S’pore opposed draft as it ‘was wrong and one-sided’

UN resolution on death penalty ——————————

SINGAPORE opposed a draft resolution calling on all states to abolish capital punishment by the end of the decade as it imposed the values of one group of countries on others and failed to recognise that there was no international consensus on the death penalty.

“In Singapore’s view, it was wrong to try to push through a resolution in theUN General Assembly on this issue,” said Mr Chew Tai Soo, Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Responding to queries, he said yesterday that the Republic took an “active role” in opposing the resolution because it denied “the sovereign right of every country to choose the type of punishment that it considered most appropriate to its own situation and conditions”.

“The resolution was one-sided,” said Mr Chew. “It ignored the plight of the countless victims of murderers, drug traffickers and other serious criminals.”

The UN General Assembly’s social, humanitarian and cultural committee, which reflects the membership of the full assembly, killed the draft resolution late on Friday by a 44-36 vote, with 74 abstentions.

It was proposed by Italy and sponsored by about 40 states, many from Europe and Latin America. The resolution would have asked countries to consider restricting the use of capital punishment and working towards an eventual moratorium on the death penalty.

But Singapore, backed by a large number of developed and developing nations, introduced an amendment that was adopted by a close 71-65 vote, with 21 abstentions.

The amendment affirmed “the sovereign right of states to determine the legal measures and penalties which are appropriate in their societies to combat serious crimes effectively”.

Singapore first tabled a “no-action” motion on the draft resolution at a General Assembly committee meeting last Wednesday.

In proposing the motion, Mr Chew noted that the co-sponsors of the draft resolution “may be infringing the sovereign right of other countries unwittingly”.

Although the motion was defeated by a narrow margin of nine votes, it reflected the unhappiness of many countries over the draft resolution, he said. Singapore then proposed an amendment to the resolution.

The co-sponsors indicated during the negotiations that they could accept the Singapore amendment, provided the sovereign right of states to determine legal measures and penalties was exercised “in accordance with international law,” he said.

He added that this was acceptable to Singapore.

But when the sponsors insisted on making additional changes to undermine the Singapore amendment, the Republic asked for a vote on its original amendment.

At an earlier meeting last month, Mr Chew had said that Singapore respected the rights of countries which opposed the death penalty.

“But they should not impose their values and system of justice on others,” he said.

He said the promotion of human rights in the context of the right of the convicted prisoner to life “must be weighed against the rights of his victims for vindication of the wrong inflicted upon them and the greater rights of the community to live in peace and security”.

Putting forward Singapore’s case for the death penalty, he said that it was the “ultimate deterrent” to serious crimes being committed in the Republic. Citing its use to control drug trafficking, for example, he said: “If not for the timely introduction of the death penalty for drug trafficking, the level of such activity in Singapore would have reached epidemic proportions.”

Besides drug trafficking, certain arms offences, kidnapping for ransom, hijacking and murder are crimes which carry the death penalty in Singapore.

Said Mr Chew: “What works in other countries need not work in Singapore, and vice-versa.

“Other countries should respect Singapore’s right to deal with law and order problems in our country.”

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