- freely available
Laws 2013, 2(2), 115-149; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws2020115
2. A Brief History of the Use of Capital Punishment for Drug Trafficking Offenses
2.1. Government Practices Responding to Capital Drug Crimes
2.2. Three Essential International Treaties and Drug Control Agencies
2.3. The US Role in Narcotics Control Legislation and Policies of Southeast Asian Countries
2.4. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Drug Control System
3. Literature Review
4. The International Human Rights Law and Capital Drug Trafficking Punishment
4.1. Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
“In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.”
4.2. Drug Trafficking Crime and the Interpretation of the Most Serious Crime
5. The Use of the Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking Offenses in the United States
5.1. The US Legal System
5.2. The Controlled Substances Act and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988
|No.||Narcotic||Quantity||First Offense||Second Offense|
|1.||Cocaine||500–4,999 grams mixture||5–40 years imprisonment; however, 20 years imprisonment—death penalty if the case is related to death or serious injury.||10 years imprisonment—not more than life; however, life imprisonment is imposed if the case is related to death or serious injury.|
|2.||Cocaine Base||28–279 grams mixture||5–40 years imprisonment; however, 20 years imprisonment—death penalty if the case is related to death or serious injury.||10 years imprisonment—not more than life; however, life imprisonment is imposed if the case is related to death or serious injury.|
|3.||Heroin||100–999 grams mixture||5–40 years imprisonment; however, 20 years imprisonment—death penalty if the case is related to death or serious injury.||10 years imprisonment—not more than life; however, life imprisonment is imposed if the case is related to death or serious injury.|
|4.||Methamphetamine||5–49 grams (pure) or 50–499 grams (mixture)|
|5.||Marijuana||1,000 or more kilograms (mixture); or 1,000 or more marijuana plants||10 years imprisonment—not more than life; however, 20 years imprisonment—death penalty if the case is related to death or serious injury.||20 years imprisonment—not more than life; however, life imprisonment is imposed if the case is related to death or serious injury.|
5.3. An Important Case: Freeman v. United States (09-10245)
6. Singapore’s Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking Offenses
6.1. The Singapore Legal System
6.2. Misuse of Drug Act (MDA)
|2.||Pure Heroin (Diamorphine)||15 grams|
6.3. An Important Case: Yong Vui Kong v. Public Prosecutor (2010)
7. Malaysia’s Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking Offenses
7.1. The Malaysia Legal System
7.2. Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) of 1952
7.3. An Important Case: Malaysia v. Fazila Bee Abdul Kareem (2013)
8. Indonesia’s Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking Offenses
8.1. The Indonesia Legal System
8.2. Law No. 22 of 1997
8.3. An Important Case: The Bali Nine Case
9. Thai’s Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking Offenses
9.1. The Thai Legal System
9.2. Narcotics Act, B.E. 2522 (1979)
|1.||Cocaine (Category II)||100 grams|
|2.||Heroin (Category I)||100 grams|
|3.||Methamphetamine (Category I)||100 grams|
|4.||Marijuana (Category V)||10 kilograms|
|5.||Morphine (Category II)||100 grams|
9.3. An Important Case: Thailand v. Sefu (2002)
10.1. Conclusions and Discussion
|Country||Having the Death Penalty for Drug-related Offenses||Having Mandatory Death Penalty||The quantity of narcotics affecting judicial decision in sentencing||Drug Scheduling System||The presumption of possession for the purpose of trafficking||The consideration of a drug addict as a patient||Asset Forfeiture|
(the Federal Death Penalty Act 18 U.S.C. 3591(b))
(punishment depending on the type and quantity of substances in which an offender engaged in)
(21 U.S.C. Ch.16)
(21 U.S.C. §848, §853)
(possessing narcotics over the limit prescribed under MDA)
(based on the quantity of narcotics)
(the quantity of illicit drugs triggering the mandatory death penalty)
(Article 17 of the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1973)
(Article 37 of the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1973)
(Article 28 of the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1973)
(possessing narcotics over the limit prescribed under DDA)
(based on the quantity of narcotics)
(the quantity of illicit drugs triggering the mandatory death penalty)
(5 parts of the first schedule)
(Article 37 of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952)
[under different law (the Drug Dependents Act of 1983)]
[under different law (the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1988]
(import, export, offer for sale, distribute, sell, buy, deliver, act as broker or exchange category I narcotics)
(a level of penalties depending on judges’ opinions)
(Article 47 of Law No. 22 of 1997)
(import, export, or possess the narcotics of category I (over 100 grams) for the purpose of disposal)
(the higher the amount of narcotics an offender involved in, the more punishment he or she receives)
(Articles 15, 17, and 26 of Narcotics Act B.E. 2552)
[under different law (Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act B.E. 2545 (2002)]
[under a different law (Acts of the Measures for the Suppression of Offenders in an Offense Relating to Narcotics, B.E. 2534 (1991)]
|Country||Case||Date of arrest||Date of execution||Charge||Court decision||Reason||Case significance|
|The US||Freeman v. United States||01/2005||-||One count of crack cocaine possession, two counts of weapon possession and one count of marijuana possession||A defendant is eligible for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582 (c)(2)||Freeman’s plea agreement was based on a sentencing guidelines range||This case is related to fairness in sentencing guidelines for individuals convicted of drug offenses|
|Singapore||Yong Vui Kong v. Public Prosecutor||06/13/2007||Yong Vui Kong was sentenced to death, but not executed yet||Possessing 47 g of heroin (not less than 42.27 g of diamorphine)||Guilty and sentenced to death||The defendant did not provide a justification why customary international law should be considered as a part of Article 9 (1) of the Constitution; the difference between 15 g and 14.99 g was reasonable||A defendant challenged the constitutional validity of the mandatory death sentence under the Misuse of Drugs Act|
|Malaysia||MALAYSIA v. Fazila Bee Abdul Kareem||02/13/2009||Fazila Bee was sentenced to death, but not executed yet||Attempting to smuggle 2.9 kg of ketamine||Guilty and sentenced to death||The quantity of ketamine that the convicted offenders possessed exceeded the 15 g limit, which triggered the mandatory death sentence.||This case affirmed the government’s considerations of drug offenses as the most serious crimes|
|Indonesia||Indonesia v. Nine Australians||04/17/2005||02/17/2006 (Myuran Sukumaran)||Attempting to smuggle 8,300 grams of heroin from Bali to Australia||The court found all offenders guilty and imposed the death penalty on Sukumaran and Chan; a 20 year prison term to Lawrence; and life imprisonment on the other six offenders.||Drug-related crime is the most serious crime and the right to life under the Constitution can be restricted by Indonesia laws||Defendants challenged the Constitutional validity of the death sentence under Law No. 22 of 1997|
|Thailand||Thailand v. Safu||12/17/1998||The death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment||Attempting to export Category I narcotics for the purpose of disposal||The Court found him guilty, but commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment||Even though it is clear that he violated the narcotics law, the death penalty is a disproportionate response to the gravity of the offense in this case||The Thai Supreme Court rarely granted an appeal for those convicted of drug-related crimes; however, this Court granted an appeal and reversed the judgment of the court of appeal in this case|
|No.||Variable||Similarities (YES)||Differences (NO)|
|1.||The death sentence is allowed for drug-related offenses||The US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand||-|
|2.||The amount of narcotics has a significant impact on judicial decision in sentencing||The US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand||-|
|3.||Possession of controlled substances over the limits prescribed in laws is assumed as possession for the purpose of trafficking||Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand||The US and Indonesia|
|4.||The death penalty can be imposed on offenders convicted only of drug offenses||The US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand||-|
|5.||Drug addicts are considered as patients||The US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand||-|
|6.||The drug scheduling system is clarified under narcotics laws||The US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand||-|
|7.||Drug trafficking and related offenses are determined the most serious crimes||Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand||The US (considering drug crime as serious, but not the most serious crime, since the death penalty is highly unlikely to be imposed on an offender convicted solely of drug offenses)|
|8.||Narcotics laws are criticized as violating the International Human Rights Law (ICCPR)||Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand||The US|
|9.||Asset forfeiture is used as a means to eradicate drug trafficking enterprise.||The US, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand||Indonesia|
|10.||Based on important cases described in this study, a defendant was sentenced to death||Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia||The US and Thailand|
|11.||Based on important cases described in this study, a defendant challenged the constitutional validity of capital punishment in narcotics law||Singapore and Indonesia||The US, Malaysia and Thailand|
10.2. Unresolved Issues and Trends
Conflict of Interest
References and Notes
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- 2Lines reports that from 1987–1992, Bangladesh, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Guyana, Sudan, and Vietnam first introduced capital punishment for drug crimes. The Philippines reintroduced such sanctions again since they abolished capital punishment for all crimes in 1987 .
- 3According to Lines, globally, there are 26 countries that reserve capital punishment for drug offenses, including Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, China, Egypt, Guyana, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the United States of America and Vietnam . By contrast, Schabas claimed that 32 countries have capital punishment for drug-related offenses, including Bangladesh, Bahrain, Brunei-Darussalam, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Malaysia, Myanmar, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Taiwan ROC, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Vietnam and Yemen .
- 4These two countries do not use the death penalty as a routine part of their drug enforcement regimes, despite the presence of such laws in the books.
- 5The Report conducted by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2006 recommended that China reduce the scope of capital crimes by excluding economic and victimless crimes from the list of crimes for which capital punishment is allowable.
- 6This is because the main focus of this study is to understand narcotic drug laws of Southeast Asian countries, as compared to that of the United States.
- 7The controlled Substances Act composes Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and was codified as 21 U.S.C. §801–§971 .
- 8Also adapted from Lisa Zilney. Drugs: Policy, Social Costs, Crime, and Justice .
- 9Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972) (holding that the imposition and carry out of the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, violating the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments) .
- 11The controlled substances under this act are “very large quantities or mixtures of heroin, cocaine, ecgonine, phencyclidine (PCP), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana or methamphetamine” (, p. 1).
- 12Singapore began as part of a British colony in 1819 when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles of the British East India Company founded a British port on this country and became independent in 1965.
- 13The Singaporean Constitution can only be amended by a referendum of two-thirds of the total number of the Parliament’s members.
- 14This argument is based on the 2003 Asian Intelligence Report of the Political and Economic Risks Consultancy (PERC), which indicates that the overall integrity and quality of the Singapore legal system was ranked on the top in Asia.
- 15The state authority includes making personal laws governing Muslims and establishing Syariah courts the deal only with Islamic laws.
- 16That is, the current court’s decisions will not be bound by the previous court’s decision of the higher or the same level within the jurisdictions. Consequently, it is difficult to find a court’s decision of the previous cases in Indonesia.
- 17One dollar is equal to approximately 9019 Rupiahs.
- 18Law No. 22 of 1997 (stating that “import, exports, offers for sale, distributes, sells, buys, delivers, acts as broker or exchanges narcotics Category I, shall be punished with the death penalty, or life sentence, or imprisonment of not more than 20 years, and a fine of not more than IDR 1,000,000,000 rupiahs.”) .
- 19Law No. 22 of 1997 (stating that to “possess, keep in stock, or control narcotics Group 1, other than in the form of plants, shall be punished with an imprisonment of not more than 10 years and a fine of not more than IDR 500,000,000.00 rupiahs.”) .
- 20Now, the King of Thailand is the King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX).
- 21One dollar is equal to 31 baht.
- 22Thai Human Rights Organization specifically indicated that 333 of 708 persons are sentenced to death for drug-related crimes in 2010; however, courts are reluctant to execute those death-row inmates in practice.
- 23It is estimated that more than 2,900 people were executed for drug offenses since 1979.
- 24A death sentence will be automatically applied to those possessing more than 30 grams of heroin or five kilograms of opium.
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