According to local news reports picked up by Deutsch Presse Agentur, authorities in Singapore executed a man Monday after he was convicted of storing 2.7 kilograms (slightly more than six pounds) of marijuana at his apartment. Raman Selvam Renganathan, 39, was hung at Changi Prison. He was found guilty of drug trafficking after an eight-day trial last September.
Another man arrested in the same case, Dhanabalan Gopalkrishnan, 33, awaits sentencing. Dhanablan in turn named Rama Selvam as the mastermind. Oddly enough, Selvam didn't get the death penalty; instead he was sentenced to 20 years and 24 lashes.
Under Singapore law, anyone possessing more than a half ounce of heroin or a little more than a pound of marijuana is presumed to be a drug trafficker. The only penalty available for drug trafficking is death by hanging.
In a January report, Amnesty International harshly criticized Singapore for its use of the death penalty. In that report, Amnesty noted that of 408 executions reported by Singapore since 1991, 252 were for drug offenses. The actual number executed for drug offenses is higher, said Amnesty, because for the last three years the Singapore government has released only the total number of executions and has refused to say who was executed for what (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/320/singapore.shtml).
"Many of those executed have been migrant workers, drug addicts, the impoverished or those lacking in education," Amnesty said in the January report. "Drug addicts are particularly vulnerable. Many were hanged after being found in possession of relatively small quantities of drugs. Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act contains several clauses which conflict with the universally guaranteed right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and provides for a mandatory death sentence for at least 20 different drug-related offenses. For instance, any person found in possession of the key to anything containing controlled drugs is presumed guilty of possessing those drugs and, if the amount exceeds a specified amount, faces a mandatory death penalty for "trafficking".
"Such provisions erode the right to a fair trial and increase the risk of executing the innocent," Amnesty stressed. "Moreover, it is often the drug addicts or minor drug pushers who are hanged, while those who mastermind the crime of trafficking evade arrest and punishment."
The Singapore government defended its policy. "By protecting Singaporeans from drugs, we are protecting their human rights," Inderjit Singh, a member of parliament, told the Associated Press. "The rule breakers have to be dealt with -- it's the same in any part of the world," said Singh, who is also president of a chip-making company. "We just do it differently."