Governance of a City-State
[Debate Closed] Motion: We should abolish the death penalty in Singapore (12 Oct – 2 Nov 2015)

Singapore’s uncompromising stance on crime has given it a reputation as an extremely safe city.

The death penalty has been a part of Singapore’s criminal justice system for a long time, similar to a number of other countries. The government says it has been an effective deterrent against serious crime and drug offences. Capital punishment is mandatory for certain offences such as first-degree murder, kidnapping and the trafficking of drugs above a certain quantity. In 2012, the government announced changes to the application of the mandatory death penalty for certain drug-related and homicide offences. If specific and tightly defined conditions are met, the application of the death penalty will be at the discretion of the courts.

In 2014, Law Minister K Shanmugam explained Singapore’s rationale in  maintaining the death penalty, at an event on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly meeting. He said: “No civilised society can glorify in the taking of life. The question is whether, in very limited circumstances, it is legitimate to have the death penalty so that the larger interest of society is served.”

The death penalty continues to be a topic of debate in Singapore. On one end of the spectrum are those who call for the death penalty to be abolished. They question the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent, citing comparative studies which show no correlation between crime rates and the death penalty. They say that Singapore should move towards a more humane justice system where the goal is to rehabilitate rather than to punish offenders. On the other end, there are those who fear that the abolishment of the death penalty will be interpreted as the government going soft on criminals, leading to an increase in crime and social problems. Yet others suggest the death penalty should apply for some crimes but not others.

What do you think? Should the death penalty be abolished altogether, or should it be kept as a component of our justice system?


Reading List

1. The Death Penalty in Singapore and International Law 2004

2. Enhancing Our Drug Control Framework and Review of the Death Penalty — Ministerial Statement by DPM Teo Chee Hean 9 July 2012

3. Why Death Penalty is Needed – Letter to the ST Forum Page 8 January 2013

4. Changes to the Mandatory Death Penalty Regime — An Overview of the Changes and Some Preliminary Reflections September 2013

5. Some Criminals “Deserve Default Death Sentence” 20 May 2014

6. Tinkering with the Machinery of Death 24 May 2014

7. Transcript of Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam at the High-Level Side Event at the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly 25 September 2014

8. Shift in Attitudes Towards Death Penalty 28 April 2015

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