KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Singapore conducted its first execution of a woman in 19 years Friday and its second hanging this week for drug trafficking despite calls for the city-state to cease capital punishment for drug-related crimes.
Activists said another execution is set next week.
Saridewi Djamani, 45, had been sentenced to death in 2018 for trafficking nearly 31 grams of diamorphine, or pure heroin, the Central Narcotics Bureau said. Its statement said the amount was “sufficient to feed the addiction of about 370 abusers for a week.”
Singapore’s laws mandate the death penalty for anyone convicted of trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis and 15 grams of heroin.
Djamani’s execution came two days after that of a Singaporean man, Mohammed Aziz Hussain, 56, for trafficking around 50 grams of heroin.
The narcotics bureau said both prisoners were accorded due process, including appeals of their conviction and sentence and petition for presidential clemency.
Human rights groups, international activists and the United Nations have urged Singapore to halt executions for drug offenses and say there is increasing evidence it is ineffective as a deterrent. Singapore authorities insist capital punishment is important to halting drug demand and supply.
Human rights groups say it has executed 15 people for drug offenses since it resumed hangings in March 2022, an average of one a month.
Anti-death penalty activists said the last woman known to have been hanged in Singapore was 36-year-old hairdresser Yen May Woen, also for drug trafficking, in 2004.
Transformative Justice Collective, a Singapore group which advocates for the abolishment of capital punishment, said a new execution notice has been issued to another prisoner for Aug, 3 — the fifth this year alone.
It said the prisoner is an ethnic Malay citizen who worked as a delivery driver before his arrest in 2016. He was convicted in 2019 for trafficking around 50 grams of heroin, it said. The group said the man had maintained in his trial that he believed he was delivering contraband cigarettes for a friend he owed money and he didn’t verify the contents of the bag as he trusted his friend.
Although the court found he was merely a courier, the man still had to be given the mandatory death penalty, it said. The group “condemns, in the strongest terms, the state’s bloodthirsty streak” and reiterated calls for an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
Critics say Singapore’s harsh policy merely punish low-level traffickers and couriers, who are typically recruited from marginalized groups with vulnerabilities. They say Singapore is also out of step with the trend of more countries moving away from capital punishment. Neighboring Thailand has legalized cannabis while Malaysia ended the mandatory death penalty for serious crimes this year.