Singapore made headlines on Friday as it executed a female prisoner, Saridewi Djamani, who had been convicted of trafficking approximately 30 grams of heroin into the country. This marks the first time in nearly two decades that a woman has been sentenced to capital punishment in Singapore. The execution has received widespread criticism from international human rights organizations.
Saridewi, a 45-year-old Singaporean woman, was put to death by hanging on Friday, according to the country’s Central Narcotics Bureau. This followed another execution in the previous week, making it the second in a short span of time. The last time a woman was executed in Singapore was in 2004 for similar drug-trafficking charges.
Amnesty International, a renowned human rights group, labeled the executions as “unlawful” and shed light on the lack of death penalty reform in Singapore. Chiara Sangiorgio, an Amnesty International specialist on death penalty reform, criticized the Singaporean authorities for violating international human rights law and standards with these executions.
Saridewi’s execution on Friday was the fifteenth since Singapore resumed executions in March 2022 after a two-year pause during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the island city-state has averaged one execution per month.
During the criminal proceedings, Saridewi claimed that her ability to provide accurate statements to the police was compromised due to experiencing drug withdrawal symptoms. However, a high-court judge rejected her claim, ruling that her withdrawal symptoms were only “mild to moderate” and would not have affected her ability to cooperate with the authorities.
The Central Narcotics Bureau defended the execution by stating that Saridewi had received due process under the law and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process. The bureau also mentioned that an appeal for clemency to Singapore’s President, Halimah Yacob, was unsuccessful.
Despite the authorities’ insistence that these strict drug laws are widely supported by the community and help combat drug-related crimes, critics like Amnesty International’s Chiara Sangiorgio dispute this claim. She argues that there is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to the availability of narcotics.
Michel Kazatchkine, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, shares the same sentiment, considering it a violation of international human rights law. He believes that the death penalty is a disproportionate punishment.
Amnesty International reveals that Singapore is one of only four countries, along with China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, that have executed individuals for drug-related offenses in recent times.
The execution of Saridewi Djamani has sparked debates and raised concerns about the effectiveness and human rights implications of using capital punishment for drug-related crimes. It remains to be seen whether Singapore will address these concerns and consider alternative approaches to combating drug trafficking and addiction in the future.