UN experts strongly condemned Singapore’s execution of Tangaraju s/o Suppiah on Tuesday and called on the Government to impose an immediate moratorium on capital punishment in the country.
Tangaraju, a 46-year-old Tamil national from Singapore, was executed despite claims that he had not been provided with adequate interpretation during police interrogations. He was subsequently convicted of drug trafficking.
“The death penalty can only be carried out after a legal process with every possible safeguard that ensures a fair trial, including legal representation at every stage of proceedings and necessary interpretation in all oral proceedings,” the UN experts said.
The rate of execution notices for drug-related offenses in Singapore was “highly alarming”, they said.
“States that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose capital punishment for the ‘most serious crimes’,” the experts said. “Under international law, only crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing can be considered ‘most serious’. Drug offenses clearly do not meet this threshold.”
They also raised concerns about the discriminatory treatment of individuals belonging to minorities, such as Tangaraju, and reports of reprisals against their legal counsel.
Tangaraju was sentenced to the death penalty under Singaporean law, which makes capital punishment mandatory for certain offenses, including drug-related convictions. The experts said mandatory sentencing law strips judges of discretion to consider individual cases, context, and circumstances.
“We reiterate that the mandatory use of the death penalty constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of life since it is imposed without taking into account the defendant’s personal circumstances or circumstances of the particular offense,” they said.
The UN experts expressed alarm at the de facto suspension of the moratorium on the death penalty by the Government in 2019. They urged the Government of Singapore to review, without delay, the scope of the death penalty, particularly with regard to drug-related offenses. “Singapore must ensure that the imposition of the death penalty and its implementation is strictly limited to cases involving intentional killing,” the experts said.
“Any measures to abolish the death penalty should be seen as progress towards the realization of the right to life. By extension, the resumption of executions results in less protection of the right to life,” they said.