Friday, February 03, 2006

Singapore's open sore - a breach of international law

The Asia-Pacific Human Rights Network reports on the state of human rights in Singapore: "Singapore, though enjoying a reputation of being wealthy and progressive, falls significantly short when it comes to compliance with international human rights standards. The execution of an Australian, 25-year-old Tuong Van Nguyen, for trafficking 396 grams of heroin attracted widespread condemnation of Singapore’s notorious mandatory death penalty, and rightly so. In a statement, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Professor Philip Alston, said that “making such a penalty mandatory – thereby eliminating the discretion of the court – makes it impossible to take into account mitigating or extenuating circumstances and eliminates any individual determination of an appropriate sentence in a particular case”.

Singapore is believed to have the highest per capita execution rate in the world and has executed more than 400 people since 1991, 70 percent of which are reportedly for drug offences.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), judges must administer the death penalty to any person trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin and may not consider any extenuating circumstances or mitigating factors in a particular case.

Van Nguyen’s case, it is hoped, will impress upon the international community the need to closely scrutinise Singapore’s human rights record, and critique it where necessary. Singapore’s glittering prosperity conceals a number of horrifying abuses, and it is time the international community took note of some of these concerns."

Doubtless more howls of abuse will emanate from various members of the 'citizenry' protecting the walled states' 'sovereign' right to violate human rights, but if you accept that line you would say it was not the business of the international community to question the 'sovereign' right of Pol Pot, Idi Amin et al to brutalise and butcher people with immunity. The identification and prosecution of leaders that commit crimes against humanity falls within an international jurisdiction and Singapore should get used to closer and closer scrutiny.

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