After a covert drug bust in 2016, Singapore authorities charged Saridewi with possession of six packets and seven straws of substances. The substances included 30.72 grams of diamorphine. Under the 1973 Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), the intent to distribute is presumed if a person is proved to have more than two grams of diamorphine in their possession. At 15 grams or more of diamorphine possession, a person may be eligible for the death penalty under Singapore law.
While Saridewi acknowledged she ran an illegal drug-trafficking business, she appealed the 2018 decision in an attempt to avoid capital punishment. At the time of her arrest, Saridewi said she had been suffering from abrupt amphetamine withdrawal. The assessments of at least two psychiatrists concurred with Saridewi on this claim. She argued that this withdrawal impacted her ability to answer questions by the police, and as such, the interviews should not be admissible as evidence. Saridewi also said that over 15 grams of the diamorphine found on her person were intended for personal use. If so, this would mean that Saridewi could not have legitimately been executed under Singapore law.
However, the Court of Appeals dismissed these claims. The court concluded that Saridewi’s ability to give reliable statements was not unduly compromised by her amphetamine withdrawal. In addition, they said that while Saridewi was a known amphetamine and heroin abuser, she did not provide sufficient evidence of a history of diamorphine abuse. To the court, this meant that Saridewi could not reasonably challenge the death penalty decision.
Human rights groups criticized the use of the death penalty in the Saridewi case. On Tuesday, Amnesty International asked Singapore to stop the execution. Death penalty expert Chiaro Sangiorgio said, “[T]here 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.”
On Friday, Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) released a statement in response to media queries. CNB said Saridewi was accorded full due process under the law, and that the drug trafficking offense was a serious crime, given the harm not just to drug abusers, but to their families as well.
The death penalty is almost completely banned in Europe, but is more common in the Asia Pacific region. International law does allow for the death penalty under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). But, Article 6 of the ICCPR states that capital punishment must only be used for the most serious crimes, and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
SOURCE: The Jurist