20 April 2023

Singapore must halt the execution of Tangaraju Suppiah

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Following Singapore's announcement of the notice of execution against Mr. Tangaraju Suppiah on Wednesday, 19 April 2023, Harm Reduction International (HRI) urges Singapore to halt the execution immediately and call on all UN agencies and the international community for urgent action.

After having executed 11 individuals for drug offences in 2022, Singapore has announced the first execution of the year. On 19 April 2023, Mr. Suppiah and his family were informed that his execution has been scheduled for Wednesday, 26 April 2023. Mr Suppiah, a Tamil-Singaporean national, was arrested on 23 January 2014 for drug consumption and failure to report for a drug test. Despite not being a native English speaker, he was interrogated without an interpreter and without any legal assistance. Following a criminal investigation, he was sentenced to a mandatory death sentence for conspiring to traffic 1,0179.9 grams of cannabis on 31 December 2018.  

Increased application of execution for drug offences goes firmly against the global trend. While 2022 witnessed the consolidation of a global trend towards abolition with more countries abolished the death penalty and a historical record of 125 countries in favour of the UNGA resolution A/RES/77/222 that calls for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty; Singapore’s barbaric practice of executions contributed to a more than 100% increase in executions carried out for drug offences in 2022, as recorded by HRI’s The Death penalty for Drug Offences: Global Overview 2022.

We reiterate, once again, that drug offences do not meet the threshold of ‘most serious’ crimes to which the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates that the death penalty be restricted in retentionist countries. The death penalty for drug offences also contradicts international drug control law, as indicated by UNODC and the INCB. Further, mandatory death sentences are in contravention of the right to life and the right to a fair trial.

We urge Singapore to halt Mr Suppiah’s execution immediately and to impose a moratorium on all executions, including executions for drug-related offences. We respectfully seek the intervention of all UN agencies and the international community to intervene in the strongest possible terms, ensuring a coherent and unified approach of the UN in responding to matters related to the death penalty, especially when it is applied to an offence that does not fall within ‘the most serious crime’ category.

Silence in the face of such grave developments risks being misconstrued as tolerance if not complicity,  and jeopardises our fragile progress towards full abolition of the death penalty. In addition, it contradicts the UN commitment to “support the development and implementation of policies that put people, health and human rights at the centre.”

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