Singapore hangs 2 drug traffickers despite opposition

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Two drug traffickers were hanged in Singapore on Thursday, bringing the number of executions this year in the city-state to four despite growing calls to abolish its death penalty.

Activists said the prison department handed the belongings and death certificates for Malaysian national Kalwant Singh and Singaporean Norasharee Gous to their families after their execution Thursday morning.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other anti-death penalty groups said the executions were a blatant flouting of international human rights norms.

Amnesty said Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offences in recent years, going against a global trend toward abolishing the death penalty.

“The death penalty is never the solution and we oppose it unconditionally. There is no evidence that it acts as a unique deterrent to crime,” said Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for research.

“We urge the Singaporean authorities to immediately stop this latest wave of hangings and impose a moratorium on executions as a step towards ending this shameful and inhuman punishment,” Gil said in a statement.

Kalwant, who was convicted in 2016 of bringing heroin into Singapore, was the second Malaysian to be executed in less than three months. In late April, the hanging of another Malaysian sparked an international outcry because he was believed to be mentally disabled.

Kalwant filed a last-minute appeal on the eve of his execution on grounds that he was a mere courier and that he had cooperated with police, but it was rejected by Singapore's top court, activists said.

Critics say that Singapore's death penalty has mostly snared low-level mules and done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates. But Singapore's government defends it as necessary to protect its citizens and says all those executed have been accorded full due process under the law.

Four others drug traffickers, including two more Malaysians, were scheduled to be hanged earlier but their executions were delayed pending legal challenges.

Human Rights Watch echoed calls for Singapore to end executions for all drug-related crimes and commute sentences of those on death row.

“Recent drug busts in the country show just how hollow Singapore’s claims are about the supposed deterrent effect of these cruel executions," said its deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson. “The nations involved in the growing global movement to abolish the death penalty should call out Singapore’s recalcitrant behavior and demand all executions stop."