. Singapore suspended executions last year when the government began a death penalty review. Regardless, Teo made clear in his address to parliament that capital punishment will continue to be utilized in the country. Currently Singapore is regarded as one of the safest places in the world.

In December the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network [advocacy website] released a report stating that group of 14 Asian countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Singapore, execute more people than the rest of the world combined [JURIST report]. The report argued that these countries' legal systems fail to meet international standards, such as torture, mandatory death sentences, presumed guilt, right to counsel and other factors that contribute to unjust trials and convictions. In 2010 Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report saying the number of countries using the death penalty is decreasing [JURIST report]. At that time, however, Asia still had the highest number of executions, executing more people than the rest of the world combined. ADPAN has been working since 2006 to achieve abolition of the death penalty in all Asia-Pacific countries.

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