TEMPO.CO, Singapore - Drug trafficking into Singapore, which has some of the world's toughest drugs laws, has risen recently, the law minister said on Wednesday, July 31, and he defended capital punishment for serious drug crime as reflecting public support.
Rights group Lawyers for Liberty warned of an "execution binge" after it said a number of prisoners on death row in the city-state had their requests for presidential pardons rejected this month.
"We have seen an increase in the number of people coming in from countries trying to traffic," Minister of Law K Shanmugam told Reuters.
He did not elaborate on what type of illegal drugs were being smuggled in.
The wealthy city-state has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs and imposes long jail terms on convicted users. It has hanged hundreds of people - including dozens of foreigners - for narcotics offenses over past decades, rights groups say.
Malaysian-based law reform and rights group Lawyers for Liberty said this month that up to 10 prisoners in Singapore had their clemency petitions rejected in July.
"It indicates that Singapore is preparing for an execution binge, in total disregard of international legal norms and decent world opinion," the group said.
The city-state does not disclose publicly information about clemency petitions and decisions.
Singapore, which has warned against a global trend to ease drug laws, reported 13 executions in 2018 - 11 for drug offenses. Amnesty International said it was the first year since 2003 that the number hangings reached double-digits.
Globally, Amnesty recorded the lowest number of executions in the past decade in 2018.
Shanmugam said the higher number of executions last year was also partly due to a hiatus in executions in the year before, while parliament reviewed the death penalty.
He said there remained "very strong support for the government's current position" on drugs even as some neighboring countries ease their tough stands.