Knowing that I am opposed to the death penalty, a friend suggested that I write about the execution of Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore. A post by “Imagethief”, who, despite also opposing capital punishment, fairly and even-handedly explains the Singapore government’s position, does the job far better than I ever could so I’ll direct you here.
I will add one thing though. Although the whole notion of capital punishment seems quite barbarous to me, some methods are more cruel and primitive than others. Hanging is surely one of the most inhuman ways of carrying out a judicial killing. I think it is legitimate to ask why the Singapore government persists with such a pre-modern method of execution, when death by lethal injection is available?
Anyway, here is Imagethief:
The Australian protests over Van's execution yesterday arguably played right into Singapore's hands on two fronts. It not only let them communicate their penalty globally, which the Singapore government has no qualms about, but it also let them publicly demonstrate the credibility of the deterrent by refusing to entertain pleas of clemency. The message was quite clear and effective: We are willing to execute a citizen of a first-world ally despite repeated, public pleas from his government and tearful mother. So you'd better believe we will damn-sure hang your narrow, friendless Burmese/Thai/Malay/Indonesian/Lao smuggler ass without a second thought.
From the Singaporean government's point of view, the consistent application of the death penalty is the lynchpin of the credibility that must be communicated. Any visible erosion of that credibility is dangerous. You can think of this a bit like you would think of negotiation with kidnappers or terrorists. You can never be publicly seen to give in as that sends a message to others that they might succeed at the same thing. If you do negotiate, you will do it only in quiet situations where there is little risk of public disclosure. If there was to be any hope for Van at all (and that hope was never more than gossamer), it would have come from sotto voce diplomatic communication out of the public view, accompanied by restrained and dignified public silence. Candlelight vigils make nice photo-ops and public remonstrations generate good copy for Aussie politicians. But they essentially guarantee that the Singapore government will follow-through with the execution, because to do anything else would undermine the entire communication strategy around their deterrent.
Thanks to Madame Chiang for the link.