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The World’s Worst Places for Addicts: Singapore

Over the last two decades, Singapore has earned a reputation as a country with one of the highest per capita executions in the world, the majority of which were for drug offenses. Singapore has a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of importing, exporting or trafficking in more than 500 grams of cannabis, 200 grams of cannabis resin or more than 1,000 grams of cannabis mixture; trafficking in more than 30 grams of cocaine; trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin; and trafficking in excess of 250 grams of methamphetamine. The mandatory death penalty for drugs was introduced in a 1975 Amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1973 and was subsequently broadened.

The World’s Worst Places for Addicts: Singapore

This bit of information, alone, you give you some insight to how Singapore, as a country, operates:

Singapore is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is a treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.

Singaporean “Justice”

Singapore police have the authority to force residents and non-residents to submit to random drug tests. They do not distinguish between drugs consumed before or after entering Singapore in applying local laws. There are no jury trials in Singapore. Judges hear cases and decide sentencing. The Government of Singapore does not provide legal assistance except in capital cases.

Numbers That Provide a Glimpse

Following a 2004 Amnesty International report, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs released death penalty figures revealing that between 1999 and 2003, 110 of 138 executions were carried out for drug offences. Since then, the officials of Singapore have remained tight-lipped about such goings-on. Without greater transparency from Singapore’s government, it is impossible to know how many people have been condemned to death.

Singapore Addiction Treatment

Even users who are not caught possessing or selling drugs face harsh punishment. In Singapore consumption is a crime which carries a mandatory custodial sentence of one year for a first offence. The police have the right to take anyone they suspect of being a drug user into custody in order to test them.

The first time you are caught for drug consumption is one year, the second time is three years and the third time is five minimum with three strokes of the cane. Consumption just means that your urine has tested positive. They do pick up people randomly with a record of drugs offenses so after you have served your sentence, you can be tested at any time.

Singapore does not respect the privacy of citizen’s seeking to get help either. Once you see a psychiatrist for your drug issue or go into any hospital for detox, public or private, your name will be surrendered to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) and after you finish your detox you are likely to be picked up again and tested. You can also be picked up for testing randomly at any time in the future, which could happen at your home, school, or place of employment.

Singapore addicts who are arrested are put into rehabilitation centers and segregated by their pattern of drug use. All who are fit and under the age of 55 are put through ”cold turkey” detoxification in spare rooms for a week. There is medical supervision, but no medication is provided to ease withdrawal.

A week of recuperation from detoxification follows, plus orientation to a regimen of paramilitary discipline. Once they are judged ready and able to quit drug use, the first-time addicts are put into two weeks of intensive physical training in the tropical sun and equally intensive personal, group and family counseling.

The entire experience is designed as ”a short, sharp shock,” to wean them from drugs and to make them afraid to try again.

Singapore’s Stance on Drugs

In a written statement distributed to delegations at the March 2009 session of the UN Human Rights Council, the government of Singapore strongly defended its use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses following criticism made by the UN regarding Singapore’s stance on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“[W]e strongly disagree that States should refrain from using the death penalty in relation to drug-related offences. The death penalty has deterred major drug syndicates from establishing themselves in Singapore, where there are no widely prevalent syndicated drug activities linked to organised crime, in contrast to the hierarchical and organised drug syndicates and cartels that exist elsewhere. Based on estimates in the 2008 World Drug Report, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Singapore has one of the lowest prevalence of drug abuse.”

However, the estimates referred to in the 2008 World Drug Report were provided by the government of Singapore itself, and independently produced.


If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-888-672-4435.


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