Death penalty no cure for drug use

A study carried out by the United Nations Organisation concluded that Singapore has the highest per capita execution indicator in the world, three times higher than Saudi Arabia that follows Singapore on the list and is known worldwide for the strictness of its laws.

In Singapore, those accused of gun crime or drug trafficking are sentenced to death. The Misuse Drug Act includes the death penalty for at least 20 drug-related crimes. For example, the mere possession of more than 500 grams of hashish or marijuana is punishable by death. The same applies to the possession of more than 15 grams of hard drugs such as amphetamines or heroin.

The law has been strongly criticised by human rights organisations which say that the act contains provisions that violate the right of presumption of innocence. Under this law, many addicts have been executed for possession of relatively small amounts of drugs.

At the end of 2005, Van Tuong Nguyen, a young Australian of Vietnamese origin was caught with almost 400 grams of heroin. Despite rallies in Australia and the clemency request by the Australian government, the 25 year-old man was executed. In 2003, Yen May Woen, a 36 years old hairdresser from Singapore was sentenced to death for possession of 30 grams of heroin.

But despite the severity of the law, drug abuse figures for heroin have showed an upward trend over the past four years. According to figures from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) of Singapore, 1876 addicts were arrested last year 60% of whom were heroin addicts, while in 2008 46% of 1925 arrests were heroin addicts. The Director of the CNB thinks that one of the reasons that explain the increase in heroin use is the proximity to one of the largest areas where opium is produced, the “Golden Triangle”, an area of 210.000 square miles in the mountains shared by Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

But such strict legal system is really effective to fight drugs? What about the freedom that every individual has to choose what seems best for their lives?