Justification and Contestation of Capital Punishment in Singapore

Ms Ariel Yap1, Mr Rayvinder Singh2

1Monash University, Monash, Australia,

2University of Liverpool, Singapore, Singapore

Capital punishment in Singapore continues to be practiced and justified by state actors despite growing calls for its abolition internationally. This article juxtaposes state justification of capital punishment against narratives of abolition and human rights. Analysis is focused on the political construct of risk, through discourse that stems largely from a state-waged war on drugs. Data was collected from Singapore government entities and international human rights organisation publications. This includes official statements, speeches, press releases, transcripts of dialogues, parliamentary proceedings and political discussions on both domestic and international levels; court reports and non-governmental reports were also collected in the second stage of data collection. The human rights dialogue is juxtaposed against official discourse in Singapore that has been occurring over the last sixteen years, from 2004 to 2019. This discussion will focus on the tension that exists between the state and international human rights bodies. Part of the analysis contrasts contradicting narratives and constructs of ‘victims’, such constructs being the protection of potential ‘victims’, as opposed to the protection of ‘victims’ of enacted violence in the case of state sanctioned executions. This article uses critical discourse analysis to help understand how Asian states, such as Singapore, continue to evade human rights responses and criticism, while simultaneously maintaining their status as both signatories and participants in international regulatory bodies such as the United Nations.


Rayvinder Jit Singh Athwal is a teaching and research associate the University of Liverpool. His research focuses on terrorism with a specific interest in deradicalization models and risk assessment methodologies. His other research interests include institutional racism, gender studies and collective identities. Rayvinder is currently looking at the construction of media and state narratives, he is interested in future collaborations in this area.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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