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Excessive Use of Death Penalty Reported in Singapore

In Singapore, the death penalty is mandatory for murder, drug trafficking, treason and certain firearms offences. With a population of four million, Singapore has one of the highest rates of executions per capita in the world. Recent government figures show that out of 340 people executed between 1991 and 2000, only 89 were executed for murder. Executions are by hanging and take place on Friday mornings at dawn. Families of convicts are only informed of the execution one week beforehand. There is almost no public debate about the use of the death penalty in the country.

The death penalty is seem by many in the human rights community as a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The death penalty is also considered inherently unjust and arbitrary punishment, regardless of the crime. Studies show that it is more likely to be imposed on those who are poorer, less educated and more vulnerable than average. The death penalty is even more controversial because it is irrevocable, yet the risk of error in applying it is inescapable.

AI INDEX: ASA 36/004/2002 5 March 2002

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