Singapore has carried out its third execution for drug offences in a little over a week, hanging a 39-year-old citizen for trafficking 54 grams of heroin.
Mohamed Shalleh Abdul Latiff, an ethnic Malay who worked as a delivery driver, was hanged at Changi Prison after receiving due process, Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau said on Thursday.
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The bureau said the seized amount of heroin was enough to supply more than 600 drug abusers for a week.
Mohamed Shalleh’s hanging comes only days after authorities in the city-state executed Saridewi Binte Djamani, 45, and Mohd Aziz bin Hussain, 57, for drug trafficking, prompting an outcry from the United Nations and human rights organisations.
Singapore, which is known for its harsh punishment of crime, has executed 16 people, including foreigners, for narcotics offences since ending a two-year pause on hangings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his trial, Mohamed Shalleh had argued that a friend he owed money to had tricked him into believing he was delivering contraband cigarettes.
A Singapore judge rejected Mohamed Shalleh’s defence after ruling that their relationship was not close enough to justify that level of trust.
Singapore’s latest application of the death penalty is likely to add to growing international pressure on the Southeast Asian country to reform its drug laws.
Last month, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for a moratorium on Singapore’s use of the death penalty, calling it “inconsistent with the fundamental right to life and to the right to be free from torture and other inhuman treatment”.
Despite Singapore’s image as a highly efficient international financial centre, the city-state’s treatment of drug offenders puts it in the company of a small number of authoritarian states such as China and North Korea.
The Southeast Asian country’s laws mandate capital punishment for anyone who traffics more than 500 grams of cannabis and 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of heroin.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch argue that the law does little to stop drug abuse and disproportionately affects low-level offenders.
Singapore’s government, which tightly restricts independent media, public protest and political opposition, has defended its use of the death penalty as an effective deterrent against crime and cited surveys showing a strong majority of citizens support the law.