Singapore Executes First Woman Since 2004

Saridewi Djamani was convicted of trafficking just over an ounce of heroin
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2023 12:14 PM CDT
Updated Jul 28, 2023 4:26 AM CDT
Singapore Set to Hit a Grim Milestone on Friday
Stock photo of Singapore skyline.   (Getty Images/lena_serditova)
UPDATE Jul 28, 2023 4:26 AM CDT

Singapore executed a woman Friday for the first time since 2004. Saridewi Djamani, 45, was convicted five years ago of trafficking just over an ounce of heroin, though she testified that she had been stocking up for personal use, the BBC reports. The hanging was the 15th drug-related execution in the city-state since they resumed in March last year. The execution was protested by rights groups including the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, CNN reports. "The government of Singapore violates human belief in redemption and the capacity for rehabilitation by insisting instead on taking drastic and irreversible action," says Celia Oullette, the group's founder. The Transformative Justice Collective group says there is one other woman on Singapore's death row.

Jul 27, 2023 12:14 PM CDT

For nearly two decades, no woman has been put to death in Singapore, but that looks like it's about to change. Human rights advocates say that on Friday, 45-year-old Saridewi Djamani is set to be hanged there, after her conviction and sentencing in 2018 for trafficking just over an ounce of heroin, reports the AP. The last woman to be executed on the island nation was Yen May Woen, 36, in 2004, also for drug trafficking. The news agency notes that both locals and visitors to Singapore face a mandatory death penalty sentence if they're convicted of trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin (about 0.53 ounces) or 500 grams (almost 18 ounces) of cannabis.

Djamani will be the 15th person in Singapore executed on drug charges since March 2022, when it brought back hangings. One of them, 56-year-old Mohammed Aziz Hussain, was just put to death on Wednesday. One local man who was hanged in April, 46-year-old Tangaraju Suppiah, hadn't even touched the 2.2 pounds of pot he was accused of trying to smuggle into the country, his family and activists said, per the BBC. Authorities in Singapore, which has among the toughest drug laws on Earth, insist that capital punishment is an effective deterrent to keep Singapore safe, and that most locals want it—claims pushed back on by human rights activists who want executions there halted.

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"There is no evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect or that it has any impact on the use and availability of drugs," says an Amnesty International rep. Djamani has another big name going to bat for her: UK billionaire Richard Branson, who's been a very vocal opponent of Singapore's death penalty. "Shameful that Singapore's leaders continue to hang people for non-violent drug [offenses]," he tweeted Wednesday. "Small scale-drug traffickers need help, as most are bullied due to their circumstances." He then added: "It's time for Singapore's killing spree to stop before its reputation is permanently damaged. It's still not too late to grant mercy to Saridewi Djamani." (More Singapore stories.)

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