Singapore’s decision to maintain mandatory death penalty for Yong Vui Kong criticised by the International Harm Reduction Association
May 14, 2010, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Announcements

Friday, 14th May 2010, (Singapore, Singapore)–The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) has expressed its deep regret at the decision of the Singapore Court of Appeals to retain the mandatory death penalty for drug offences, a judgment that forecasts the execution of Yong Vui Kong for an offence committed while he was only a teenager.  Yong Vui Kong today lost his appeal against his conviction in 2008 of smuggling 47 grams of heroin into Singapore.

“Today’s unfortunate decision places Singapore on the extreme fringe of the international community by keeping the country as one of the few that impose a mandatory death sentence for drugs,” said Rick Lines, Deputy Director of IHRA and the co-author of a forthcoming  international report on the death penalty and drug offences being released next week. (1)

“Numerous UN human rights monitors have found both the mandatory death penalty generally, and the death penalty for drugs specifically, to violate international human rights law.  We regret that the Court has chosen to support a practice that not only violates human rights, but that serves no demonstrable criminal justice purpose.”

The mandatory death penalty for drugs was introduced in Singapore in a 1975 Amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1973.  Subsequently, Singapore earned a reputation as one of the highest per capita executioners in the world – with the vast majority of the condemned being drug offenders.  According to Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs, between 1999 and 2003, 110 of 138 executions were carried out for drug offences.

Next Monday May 17 IHRA is releasing  a report  The Death Penalty for Drug Offences – Global overview 2010 to  be  officially launched  on the opening day of the 19th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, taking place in Vienna next week.

The report is the first detailed country by country overview of the death penalty for drugs, monitoring both national legislation and state practice of enforcement. The report points out that of the states worldwide that retain the death penalty, 32 jurisdictions maintain laws that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences, Singapore being one of them.

Singapore has a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of importing, exporting or trafficking in more than 500 grams of cannabis, 200 grams of cannabis resin or more than 1,000 grams of cannabis mixture; trafficking in more than 30 grams of cocaine; trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin; and trafficking in excess of 250 grams of methamphetamine.

Notes to Editors

(1) Death penalty for Drug Offences – Global overview 2010, Patrick Gallahue & Rick Lines © 2010 International Harm Reduction Association

Further information:

Michael Kessler, IHRA Media relations

Mobile: +34 655 792 699


Skype: mickgpi

The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) is the leading organisation promoting a harm reduction approach to all psychoactive substances on a global basis. IHRA exists to prevent the negative social, health, economic and criminal impacts of illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco for individuals, communities and society. IHRA combines a public health and human rights based approach to reduce drug-related harms. It builds strategic alliances and partnerships with national and international organisations, supports the engagement of people affected by drugs and alcohol, promotes the human rights of affected populations and counters their marginalisation and stigmatisation.


4 Comments so far
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He deserves it!! Our country.. Our rules.. Go against it and u’ll rcv d punishments.. If u r talking abt human rights.. Is it humane to do drug traficking? Imagine ur children are d ones purchasing drugs frm this arsehole..

Comment by Pink

We have all the resources in Singapore to educate our young. If they end up being drug abusers, it is the failure of our society, home environment and education on drugs. Drug mules are merely being used by the bigger criminals – the drug lords. I am not saying that they are all innocent and do not deserved to be punished by the law. I am saying that drug mules should not shoulder the total blame for some in the society to turn to drug abuse. I am also saying that the death penalty is NOT the solution.

There are many other forms of punishment and methods of rehabilitation that are actually more effective than the death penalty. You send a criminal to the gallows, that is the end of his life and it is irreversible. You send a criminal to prison for a few years, he suffers his freedom being taken away from him within that few years while at the same time giving him the opportunity to turn over a new leaf when he is out.

Imagine living in a plantation in Sabah for years til your early teens, totally cut off from the rest of the world. Then you take off to the city to work where you face discrimination for being East Malaysian. At such a young age along with the lack of exposure to the larger society, global news and knowledge, will you want to continue to belong to the group of people who continues to discriminate you or will you rather join the people who were actually nice to you? Vui Kong chose the latter, he didn’t know any better and eventually ended up thinking that whatever he was helping to deliver were as ‘harmless’ as cigarettes. He did not know about the death penalty here.

In fact, before his case, many other local Singaporeans his age were not totally sure about the term ‘mandatory death penalty’. There are even some Singaporeans who still think that as long as he was willing to trade off information about his ‘big brother’, he would have gotten a lighter sentence. Such is impossible under the mandatory death penalty. No mitigation factors will be considered.

Now tell me, is that justice?

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Capital punishment for drug traffickers is not the solution in solving the root of the problem, which exist due to drug abuses and its supplier. As long as the above demand and/or supply equation can’t be solved, drug trafficking will keep happening throughout the time and forms. It’s like applying medicine to ease the pain and symptom but not cure the sickness.

It does not mean by not imposing the capital punishment to the drug traffickers then the law enforcement and security would be severely undermined. There will be no doubt that Singapore is known as one of the safest country in the world. They are many aspects that support and make it became one of the lowest crime rate place on the planet, not merely due to its tough law enforcement in capital punishment. In comparison with the earning income per capita, number of population, average education level etc. has given Singapore a much better edge in building a better and safer place to live compared to the rest of countries in region or even in the world.

I agree with Rachel, drug traffickers are merely medium used by those drug lords, which usually taking advantage from those who has ‘crisis and disadvantages’ in life. They are the much unfortunate one in the society that has been lured and/or being forced into drug abuses related crime.

Imposing capital punishment is liked giving a one way ticket for the drug traffickers to bear whole responsibilities for the wrong contribution and total failures in the system. Let us think for a while; is there any part of our “contribution” and/or “failures” in nurturing and educating when one we knew became a drug abuser? Why he/she became a drug addict? What has gone wrong? Is there any lack or failure in our education system; be it at home, school, society etc that need to be improved? And so on…

If drug addicts can get less severe punishment, rehabilitated and deserved chances to make turning in life; why not to him that not knowing/being lured/forced and really repents for a chance to live?

Comment by hendrik tj..

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