Death Penalty & Poverty in Singapore

1 Nov

According to the IPS Death Penalty Abolition Project, there is a direct relationship between poverty and the death penalty based on a worldwide survey of experts and human rights activists carried out by journalists. The news report stated that most of those on death row, whether in rich or poor countries, are likely to be the poor and the under-privileged.

In the U.S. for example, 95% of the 3,350 people on death row are poor, according to Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. In Malaysia, human rights lawyer, Charles Hector, estimated that nearly 90 percent of the 300 people on death row are poor. The report also listed other examples including Pakistan, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria quoting from local anti-death penalty activists who corroborated the validity of the relationship between poverty and capital punishment.

In Singapore, the statistics are equally grim. According to Singapore based human rights group, Think Centre (based on a paper handout for its Human Rights Day 2005 Forum), a breakdown of profiles of those executed in 1999 to 2003 revealed that 51% of those executed in Singapore were unemployed or working as unskilled workers, labourers or cleaners. 64% were either not educated or achieved only primary school level. These are people who are likely to be poor or at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

While the Singapore government is cautious and secretive in releasing updated information pertaining to capital punishment cases due to increased international scrutiny and condemnation, it is not presumptuous to conclude that those on death row in Singapore, like their overseas counterparts, are likely to be poor too.

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