Singapore carried out its first execution of a woman in nearly two decades on Friday, defying calls to abolish capital punishment for drug-related crimes. Activists have reported that another execution is scheduled for next week. Saridewi Djamani, a 45-year-old woman, was sentenced to death in 2018 for trafficking approximately 31 grams of diamorphine, also known as pure heroin, according to the Central Narcotics Bureau.
The bureau stated that this amount of heroin could sustain the addiction of around 370 users for a week. Singapore’s laws mandate the death penalty for individuals convicted of trafficking over 500 grams of cannabis or 15 grams of heroin.
Djamani’s execution occurred just two days after the hanging of Mohammed Aziz Hussain, a 56-year-old Singaporean man, for trafficking around 50 grams of heroin. The Central Narcotics Bureau emphasized that both prisoners were given due process, including the opportunity to appeal their convictions and sentences, as well as petition for presidential clemency.
However, human rights groups, international activists, and the United Nations have repeatedly called on Singapore to halt executions for drug offenses, arguing that there is mounting evidence that it is an ineffective deterrent. Despite these pleas, Singaporean authorities maintain that capital punishment is crucial in curbing drug demand and supply.
Since resuming hangings in March 2022, Singapore has executed 15 individuals for drug offenses, averaging one execution per month. The last known case of a woman being hanged in Singapore was in 2004 when 36-year-old hairdresser Yen May Woen was executed for drug trafficking. Transformative Justice Collective, a Singaporean group advocating for the abolition of capital punishment, revealed that another execution notice has been issued for August 3rd, marking the fifth execution this year alone. The condemned prisoner is an ethnic Malay citizen who worked as a delivery driver before his arrest in 2016. He was convicted in 2019 of trafficking around 50 grams of heroin, and his appeal was dismissed last year.
The Transformative Justice Collective highlighted that the man had claimed during his trial that he believed he was transporting contraband cigarettes for a friend to whom he owed money. He did not verify the contents of the bag as he trusted his friend. However, the High Court judge ruled that their relationship did not warrant the level of trust he claimed to have had for his friend. Despite being deemed a mere courier by the court, the man was still subject to the mandatory death penalty because prosecutors did not issue him a certificate of cooperation. The group questioned how he could have cooperated if he was unaware that he was delivering heroin.
The Transformative Justice Collective strongly condemned the state’s continued use of the death penalty and reiterated its call for an immediate moratorium on its application. Critics argue that Singapore’s harsh policy disproportionately affects low-level traffickers and couriers, who are often recruited from marginalized groups with vulnerabilities.