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Rights groups condemn Singapore’s first female execution in 19 years, urge moratorium on death penalty

Singapore has executed a woman for drug trafficking, the first female execution in the city-state in almost 20 years, according to officials. Saridewi Djamani, a 45-year-old Singaporean national, was hanged on Friday morning after she was convicted of possessing 30 grams of heroin for the purposes of trafficking in 2018.

Djamani was one of two drug convicts executed this week, following the hanging of Mohd Aziz bin Hussain, a 56-year-old Singaporean Malay man, on Wednesday. He was found guilty of trafficking 50 grams of heroin in 2017. They were the 15th and 16th executions in Singapore since March 2022, when the country resumed capital punishment.

Singapore has some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws, which it says are necessary to protect society and deter crime. Under Singapore law, anyone caught trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin or 500 grams of cannabis faces the mandatory death penalty.

However, human rights groups and activists have condemned the executions as cruel and unjust, arguing that the death penalty has no proven deterrent effect and that it disproportionately affects the most vulnerable and marginalized people. They also pointed out that most of the drug offenders executed in Singapore are low-level couriers or addicts who are coerced or exploited by drug syndicates.

Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire and founder of Virgin Group, who has been vocal against the death penalty in Singapore, said on Twitter that “small-scale drug traffickers need help, as most are bullied due to their circumstances” and urged Singapore to “stop this barbaric practice”.

Djamani was the first woman to be executed in Singapore since 2004, when Yen May Woen, a 36-year-old hairdresser, was hanged for drug trafficking. Djamani was one of two women on death row in Singapore, according to the Transformative Justice Collective (TJC), a local human rights group that tracks death row cases.

According to local media reports, Djamani testified during her trial that she was stocking up on heroin for personal use during the Islamic fasting month. While she did not deny selling drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine from her flat, she downplayed the scale of those activities. The judge who sentenced her to death said that her testimony was not credible and that she had failed to rebut the presumption of trafficking.

The human rights group said that “the only message that these executions send is that the government of Singapore is willing to once again defy international safeguards on the use of the death penalty” and called on Singapore to “immediately halt all executions and establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition”.

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