Singapore to Execute a Woman for Drug Possession for the First Time in 20 Years
Singapore is set to execute a woman, which will be the first execution of a female in the country in two decades, scheduled for July 28th.
According to The Guardian, Saridewi Djamani, a Singaporean citizen, was sentenced to mandatory death penalty in 2018 after being found guilty of possessing nearly 30 grams of heroin with the intention of illegal distribution.
Human rights activists have claimed that Saridewi alleged that most of her statements to the investigator were unacceptable, as the officer coerced her with the promise of a reduced sentence, rather than death. She also claimed that she was in a state of distress, which made it difficult for her to provide accurate statements to the police.
However, the Supreme Court judge determined that Saridewi "at best suffered mild or moderate withdrawal symptoms from methamphetamine when giving her statements," which did not affect her ability to give testimony.
If the sentence is carried out, she will be the first woman to be executed in Singapore since 2004 when a 36-year-old hairdresser was hanged for drug trafficking.
Amnesty International reports that over two-thirds of countries worldwide have either abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Singapore is one of four countries, along with China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, where drug-related offenses led to executions in 2022.
As of 2023, 103 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. In 25 countries, capital punishment is retained in legislation but has not been used for over a decade. In 54 countries, it is retained and practiced, including Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Libya, and the United States. The only country in Europe that applies the death penalty in law is Belarus.
Singapore has some of the strictest drug laws globally and has faced international criticism in recent years for executing prisoners convicted of drug-related offenses.
Kirsten Han, a journalist and activist who has been fighting against the death penalty for ten years, states that Saridewi is one of only two women on death row in Singapore.
"After exhausting all her legal options, it was only a matter of time before she was notified of her execution," said Han.
"The government is unswayed by the fact that the majority of people on death row come from marginalized and vulnerable backgrounds. People on death row are deemed disposable as both drug mules and Singaporean state," she added. "This is not something Singaporeans should be proud of."
The Singaporean government contends that the death penalty is an effective deterrent for drug-related crimes, ensuring the city's safety and enjoys broad public support. It also claims that its judicial processes are fair.
Amnesty International's research showed that Singapore was one of the few countries that executed people for drug-related crimes last year, alongside China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Vietnam is also likely to have done so, though the number of executions remains unknown.
"There is no evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect or that it in any way affects drug use or availability," said Chiara Sangiorgio, an expert at Amnesty on the death penalty. "While countries worldwide are rejecting the death penalty and reforming drug policies, Singapore is doing neither."
Activists in Singapore state that inmates increasingly have to defend themselves as they lack access to legal representation.