Despite last-minute appeals from his family and campaigners, Singapore killed Tangaraju Suppiah, a man found guilty in 2018 of trafficking little over 1kg of marijuana. The claim made by Tangaraju's family was that he was not given access to competent legal representation and was not given a Tamil translator when being questioned by police.
The evidence against Tangaraju was "far from clear-cut," according to Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), and he was never in possession of the alleged marijuana. The execution was deemed "illegal" and in breach of international law and norms by Amnesty International.
This execution follows a rare demonstration against Nagaenthran Dharmalingam's hanging last year, which raised questions about Singapore's use of the obligatory death sentence in narcotics cases. Singapore claims that its strict approach discourages drug trafficking.
The government reiterated the need for its strict policies in response to a call from British business magnate Richard Branson, claiming that Tangaraju's guilt had been established beyond a reasonable doubt and that the kilogram of cannabis would have been "sufficient to feed the addiction of about 150 abusers for a week."
Dobby Chew, the executive coordinator of the Anti Death Penalty Asia Network, noted that Tangaraju's alleged co-conspirators who were caught with the drugs were jailed or given a discharge and that Nagaenthran was executed despite having an intellectual disability. He also noted that Nagaenthran was executed despite having a mental disability.
According to the UN, nations that still have the death sentence should only apply it to the most serious crimes, which excludes drug offenses. According to HRW's Robertson, Singapore's prolonged use of the death sentence for drug possession is a violation of human rights and leaves much of the world wondering if the country's portrayal as a modern, civilized nation is only a myth.