Singapore on Wednesday hanged a man for trafficking less than 3.5 pounds of marijuana, its second execution in three weeks for a crime that carries a much lighter sentence in most of the rest of the world.
“Capital punishment is part of Singapore’s comprehensive harm prevention strategy which targets both drug demand and supply,” the country’s Central Narcotics Bureau said in a statement confirming the execution. It gave the man’s age, 36, but did not identify him by name, as requested by his family, or detail his offense.
But court documents show that Muhammad Faizal Bin Mohd Shariff had been convicted and sentenced to death in 2019 for possessing about 1.6 kilograms, or 3.4 pounds, of cannabis. Last month, Singapore hanged a man who was convicted of conspiring to traffic about two pounds of cannabis.
Human rights groups condemned both punishments as grossly excessive, but Singapore has long taken a harsh stance toward drugs, showing little flexibility.
Since 1975, the country has mandated the death penalty for people convicted of drug trafficking. In most cases, the death penalty is given for trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis, 250 grams of methamphetamine, 30 grams of cocaine or 15 grams of heroin, according to the bureau.
Most death row inmates in Singapore are tied to drug crimes. Out of 54 people awaiting execution in Singapore, 51 are for drug-related offenses, said Kirsten Han, a spokeswoman for Transformative Justice Collective, which has campaigned for abolishing the death penalty in Singapore. The remaining three are for murders.
Last year, Singapore executed 11 people for drug-related crimes. Only five other countries did so, Ms. Han said: China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.
Before his conviction, Mr. Faizal claimed in court that he had meant to consume most of the cannabis himself, only intending to sell a small portion. On Monday, he filed an appeal seeking a reduced sentence of life imprisonment, but an appeals court denied it the next day. He was hanged 21 days after Singapore executed Tangaraju Suppiah for a similar offense.
While Southeast Asia used to be known for its harsh penalties for drug offenses, countries in the region have in recent years relaxed their stances. Malaysia has ended its mandatory death penalty for drug offenses. Thailand has legalized marijuana.
Death sentences linked to drug offenses in Singapore have prompted protests by human rights groups. In 2021, protesters urged the country to halt the execution of a man convicted of smuggling heroin, arguing he should be spared because he had a mental disability. He was executed in April 2022.
Opponents of Singapore’s drug policy also say that it has disproportionately hurt marginalized ethnic minorities. “It is very concerning that 64.9 percent of the death row inmates are of Malay ethnicity,” when Malays make up only 14 percent of Singapore’s population, wrote M. Ravi, an international human rights lawyer who had represented Mr. Faizal.
The argument to abolish the death penalty for drug crimes has not gained much traction in Singapore.
“The public is still largely pro-death penalty,” Ms. Han said, adding that the opposition is hesitant to touch the issue. “It’s too much of a hot potato for them.”