I’m confused about where to draw the line between “rogue states”–like the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein–and legitimate “sovereign” states. My confusion arises from the fact that the Australian government was an active participant in the war to overthrow Hussein, who to my knowledge never attacked Australia, yet there appear to be no such plans to attack Singapore, despite that country’s plan to commit the premediated murder of an Aussie citizen this coming Friday:
Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, will be hanged at dawn on December 2 unless Singapore bends to growing calls to spare his life. On Monday, Canberra said it was considering taking Singapore to the International Court of Justice.
“It is important that, despite Singapore’s relentless use of the death penalty, we show that we will persist until this cruel and ineffective punishment is abolished,” said London-based rights group Amnesty International in a statement Saturday.
Singapore says it considers all aspects when an appeal is put forth, but clemency pleas have seldom worked in the city-state, especially for death-row convicts — only six have been spared from execution since Singapore’s independence in 1965.
Amnesty says around 420 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, giving the Southeast Asian nation of 4 million the distinction of having the highest per capita execution rate in the world — ahead of countries like China and Saudi Arabia.
Nguyen was arrested at Singapore’s Changi Airport in 2002 while flying from Cambodia to the southern Australian city of Melbourne with 396 grams (14 ounces) of heroin strapped to his back and in his carry-on luggage. He maintains he did it to help his twin brother pay debts.
Under Singapore law, anyone possessing more than 15 grams (0.53 ounces) of heroin is presumed to be trafficking and faces death if found guilty. Singapore says it must deal harshly with drug offenders to protect society.
Appeal hearings are usually over in minutes, with judges routinely giving their verdict before disappearing into their chambers. Lawyers would then have to refer to their written judgment to take further action.
Letters to relatives informing them of the execution date are extremely simple, and contain just a few paragraphs.
Humans rights advocates call the penalty excessive.
“The adoption of such a black-and-white approach is entirely inappropriate where the life of the accused is at stake,” said Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
“Once the sentence has been carried out it is irreversible,” he said last week.
Yet Singapore refuses to compromise on what it says in an internal matter.
“Singapore maintains that capital punishment is a criminal justice issue. It is the sovereign right of every country,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in reply to Alston.
There is no “sovereign right” to commit murder, any more than there is an individual right to commit murder. To argue otherwise–as some have one under the pretext of not “imposing” western values on Singapore–is simply to condone mob violence. Ultimately, that’s all Singapore’s government is, an armed mafia, predisposed towards the initiation of force whenever they encounter behavior that they disapprove of.
But the impending murder of Mr. Nguyen also reflects poorly on Australia’s “democratic” state. A government that demands absolute loyalty (and taxes) from its citizens has been exposed as powerless to prevent the pre-announced murder of one of its own. In the United States, we use heavily armed paramiltary forces (a.k.a. “SWAT teams”) to serve search warrants; yet somehow Canberra can’t bring itself to assemble the necessary forces to liberate Mr. Nguyen from his murderers. Instead, Australia’s grand plan is to bring Singapore before a faux international “court” that has no mechanism to enforce its decisions.
When a man can be executed by hanging for transporting 14 ounces of a substance through an airport, and the self-proclaimed “democracies” of the world stand by and do not take the necessary actions to save his life, I think the case against the state has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.