On Monday, 19 December 2016, in New York, the 193 member nations of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will vote on the resolution "Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty".
Singapore has in the past shown little interest in human rights, and the government has always maintained broad powers to limit them. But since 1995 it has ratified 4 and signed 2 UN treaties. It has been trying to show that it does pay attention to the human rights practices within the country. The Think Centre and human rights groups view the "human rights framework" as applicable to all areas of governance.
Today's Singapore is gradually a party to more human rights conventions and wants to be recognised by its international peers for its efforts. This is good for international trade and rightly it should also be seen as good business sense. However, it should abandon any misguided hopes of undermining enshrined human rights principles in practice.
Singapore laws, especially on the death penalty, are rooted in our colonial history, which the colonial masters used to reign in, control and exploit a disunited colony of immigrants. Such archaic colonial practices and attitudes should be reviewed and removed from the penal code.
We believe that the main aim of the majority of the nations that seek to vote against the resolution is to keep tight control over political power. Many of them achieve this through impunity; unabated discrimination and mistreatment of its peoples, at the expense of the most vulnerable. Singapore, by far one of the most developed and relatively peaceful nations, stands out as an oddity in keeping company with this group of mostly suppressive nations.
In 2015, 104 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 6 countries have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes, and 30 countries are abolitionist in practice. Among the 58 retentionist countries and territories, only 25 countries carried out executions that year. Many countries that still retain the death penalty also do not carry out the sentences.
If Singapore wants to play the cautious conservative on the issue of enacting a moratorium, which is a clear commitment in recognising the sanctity of human life, it can abstain and watch as it falls behind in moral authority among its peers. The Think Centre, however, urges the Singapore government to rise up to the moral challenge and vote for the resolution on moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
The United Nations resolution on moratorium on the use of the death penalty calls on countries to: Progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed; and establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty; and calls upon States which have abolished the death penalty not to reintroduce it.
The Think Centre, a member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) and Forum Asia, is for the abolishing of the death penalty for all crimes.
Source: theonlinecitizen.com, December 18, 2016
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