11 Jul 2012

Singapore to ease death penalty drug law

1:46 pm on 11 July 2012

Singapore has announced plans to ease its mandatory death penalty in some drug and murder cases. But capital punishment will remain.

Amnesty International and other groups say hundreds of people - including dozens of foreigners - have been hanged for narcotics offences in the last two decades.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told parliament on Monday that the government will put forward a draft law by the end of this year to give judges more leeway to deal with certain drug and murder cases.

''While there is a broad acceptance that we should be tough on drugs and crime, there is also increased expectation that where appropriate, more sentencing discretion should be vested in the courts,'' he said.

Mr Teo said two specific conditions must be met to avoid execution for drug trafficking. First, the accused must have acted only as a courier, with no other part in the supply or distribution.

''We also propose to give the courts the discretion to spare a drug courier from the death penalty if he has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act, and instead sentence him to life imprisonment with caning,'' he said.

Singapore has suspended all executions since a review began a year ago.

But Radio Australia reports Mr Teo made clear that capital punishment is not going away.

''In particular, the mandatory death penalty will continue to apply to all those who manufacture or traffic in drugs - the kingpins, producers, distributors, retailers - and also those who fund, organize or abet these activities,'' he said.