Singapore: a man hanged for a kilo of cannabis

This is a case that has and continues to generate a great deal of outrage

Singapore: a man hanged for a kilo of cannabis

This is a case that has and continues to generate a great deal of outrage. But Singapore had no need for international appeals to stay the sentence. On Thursday, April 27, authorities executed by hanging a 46-year-old man, accused of taking part in the cannabis trade.

In 2018, Tangaraju Suppiah was sentenced to death after transporting 1.01 kg of cannabis, double the amount punishable by death in one of the world's most repressive narcotics countries.

On Sunday, Tangaraju Suppiah's family pleaded for clemency and requested a new trial. In vain.

He was executed despite an appeal the previous day by the UN Human Rights Office to the Singaporean authorities to "urgently reconsider" the planned hanging of the convict.

After the hanging, Amnesty International slammed an "unlawful" execution. “The many flaws in this case, from the lack of access to a lawyer upon his arrest to the failure to disclose essential evidence for the prosecution, as well as the continued use of the mandatory death penalty, make this execution arbitrary under international human rights law,” Ming Yu Hah, regional director of the NGO, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the evidence "was far from clear, as he never touched the marijuana in question."

Prior to Mr Suppiah's execution, British billionaire Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Control, had also urged the city-state to drop the execution. Like human rights defenders and members of Tangaraju Suppiah's family, he stressed that the prisoner had never handled the cannabis for which he was convicted and also denounces flaws in the file. "Killing those at the lowest rungs of the illicit drug supply chain...does little to curb an international trade that is worth hundreds of billions each year," Richard Branson said on his blog.

But the Singaporean Interior Ministry refuted the billionaire's assertions the next day, accusing him in a statement of having "disrespected the judges of Singapore and [their] criminal justice system", and considered that the man's guilt had been proven.

Two phone numbers belonging to the convict were used to coordinate the drug delivery, prosecutors said, the department argued.

In many countries, including neighboring Thailand, cannabis use is no longer a crime. But Singapore, a major financial center in Asia, sees the death penalty as an effective deterrent against drug trafficking. The UN Human Rights Office lamented that the death penalty is "still used in a small number of countries, mainly because of the myth that it deters criminals".

This is the first execution in Singapore in six months, the twelfth since executions resumed in March 2022 after more than two years of hiatus. Among the eleven executions of detainees last year, that of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, condemned despite a mental handicap according to his defenders, had particularly moved international opinion.