Van Tuong Nguyen

by Brian on November 26, 2005

Next Friday, Singapore plans to hang Van Tuong Nguyen, a 25 year old man from Glen Waverley, the Melbourne suburb where I grew up. Nguyen’s crime against the state of Singapore was to change planes in Singapore while en route from Cambodia to Australia carrying 396 grams of heroin. I can see, dimly, how doing this kind of thing could be a crime against Cambodia, and a crime against Australia, but I can’t see how this kind of action could justifiably be punished by Singapore, when he hadn’t even passed through passport control into Singapore and clearly had no intention of doing so.

And of course even if we do think Singapore is justified in punishing Nguyen for his crimes, the idea that hanging is the appropriate punishment for attempting to sell heroin would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. Either Singapore should hang people for putting together plans to commit murder, or they are implying that drug trading is worse than murder. Either option is nonsensical.

Anyway, at this stage the important thing isn’t to debate just how absurd Singapore’s position is, but to do something. Amnesty International Australia has a number of links for writing to the salient Singaporese ministers to beg for them to change their minds. The very least one could expect our government to be doing is not doing more favours for the Singapore government while they plan to murder an Australian, but that seems too much for John Howard, even when proposed by one of his own MPs.

{ 85 comments }

1

John Tan 11.27.05 at 1:43 am

I can see, dimly, how doing this kind of thing could be a crime against Cambodia, and a crime against Australia, but I can’t see how this kind of action could justifiably be punished by Singapore, when he hadn’t even passed through passport control into Singapore and clearly had no intention of doing so.

By this logic, a man from country A who commits a murder in the transit area of country B’s airport (“hadn’t even passed through passport control…and clearly had no intention of doing so”) against someone from country C (so it’s not a resident of B that is harmed) can’t be charged by country B. The offense took place on Singapore soil; ergo, it is subject to Singapore’s jurisdiction –bracketing the appropriateness of the laws themselves for now.

2

Zhang Pei 11.27.05 at 1:44 am

To say Australia should apply pressure to a successful, prosperous society in order to impose Western values that are in no way universal, and to do so in protection of drug dealers who profit off of human torture and misery, is nothing but cultural imperialism.

Think about what drug dealers, especially of a horrific drug like heroin, do to a human being’s life. They make profits over an activity (heroin addition) that is no better than torture and slavery.

Singapore is s successful society that has found a way of dealing with this problem that is in accordance with it’s culture and traditions.

Australia has no more right to impose it’s values on Singapore than Singapore does to impose it’s values on Australians (imagine if the Singapore gov’t tried to apply pressure to force Australia to implement the death penalty.)

It’s the height of Western arrogance to condescend to an Asian society in this way.

3

Zhang Pei 11.27.05 at 1:57 am

Let us not forget the role Westerners played in promoting heroin/opium addiction thoughout Asia, espcially in China during the time of the Opium wars.

To think Asians will take Western values on drug use seriously is ridiculous.

Yes, go ahead and apply your pressure to Singapore. Soon, when China is a great nation, maybe it will be the one applying pressure to Austrailans to change their laws in accordance with Asian values. “See how you like it then.”

Imperialism is a dangerous game, as the US is finding out. Hopefully you will be smart enough to not find out.

4

Zhang Pei 11.27.05 at 2:12 am

In addition, extraterritoriality does not apply anymore.

Westeners cannot come to an Asian country and break it’s laws and get special treatment like you used to.

Why do you expect it now?

5

vor 11.27.05 at 6:21 am

Brian, van Nguyen’s crime was not that he was “changing planes while carrying 396 grams of heroin,” and it’s misleading to represent it that way.

His crime was that he was involved in trafficking enough heroin to harm the lives of 26,000 people. In this case they would have been Australians.

He knew what he was doing and the consequences if he was caught.

Spare us the anguish.

6

star of salvation 11.27.05 at 7:16 am

I just sent the prime minister’s office an email saying that I support Singapore in this matter.The world doesn’t need more illegal drugs and Western imperialism.

7

perianwyr 11.27.05 at 8:11 am

Maybe they do think drug dealing is worse than murder. By certain lights, it could be argued that a drug dealer is participating in the multiple murder of an indeterminate number of users. Furthermore, maybe their entire point is to effectively put up a big, international sign over Singapore saying “Drugs? Not welcome here! Keep them the fuck out.” A rather Chinese way to handle things, but hardly an invalid one. I didn’t make their moral calculus, so I can’t attest to its structure. But I would hardly refer to their position as nonsensical. Draconian? Absolutely. Misguided? Perhaps. But I see all too well their sense.

8

Barry 11.27.05 at 8:47 am

D*mn, but that brought the trolls out.

Brian, you should really ban the lot of them, since otherwise you’d be imposing free speech upon them. Seriously.

9

abb1 11.27.05 at 9:02 am

Yeah, this would’ve been more interesting if that was a small bag of pot or something – 400 gramms of heroin really is a kinda big deal, y’know.

10

gr 11.27.05 at 9:39 am

Let’s say this guy had murdered someone else in the airport lounge, without having passed through the passport controls. Would we be inclined to say that Singapore’s authorities cannot justifiably prosecute him because he didn’t commit ‘a crime against Singapore’? I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t. We would assume, rather, that Singapore is perfectly justified to enforce its laws against murder even if the crime took place in the airport lounge. So the fact that he never made it through the controls (and perhaps never intended to) seems irrelevant.
I assume that there are laws in Singapore (properly made known and applied in a fair trial and so on) which make carrying around half a kilo of Heroin anywhere in the city a crime. If there’s no reason to think that Singapore cannot apply these laws in all its territory, the only issue would seem to be whether the death penalty is morally justifiable in this case (or in general, for that matter). I believe it’s not. But the insinuation that this is some fundamental attack on the principle of the rule of law seems quite unjustified.

11

togolosh 11.27.05 at 9:42 am

Heroin is not as destructive as people make it out to be. Heroin addiction becomes harmful when it takes place in a context where the supply is of poor quality, the addict is forced to deal with criminals in order to get the drug, and the associated drug culture is heavily criminal. Heroin addicts have lead successful careers despite lifelong addiction.

Opiates are fundamentally different from intrinsically destructive drugs like meth, inhalants, tobacco, or alcohol. The latter destroy health no matter how pure they are or the context in which they are consumed. Addiction is bad, but hamfisted drug policy can make it vastly worse.

12

BigMacAttack 11.27.05 at 10:29 am

Tibet.

To think Westerners should seriously listen to Asian lectures regarding imperialism is ridiculious.

I am guessing that in 40 or 60 or 80 years when China is finally a great power, current Australian cultural pressures regarding Singapore drugs laws, will not have much impact on how China behaves.

I am thinking that will be more a function of the relative power of the two states and Chinese culture.

I would like Brian to come out and say, if he does or doesn’t think Singapore Airlines should be denied access to direct Austalia to US flights unless Van Tuong Nguyen is freed or spared death or whatever.

At this point the discussion is a little vague. John Howard is bad because he won’t even consider it. I, on the other hand, suggest we link it, agonize over it, and might or might not deny access. Not sure that cuts it in the abstract or the long run.

But on the other hand, I certainly understand, how defenders of Van Tuong Nguyen would want Howard to pretend a link existed, even if they knew he wasn’t making a link. Any chance at life is better than no chance. So maybe I wrong.

What a sad business. Does this guy really have too be killed?

Begging certainly doesn’t strike me as cultural imperialism.

13

Brian 11.27.05 at 10:38 am

If someone is murdered in the transit area, then there is a clear sense in which a harm has been perpetrated on Singapore’s soil. The nationality of the victim is irrelevant – if I killed a New Zealander while in America there’s a perfectly good sense in which I’ve committed a crime against America.

It is hard, to say the least, to see what the equivalent harm is in this case. Let’s agree, for the sake of the argument, that drug trading is a Very Serious Crime. Nguyen didn’t trade *any* drugs while in Singapore, there’s no reason to believe he intended to trade any, and indeed excellent reason to believe he intended not to do so.

It’s worthwhile reviewing how we got to this odd stage. Drug trading was concluded to be a Very Serious Crime. But it’s very hard, in the ordinary course of things, to catch people in the commission of the crime. So many jurisdictions concluded that they’d take possession of a large quantity of drugs to be conclusive evidence that the person intended to trade them, and would punish accordingly. Now this is already a bad idea – we don’t normally punish partially completed criminal plans as strongly as actually completed plans, but let’s bracket that. The problem here is that although possession of a large quantity is normally good evidence of intent to trade, that evidence doesn’t work here, because we have separate evidence that Nguyen had no intent to trade drugs within Singapore.

So we have three choices here. Either we say that mere possession of the drugs in Singapore is such a grave harm to Singapore that it deserves hanging. Or we can say that Singapore is justified in hanging someone merely on a general principle (people carrying lots of drugs in Singapore usually trade them in Singapore) that we know doesn’t apply in this case. Or we can say that Singapore is justified in hanging someone for preparing to commit a major crime in another jurisdiction. To say that none of these options reflect well on the Singapore government is to mildly understate matters.

14

Seth Edenbaum 11.27.05 at 10:42 am

I’d like to hear something from J. Holbo on this.

15

roger 11.27.05 at 11:36 am

Singapore’s reaction is much like Mao’s solution for opium — kill all elements of the opium trade. Actually, this is the only effective way to fight the war on drugs. But if one has a dimly democratic view of things, or even a tolerance for markets in the capitalist sense, the hopelessness of suppressing drug markets should be clear by this time. Aldous Huxley said so as long ago as 1930, when the League of Nations created the first, brainless international bans on narcotics.

The miseries caused by many products — cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos insulation, petroleum — are a hundred fold worse than narcotics. The drug warriors don’t even bother to claim any more that they can successfully ban the drugs they wish to suppress — instead, they take the suppression itself as a sign of morality, which is about the stupidest argument I can imagine.

Singapore’s planned murder of Van Tuong Nguyen is merely the extreme end of one of the twentieth century’s worst experiments in social control.

16

abb1 11.27.05 at 11:36 am

It is hard, to say the least, to see what the equivalent harm is in this case.

Brian, for the sake of argument: what if this guy was caught with 400 grams of plutonium under the same circumstances?

17

David B 11.27.05 at 11:49 am

Do people take plutonium voluntarily and with great pleasure? Maybe I should score some…

18

abb1 11.27.05 at 12:03 pm

It doesn’t matter. The Singapore’s government might’ve decided, rightly or wrongly, that heroin is an extremely dangerous substance. I’m just trying to make an analogy with the substance we think is extremely dangerous, that’s all.

19

gr 11.27.05 at 12:07 pm

A ‘crime against Singapore’ is a violation of Singapore’s laws, on Singapore’s soil. Singapore has the right to enact laws regarding drug possession in Singapore, and it is for Singaporeans or their government to judge what constitutes harm to Singapore. People who, for whatever reason, fancy carrying around huge quantities of heroin around with them are free to avoid the town. This seems to establish that Singapore may punish people for possession of drugs on Singaporean soil, assuming it does so in conformity with established standards of the rule of law.

This argument would certainly not justify any behavior on the part of Singapore. I believe that hanging violates a fundamental human rights standard. However, this point has nothing to do with whether the person we’re talking about caused harm to Singapore or not. It would apply even to the murderer.

So there are really two different issues here. The first is whether Singapore is entitled to punish people for ‘mere’ drug possession and the second is whether Singapore is entitled to punish such possession with the death penalty. Brians ‘three options’ fudge these two issues. According to his argument, Singapore simply doesn’t have any authority over the person since he didn’t harm Singapore, in Brian’s enlightened view. Singapore’s actions would be just as unconscionable, it would appear, if Singaporean authorities only jailed the person or, say, confiscated the drugs. But this view seems considerably less plausible than the claim that someone should not be hanged for drug possession. Brian, however, talks about ‘hanging’ to make his point about Singapore’s lack of authority stick. I find this somewhat disingenuous. And I wonder whether moves like this are what leads some Asians to resent Western interference.

20

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:11 pm

brian wrote, If someone is murdered in the transit area, then there is a clear sense in which a harm has been perpetrated on Singapore’s soil. …It is hard, to say the least, to see what the equivalent harm is in this case.

Right. I don’t know why that counterargument wasn’t obvious to the previous posters arguing in favor of Singapore’s stance.

abb1 wrote, Brian, for the sake of argument: what if this guy was caught with 400 grams of plutonium under the same circumstances?

Presumably he could be extradited to either his country of origin, or his destination.

Overall, though, I’m not too sympathetic to drug smugglers who get caught in e.g. Singapore; seems like you’ve got to be really dim not to know what the law is over there.

21

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:17 pm

roger wrote, kill all elements of the opium trade. Actually, this is the only effective way to fight the war on drugs. But if one has a dimly democratic view of things, or even a tolerance for markets in the capitalist sense, the hopelessness of suppressing drug markets should be clear by this time.

I disagree.

For example, I don’t see why a policy of “you can own and use marijuana, but selling it is a felony” wouldn’t work. The stuff is easy enough to grow that demand would be satisfied, but there would be no profit incentive on the supply side to grow a market.

For a drug like heroine, it would be reasonable for the state to keep it illegal. On the other hand, heroine users would be able to receive free heroine from the state if they could prove they were addicted. This might remove quite a bit of the profit incentive, and as poster togolosh says it would be a big improvement for the lot of users (if they were compelled to use the state-supplied allotment in a state-regulated clinic).

Drugs like meth might be difficult to deal with, though Mark Kleiman has discussed some interesting strategies recently.

22

abb1 11.27.05 at 12:20 pm

Liberal,
you really believe that someone caught with 400 grams of plutonium in Newark on his way from Moscow to Rio would’ve been extradited, huh?

23

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:22 pm

abb1 wrote, you really believe that someone caught with 400 grams of plutonium in Newark on his way from Moscow to Rio would’ve been extradited, huh?

But if the plot involved the authorities in Moscow and Rio, the US could argue that it has suffered a harm, because the US could claim it has an interest in Brazil not developing a nuke.

24

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:23 pm

Not to mention that it would be in the US’s selfish interest not to execute the courier, but to use him to unravel the Pu trade.

25

roger 11.27.05 at 12:31 pm

liberal, interestingly, when regulators ban durable products in the US for health reasons, they have to do a search on possible substitutes.

Banning a consumer good that has an elastic supply (unlike, say, the feathers of a nearly extinct bird) and a high enough demand by a core group of users to make the risk of producing and selling it rational makes banning the worse regulatory solution to the health problem it may pose. iT makes police the regulators — but they should be the regulators of last resort. And it practically hands over regulation of the business to the businessmen — in this case, drug dealers — which leads to widespread and debilitating violence, since trade disputes can’t be taken to court. State experience with, say, selling methadone has not been exactly a bright spot. I actually see no reason for the state to monopolize sale of heroin any more than of tobacco. The state has every reason to regulate drug sales, and could probably even avert certain drug mutations that way — dealers would have an incentive not to make certain drugs more potent, or sell them in certain forms, if they could make legitimate money dealing in conventional drugs. The incentive to self-regulate drives the alcohol industry, and while it is far from perfect, it is much better than prohibition.

26

abb1 11.27.05 at 12:33 pm

But if the plot involved the authorities in Moscow and Rio, the US could argue that it has suffered a harm, because the US could claim it has an interest in Brazil not developing a nuke.

Well, similarly Singapore could claim that it has an interest in heroin producers not profiting from heroin trade.

Why do you think the US government feels the need to send weapons and troops to Colombia? People get killed there.

27

efraim 11.27.05 at 12:33 pm

I detest capital punishment, but Singapore has a famously harsh drugs policy to create strong deterrence. The message is blunt: Don’t mess with any banned drug in any way if you want to come near my border. To speak of “evidence” and “intent” abstractly without this legal context seems unfair.

Another problem: “But it’s very hard, in the ordinary course of things, to catch people in the commission of the crime.”

That’s just as true in an airport transit lounge, isn’t it? Changi Airport sofas become ideal transaction points if we make the exception Brian suggests. At least one party in trafficking could never be punished.

28

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:41 pm

roger wrote, I actually see no reason for the state to monopolize sale of heroin any more than of tobacco.

I don’t follow your logic, except to make the ad hominem observation that your thinking appears clouded by libertarian shibboleths.

Clearly, the state could both supply heroine (thus undercutting suppliers) and discourage its use. Latter doesn’t apply to private suppliers.

Speaking of libertarianism (OT)…are you a real libertarian or a royal libertarian?

29

Doug M. 11.27.05 at 12:41 pm

Brian, I like and respect you, but you’re wrong about this. Jurisdiction is a fairly well settled field of international law. And legally, Singapore is completely within its rights. You may find this intellectually or philosophically repulsive, but every regime is going to have troubling border cases, and the alternatives are worse.

Also, even philosophically, you’re not making all that strong a case. If an Australian quietly and discreetly murders another Australian in the transit lounge of Singapore airport, Singapore is in no way harmed. (I say quietly and discreetly in order to snip off the “public order” argument.) Yet there’s unanimous consent that, in such a case, Singapore would be justified in arresting and trying the murderer.

This isn’t an abstract hypothetical, BTW. Crimes are committed every day on ships offshore, but within the territorial jurisdiction of some nation or other. I was once slightly involved in a case where a Korean captain was brutalizing some Filipino employees on a fishing boat just offshore from a US territory. Specifically, he wasn’t paying them the wages they’d been promised, was beating and torturing them (we’re talking stuff like tying one worker up with wire hangers for hours, leaving permanent scars), locking them in their barracks, and threatening to shoot them and throw them overboard if they dared complain.

The ship stopped at a US port to take on water and fuel. One alert Filipino recognized where they were, slipped over the side and swam (several hundred meters, through rough surf) to shore. The US Coast Guard came on board a few hours later and arrested the captain. He was then indicted in the local US federal court.

Following your reasoning, the US authorities would have to look on helplessly while the captain terrorized his helpless employees. Jurisdiction doesn’t work that way, and a good thing too.

I hold no brief for the death penalty, and I tend towards the libertarian position on drugs. And it appears there are mitigating circumstances in Van Tuong’s case… he had no prior criminal record, he promptly admitted his guilt, and he cooperated fully with investigators. (The last point in particular should carry some weight, since apparently Singapore’s criminal code includes provisions for relative leniency if the criminal cooperates.)

So there’s a serious case to be made for clemency. But jurisdictionally… no. Complete red herring.

Doug M.

30

Jake McGuire 11.27.05 at 12:43 pm

I understand the moral argument against the death penalty. I’m not sure I agree with it, and I’m not sure that I don’t, but it’s fairly well-defined and understood.

But I don’t understand the argument that states are not allowed to establish the laws within their own borders. If this guy got thrown in jail for a week and had his heroin confiscated, would that also be an illegitimate act by the Singaporean government? If Australia decided to punish some American for walking around with a loaded pistol in his waistband, is that illegitimate?

And perianwyr, I think that the Singaporean government is very interested in sending the message to take your heroin somewhere else, and has been pretty effective at doing so. It’s hard to find travel guides that don’t point out in fairly bold print that being caught with proscribed substances there is Very Bad News.

31

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:46 pm

abb1 wrote, Well, similarly Singapore could claim that it has an interest in heroin producers not profiting from heroin trade.

Yes, that’s the obvious rejoinder, but note the Pu trade isn’t very similar to the heroine trade.

Don’t get me wrong, though—I think there’s an argument to be made against Singapore, but I don’t think it’s a strong one.

Why do you think the US government feels the need to send weapons and troops to Colombia?

The US “feels the need” because the War on Drugs (at least as presently constituted) is completely irrational.

Despite my uncharitable reply to poster roger, I presume he’d argue that it’s hopeless to try to contain suppliers in Columbia and elsewhere, and I’d completely agree with him.

Not to mention that Columbia’s biggest problem isn’t the drug trade, but sickenly evil landowner privilege.

32

rollo 11.27.05 at 12:47 pm

“…kill all elements of the opium trade. Actually, this is the only effective way to fight the war on drugs…”
Actually it’s the only effective way to fight anything – terror, drugs, murder, theft, domestic violence, embezzlement, pederasty, bestiality, homosexuality, adultery, transvestisism, traffic violations, tax-cheating, promiscuity, teen-age pregnancy, intentional obfuscation of the industrial causes of anthropogenic climate-forcing, slander, mopery, loitering, graffitti, littering, plagiarism, boorishness, vulgarity, unwanted sexual advances, bad cooking, slovenly grooming (including offensive body odor), militant atheism, and egregious metaphysical self-delusion.
Kill ’em all.
In fact the only sure-fire way to rid the world of evil for good is to kill everyone.
Harsh, but effective. And guaranteed to work.

33

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:50 pm

jake mcguire wrote, But I don’t understand the argument that states are not allowed to establish the laws within their own borders.

“Allowed” by whom? States can indeed do whatever they want within their borders. Other states can of course do whatever they want to oppose those actions. Whether its wise for the latter to oppose the former is another matter.

In this particular case, I vote for “leave Singapore alone.”

34

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:54 pm

doug m. wrote, Jurisdiction is a fairly well settled field of international law.

Is that really true? IIRC the US has prosecuted people for murders conducted in Latin America. And not on the basis of international human rights treaties, but on the basis of US statute.

Of course, that example is different (US extending its statutes in a region clearly outside its territory, as opposed to the justice of Singapore applying a statute within its territory).

35

liberal 11.27.05 at 12:56 pm

I do think doug m.’s rejoinder is the strongest so far…

36

abb1 11.27.05 at 1:07 pm

Well, doug m.’s story doesn’t address the usual libertarian argument making a distinction between ‘victimless’ crimes and all the other crimes. Murdering or mistreating someone is somewhat different from carrying some stuff in your pocket.

37

Brian 11.27.05 at 1:09 pm

I’ve obviously been rather sloppy in what I was trying to say, since a number of people have been ascribing points of view to me that I didn’t mean to be defending.

I do think states have a legitimate interest in punishing those who perpetrate harms either against their nationals or within their territory. As I said in the previous post, America has a legitimate right to punish those who commit murder in America, even if the victim is not American, and even if there is no further ‘public order’ problem.

And I think, more tentatively, that in the case of some drugs, including heroin, states can legitimately view trading the drug as perpetrating a harm.

So I think it would be legitimate for Singapore to punish someone for *trading* drugs in their airport. And I think it is legitimate for America to punish someone for torturing people in American jurisdiction. The problem here is that Singapore wants to punish someone for, at best, preparing to commit a crime in another jurisdiction.

I think the appropriate response would be to secure the drugs (which, as the Age article I linked to notes, they didn’t do a great job of) and either alert the Australian police to arrest Nguyen when he gets off the plane, or, if they are feeling nasty, extradite him to Cambodia where he really did commit crimes.

38

liberal 11.27.05 at 1:40 pm

abb1 wrote, doug m.’s story doesn’t address the usual libertarian argument making a distinction between ‘victimless’ crimes and all the other crimes.

doug m. was addressing the issue of jurisdiction.

39

roger 11.27.05 at 1:44 pm

liberal, I’m not a libertarian at all. I have no problem with the state regulating drug production and retail. I think banning, on the other hand, is at the limit of regulating — it actually entrusts regulation of the market to the market makers and the police. It can succeed with certain industrial products that are durables, components of other goods, or that are produced industrially for a consumer market that seeks a service rather than a particular product — which is why banning DDT succeeded. There is no special police to crack down on DDT sales. You can use pyrocanthus based insecticides, and that is the end of the story.

But if you recommend banning a good, you have to be realistic and ask: is the ban going to succeed? And what are the mechanisms of success? If it requires wholesale slaughter, as under Mao, or extensive jailing — much more extensive than even in the U.S. — than I call that a non-solution.

Recognizing the power of markets is not a libertarian stance, but facing up to the real world. Liberalism, as I understand it, is finding and encouraging countervailing powers to remedy the injustices of poverty, inequality, etc. that come with the market.

As to the sale of heroin as opposed to tobacco — far from being an ad hominem, states like Sweden have established government monopoly over the sale of alcohol. I don’t think that has succeeded in its point, which, I think, is to control alcoholism. So — why institute a solution in selling heroin that actually doesn’t succeed in negating the black market in heroin (since to be a customer is to be noticed by the government), and will not negate the ill effects that occur with some users of heroin? It doesn’t make sense.

40

grackel 11.27.05 at 1:50 pm

It appears that you want to ignore any responsibility for the possession of the heroin, as if it should be all right to carry relatively large quantities of heroin around in Singapore. My impression is that the possession itself is seen as a crime in Singapore, as it is most places. Apparently the Singaporese believe that they can extend their sense of order to airport lounges within their territorial jurisdiction. What is so hard to understand about that? I’m in agreement that the penalty is draconian and inhumane, but as noted above, who could not know how things are in Singapore? The gist of your argument is that possession is not a crime in and of itself – a difficult position to defend, I expect, even if it were in the airport lounges of Australia.

41

liberal 11.27.05 at 1:52 pm

roger wrote, I don’t think that has succeeded in its point, which, I think, is to control alcoholism.

Heroin is not alcohol.

So—why institute a solution in selling heroin that actually doesn’t succeed in negating the black market in heroin

I disagree with your premise.

(since to be a customer is to be noticed by the government),…

That’s certainly an incentive to buy on the black market. Doesn’t mean that (a) that incentive will trump the price difference (the government’s being free) and (b) the possibility of setting the system up to mitigate the ill effects of being noticed by the government.

42

liberal 11.27.05 at 1:58 pm

I should add in re my last post that I don’t disagree with you on theoretical grounds (viz, agree that your point holds in many situations), but rather empirical ones (for this particular market).

43

liberal 11.27.05 at 2:02 pm

roger wrote, …or extensive jailing—much more extensive than even in the U.S.—than I call that a non-solution.

Furthermore, my solution (decriminalizing use but not selling) wouldn’t involve jailing as many people as you suggest.

44

Clayton 11.27.05 at 3:46 pm

Australia has no more right to impose it’s values on Singapore than Singapore does to impose it’s values on Australians (imagine if the Singapore gov’t tried to apply pressure to force Australia to implement the death penalty.)

I’m pretty certain Brian wasn’t calling for Australia’s navy to intervene, he was calling on people to try to persuade the government to change course. There’s a pretty big difference here and I think it lines up nicely with the distinction between imposing values and not. It isn’t arrogant to try to engage someone in argument and tell them they’re wrong. Often it is a sign of respect.

Now, suppose we grant that the West promoted heroin and opium addiction. How does that make Mr. Nguyen more deserving of death?

45

a 11.27.05 at 4:02 pm

“The problem here is that Singapore wants to punish someone for, at best, preparing to commit a crime in another jurisdiction.”

Singapore enacts these laws against drug trafficking because they are dissuasive. If its laws were to become more nuanced, such as banning trafficking only in the cases when it impacted Singapore residents, then by creating doubt, it would lose some of its dissuasiveness.

The Singapore government is entirely in its rights, to execute or not does seem to be a decision about which values a society considers to be most important, and yes it is arrogant for others to think their values are better. Clayton says: “It isn’t arrogant to try to engage someone in argument and tell them they’re wrong.” Sure it is, when the “engage somene in agrument and tell them they’re wrong” is (as Brian was suggesting) just writing them and telling them they’re wrong.

46

abb1 11.27.05 at 4:03 pm

Now, suppose we grant that the West promoted heroin and opium addiction. How does that make Mr. Nguyen more deserving of death?

Well, as others noted, this is not a question of Mr. Nguyen deserving to die, but of Singapore trying to deter drug smuggling – different concept. Not that I condone it or anything, but just to clarify.

47

DC 11.27.05 at 4:10 pm

Clayton is right that Brian hasn’t called for the Aussie navy to intervene, but what about some sort of special forces op? If it were considered that an SAS operation could safely rescue/kidnap this guy from Sinaporean custody, would this be justified?

This would seem to abolish Clayton’s distinction between imposing a view and simply arguing in its favour, but I tend towards “yes”, at least before knock-on effects are considered.

48

John Emerson 11.27.05 at 4:11 pm

1. What Togolosh said. Heroin is not intrinsically very harmful, medically speaking. It would be part of the pharmacopia except for politics.

2. Lots of issues here: jurisdiction, drug laws, death penalty. Let’s ignore them and talk about ***RELATIVISM***. For example:

“Australia has no more right to impose its values on Singapore than Singapore does to impose its values on Australians”.

I remember quite some time ago when Singapore, China, Iran, Iraq, and Malaysia joined together in the UN to protest the imposition of Western human rights values on Asian nations with different cultural traditions.

President Lee of Singapore, educated at Cambridge University, was obviously behind this. When he used PC cliches of Western relativists against the West, when he himself was not a relativist in any sense, he had to have been laughing his ass off.

49

Colin Danby 11.27.05 at 4:15 pm

I see no difficulty with people expressing a view to a foreign government. If, for example, there were a powerful nation that engaged in systematic torture, one would expect humane and thoughtful people everywhere to condemn that. I do get a little worried when one government is urged to pressure another, but given that Van Tuong Nguyen is an Australian citizen a role for the Australian government is not outlandish, though I’d want to see the “not doing more favours” bit explained more carefully.

And of course Brian did *not* phrase this in terms of “Western values,” a phrase which is more or less void of meaning in any case — it’s clear from the discussion above that plenty of Westerners are comfortable with the idea of hanging as a punishment for drug possession, and I’m sure there’s a variety of opinion within Singapore as well. One has only to think about the roots of Singapore’s legal code, or the Flor Contemplacion case, to see that East/West is not an interesting way to think about this.

50

Doctor Memory 11.27.05 at 4:15 pm

It’s not often that I find myself taking the law-and-order side of these sorts of arguments, but…please. Singapore’s approach to drug interdiction is long-established and well-publicized. Getting pinched is an assumed risk of the mule trade, and if you’re feeling nervy enough to walk through Changi airport carrying a third of a kilo of pure heroin on you, presumably you’ve made a careful assessment of the risk/reward ratio — and if you haven’t, then more fool you. Claiming that no “harm” was done “to” Singapore is idiocy at best, question-begging at worst: either Singapore, as a state, has the right do decide which actions it considers harmful or it does not on its own soil, and as Doug M pointed out above, the question of jurisdiction is a very settled one.

51

nik 11.27.05 at 4:43 pm

I think Brian has a point.

Nguyen’s crime isn’t possession but trafficking. If by that what is meant is smuggling drugs over borders for economic gain, then I don’t think a crime has been committed against Singapore. It seems to me that someone who formally enters a country (i.e. goes through passport control) is committing a different crime than someone who simply hangs out with drugs in an airport lounge before they switch planes.

It would also be interesting if the plane had been diverted to Singapore, and Nguyen had not known he would be going there and would not have been given a say in the matter. If that were the case then he clearly couldn’t have intented to commit that particular crime.

52

Clayton 11.27.05 at 5:13 pm

Abb1,

You are of course right that the motive behind the penalty is deterrence, but I can’t think that you’d defend a system that would put to death subjects for a deterrence effect that didn’t also deserve death. I would have thought that knowingly putting people to death who do not deserve it for deterrence effect was about as clear a case of injustice as one might hope to find.

A,
I never said that Singapore is not within its rights to have whatever laws it likes. That doesn’t grant them exemption from judgment. Their laws appear to be grossly unjust.

Would it be arrogant for me to write and say that the planned execution is wrong for the reasons just cited? This looks like an attempt at rational persuasion and an attempt to engage another as a fellow rational agent. I offer considerations, wait for them to respond in kind, and if one set proves decisive, we say one side is wrong. This seems like the essence of mutual respect.

I honestly don’t see how you could have values and not be disposed to think that they were better than the ones held by those who disagree with you. Such a disposition is necessary for disagreement. I don’t think it would be fair for me to call you arrogant simply because you are very (very) tolerant and encourage others to do likewise but you’d start to verge into that territory if you tried to silence those who would disagree with you in this manner.

53

ogmb 11.27.05 at 5:19 pm

I generally agree that any country that sees one of its citizens being threatened with execution should intervene diplomatically on his/her behalf. Other than that the case falls flat on its face. By and large country B has no incentive to interfere in a case of smuggling from A to C. It is mostly C (and in some but not all cases A) which wants B to interfere. Which gives C very little leverage in telling B how to interfere. Ideally C would like B to extradite, but if B makes native prosecution a condition of collaboration it might very well be in C’s interest to go along. You should go back to the drawing board and ask yourself if you’d argue identically if a. country B were Switzerland instead of Singapore, and b. if the smuggled commodity were slaves instead of drugs.

54

efraim 11.27.05 at 6:55 pm

“So I think it would be legitimate for Singapore to punish someone for trading drugs in their airport….The problem here is that Singapore wants to punish someone for, at best, preparing to commit a crime in another jurisdiction.”

“…many jurisdictions concluded that they’d take possession of a large quantity of drugs to be conclusive evidence that the person intended to trade them, and would punish accordingly.”

You can’t have it both ways. Public policy is not epistemology – a country can choose to disavow the finer distinctions you want to draw for policy reasons. Singapore has done so in a non-arbitrary and well-publicised fashion. If Singapore is in error here, it is not an obvious one about “evidence”.

55

mightyiguana 11.27.05 at 7:01 pm

Dear God, the moral relativism in this thread sickens me. Sure Singapore is within its rights to deal with criminals as they see fit, but should that stop anybody from passing criticism of their affairs? Substitute Singapore with America, I wonder how many people in this thread will continue with nonsense of “America is within its sovereign right to execute drug dealers” . Or maybe America is within its rights to torture people who are suspected of being terrorists after all the safety of a nation rests on the shoulders of those pesky terrorists. America is within its right to fight a war in Iraq. America is sovereign, is it not?
Apparently I cannot say that Singapore executing drug dealers is wrong or do anything like persuade the singaporean authorities against it because I am imposing my “western belief of compassion and fairness” on eastern singaporeans, what a load of poppy cock. The self serving moral-relativism in this thread is sickening.

56

abb1 11.27.05 at 7:19 pm

…I can’t think that you’d defend a system that would put to death subjects for a deterrence effect that didn’t also deserve death. I would have thought that knowingly putting people to death who do not deserve it for deterrence effect was about as clear a case of injustice as one might hope to find.

I agree, except that this whole ‘deserve death’ thing is kinda in the eye of the beholder; that’s one of the reasons the idea of capital punishment is often considered barbaric and obsolete.

57

Teddy 11.27.05 at 7:29 pm

Brian, your view has some strange implications. For instance, on your logic it would seem that drug traffickers who are caught with 5 kilos of heroin on the New Jersey turnpike but with no intention to sell it in New Jersey should be extradited to the state they are heading to. But it doesn’t work that way at all. Also, what about those who found heroin in a garbage can and were passing through New Jersey without yet deciding in which other state they would like to sell it. Where should they be extradited to? Guantanamo Bay?

I think you would make life easier for yourself and everyone else if you admitted that you were simply wrong. Is this such a difficult thing to do for a philosopher (lover of wisdom)?

58

Jake McGuire 11.27.05 at 9:03 pm

Singapore defines “to traffic” to include “to sell, give, administer, transport, send, deliver or distribute”. The law also states that over a certain amount, posession is prima facie evidence of trafficking, but you have the chance to prove otherwise.

Now you might argue that this is a poor definition of trafficking, or that it should’t be illegal to carry drugs through the airport, or that it shouldn’t be punishable by death. But I don’t understand how someone can argue, with a straight face, that Mr. Nguyen didn’t commit a crime that is, however unjustly, punishable by death.

Nik – if his plane made an emergency landing in the US, he’d stand a chance of getting off because there was no voluntary act (People v. Newton, in New York, in 1973). Of course, the US is not Singapore, so he’d probably have been well advised to flush the heroin down the toilet (or leave it in the seat pocket) when they announced the diversion.

59

AS 11.27.05 at 10:06 pm

One of the things missing in this discussion is the mandatory nature of the penalty. That is, once Nguyen was caught with a certain amount of heroin, he was automatically subject to the death penalty and all other matters became irrelevant. Thus his remorse, cooperation with authorities, his previous record (entirely clean) were not (and as I understand it) could not be taken into account at the point of sentencing.

Even granting that there might be a case for the dealth penalty in relation to some kinds of crimes, and even granting that in some circumstances that drug trafficking might be one of them, I think anyone with a basic sense of justice ought to have qualms about one so bluntly applied.

60

gr 11.27.05 at 10:32 pm

“I do think states have a legitimate interest in punishing those who perpetrate harms either against their nationals or within their territory. As I said in the previous post, America has a legitimate right to punish those who commit murder in America, even if the victim is not American, and even if there is no further ‘public order’ problem.”

To reformulate: States have a legitimate power to punish persons who find themselves in their territory if their activities either harm other persons who find themselves in the same territory or if it can be conclusively established that they intend to do so. I’m not sure exactly how to interpret this criterion, but it seems quite restrictive.

It would appear that states routinely criminalize forms of behavior even if it is quite obvious that many particular instances of those forms of behavior are neither harmful to others nor indicative of an intention to harm others.

Most people believe, to pick up an example that was brought up above, that a law against possession of firearms would be justified if there were good reason to believe that the enforcement of this rule will, all in all, reduce harm. If this is good enough as a justification, then it is eo ipso good enough as a justification for punishing people whose possession of a firearm we can safely expect not to pose a threat to others and not to be indicative of an intent to harm anyone else. But why, then, can’t a law against drug possession be justified in the same way, i.e. by saying that the law will reduce harm, all in all, to people in Singapore? And why should it not fall to the legislator of Singapore to determine whether there is sufficient reason to believe that a strictly enforced rule against drug possession will prevent harm? As long as there is something to be said for this belief, Singapore’s laws would seem to have a rational basis.

It is not unfair to punish someone for behavior that did not harm anyone else if the rule under which he is punished has a defensible rationale, if it is announced beforehand, and applied impartially.

Nguyen, then, may not have harmed anyone in Singapore directly, and he may well not have intended to do so. But this fails to establish that Singapore lacks legitimate authority to punish him. Unfortunately, the punishment is draconian, but that’s a different issue, as many commenters have pointed out.

“The problem here is that Singapore wants to punish someone for, at best, preparing to commit a crime in another jurisdiction.”

This is misguided since it still confuses ‘crime’ with ‘infliction of harm’. Drug possession is a crime in Singapore because it is illegal in Singapore. Simple as that. The answer to the question whether there are defensible reasons for the Singaporean legislator to criminalize drug possession doesn’t depend on whether Nguyen’s violation of the law actually harmed anyone in Singapore. Moreover, what Nguyen planned to do with the heroin in Australia, whether he would have harmed anyone in Australia, is utterly irrelevant. He deliberately violated Singapore’s laws, laws that seem defensible enough (leaving aside the severity of the punishment). I don’t see why anything more should be required for his actions to amount to a crime.

61

qoz 11.28.05 at 1:36 am

Brian,

get a grip. The PM has done all he is able to do in the circumstances–pretty well covered in the comments above. The PM does not engage in Amnesty International letter writing campaigns; that’s not his job. John Howard, private citizen, may choose to do so, but that’s a different matter. As for not ‘doing more favours’ for the Singaporean government, what precisely were you on about? The Australian government has made its displeasure clear, but short of actions potentially damaging to the relationship, it’s gone as far as it could, and should, go. And yes, it will no doubt continue to make clear its dislike of the death penalty in these circumstances. Unpleasant though this particular case is, international relations do not revolve on the life or death of one drug courier, regardless of his nationality.

62

Debbie 11.28.05 at 2:33 am

The issue is that the death penalty is WRONG, and those of us that think so, including many members of the current Aust govt, should push for clemincy(?). I dont think that inposing the death penalty is a deterrant, as desperate people will always do desperate things.
Human rights are a world wide issue, not an eastern/western thing. Ngueyn should be punished for breaking the law. The death penalty is just too extreme, whether carried out in Singapore or the US, for any crime.

63

mpowell 11.28.05 at 4:49 pm

My favorite post quote here is from post #45: “yes it is arrogant for others to think their values are better”. Its awfully hard for me to buy that anyone actually believes this. If your values aren’t better than why do you hold them?

I appreciate John Emerson’s comments in post 48. Asian societies have perhaps the worst ground of anyone to make those types of relativist claims.

Also, I’m wondering- why is it so hard for you law and order types to recognize the difference b/w what Singapore has the legal right to do and what we should try and convince them to do?

64

Tim 11.28.05 at 4:50 pm

“Justice? Justice is what you get in the next world. Here, you have the law.”

And a third distinction entirely is morality. We would like the law to correspond exactly to what is right, but it cannot.

Brian wrote, “The problem here is that Singapore wants to punish someone for, at best, preparing to commit a crime in another jurisdiction.” No. Mr Nguyen may have been preparing to commit a social evil in another jurisdiction, but he was certainly committing a crime in Singapore’s.

Conversely, the Singaporean government is pretty clearly not outside the law in its actions, but it is beyond the bounds of what many readers here consider moral.

65

Jake McGuire 11.28.05 at 6:59 pm

Also, I’m wondering- why is it so hard for you law and order types to recognize the difference b/w what Singapore has the legal right to do and what we should try and convince them to do?

Because Brian, perhaps realizing that the purely moral argument was not going to carry the day, tried to frame the matter in terms of what Singapore had the “right” to do.

66

Tom Lynch 11.28.05 at 7:46 pm

The discussion of the moral correctness of imposing one culture’s values on another is wrongheaded. If people find the application of the death penalty to Van Nguyen disgusting they can and will say so. To suggest that to express that disgust is more of an imposition than it is to require that it not be expressed is weaselish.

Howard and Downer’s choice not to try harder to to save Nguyen is based on the ambivalence of the Australian public, both on the ethics of capital punishment and on whether it should be applied to Nguyen.

Australians are frequently outraged by the use of the death penalty, but almost as frequently by its failure to be used (as in the case of the JI Bali bombers). They would not vote to introduce it in Australia, but are sometimes keen to approve its application overseas.

Nguyen’s story is one that simultaneously attracts sympathy from the public on some counts (first offence, pled guilty, former addict, family breakdown) and condemnation on others (lots of heroin, really stupid). The response of the average person is determined by which of these aspects of the story were emphasised in the particular condensation they most recently consumed.

As an opponent of the death penalty I wish he were not being executed, but I have to admit that I don’t generally take such an active interest every time the life of any person in any country is taken away. My own response to the case has been affected by the extent of coverage in Australia.

To my mind a fitting change to policy would be for the Commonwealth government to publicise the time, place and manner of death of every Australian citizen executed or killed on foreign soil in some official way (perhaps on the ABC evening news), to heighten the public’s perception of the toll of this sort of punitive justice, in addition to the usual diplomatic efforts to obtain clemency.

67

sfb 11.28.05 at 9:48 pm

I can’t get too worked up over this. The guy’s guilty, and not very bright. It isn’t as if this is the first time Singapore has hanged someone for drug possession. So going there with heroin was a rather foolish decision.

The death penalty, like abortion , is not attractive, but there are times both are appropriate. Australians are welcome to their values, and so are the people of Singapore. If you go a country that has capital punishment, then it would be wise to avoid doing anything that might get you a new neck-tie.

This man has a history of crime. Sorry folks, but the only way I could feel for him is to feel for his left ear.

sfb

68

Hans 11.29.05 at 8:15 am

This is why western countries have constitutions. If you’re going to follow the law at all times and not have the strength to oppose it because it is law, that’s just weak. God forbid we ever have another war, I certainly hope none of you are fighting by my side. And if any of you are ever stuck in a foreign country and need help, I hope you don’t expect someone to do for you what you can’t do for others.

To put it quite simply, a man who doesn’t seem to be that bad bloke, apart from breaking the law in an effort to help his brother, is going to hang by the neck until he is dead. And if people don’t do enough to stop it, I hope they put it on the news for some of you to see what you stood for. It’s only by arguing the politics and symantics of it that you can hold the view you’re holding. Any connection to the reality of what you are saying should be enough to change it. Laws are made to be broken. And if you dont believe this, you are in for a long boring, unchallenging life where you just agree with whatever someone else decides is right and never actually do what is right. As much as the conservatives like to think they are the great thinkers and leaders, the real greats were far from conservative. Try reality for a while, it might be good for you.

69

John Tan 11.29.05 at 11:53 am

1. What is a constitution but a system of fundamental laws–however you might define it and differentiate it from particular statutes, still of the genus law. So does what you meant to entail also that: “If you’re going to follow the constitution at all times and not have the strength to oppose it because it is law, that’s just weak”; or “Constitutions are made to be broken”?

Besides, which constitution is at issue–that of Australia? (Why is that relevancet?)–that of Singapore? (Which provides for the death penalty, and the last attempt to challenge the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking was dismissed by the Privy Council; Ong Ah Chuan v. PP [1981] AC 648–in case you are interested.)

Or perhaps what you are saying is “the laws of a puny Asian country like Singapore are made to be broken by Australians”?

2. Let me get this straight: you are conceding that the man did break the law, a law that provides for a mandatory death penalty? Sure there are plenty of plausible arguments against the death penalty, against the mandatory death penalty, against either for drug trafficking, but the fact that he was a “doesn’t seem to be that bad bloke” and that he broke the law “in an effort to help his brother” are not among them.

Or perhaps yours is a plea for clemency, which presupposes that he does ‘deserve’ the penalty (given the law)?

3. Try logic for a while, it might be good for the rest of us.

70

John Tan 11.29.05 at 12:20 pm

My apologies: #69 is strictly in response to #68.

71

mpowell 11.29.05 at 2:28 pm

Jake-

It may just be a case of different people reading Brian’s argument differently, but when he talks about what Singapore has the ‘right’ to do, I still think he is talking about moral rights. There is a sense I get from his argument that Singapore should be given a certain latitude to decide how to administer the law in their own country, but their are boundaries on what we should tolerate w/o significant objection and that is a normative question not a legal one.

72

gr 11.29.05 at 5:23 pm

“Also, I’m wondering- why is it so hard for you law and order types to recognize the difference b/w what Singapore has the legal right to do and what we should try and convince them to do?”

This misrepresents the position of the ‘law and order’ guys on this thread. What is more, it also misrepresents the position they are arguing against.

If you read the post carefully you’ll notice that Brian is not just claiming that it is morally wrong for Singapore to apply the death penalty. He’s claiming, in addition, that Singapore doesn’t have the legitimate authority to punish Nguyen (in whatever way) since its actions are arbitrary and violate fundamental standards of legal fairness. This is a different and in some respects more serious charge, as is evident from the obvious fact that those who criticize Singapore probably wouldn’t get as worked up about this issue if the fact that Nguyen is going to be subjected to the death penalty were the whole problem. However, Brain rather clearly fails to substantiate this second charge.

The importance of distinguishing the two aspects of the problem should be obvious: If I had to choose between living under a system that applies punishments arbitrarily (without due process, retroactively, partially or whatever) but that doesn’t have a death penalty and a system that applies the death penalty but that is not arbitrary I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the death penalty system. This is perfectly compatible with being morally opposed to the death penalty. The point is simply that legal institutions that are non-arbitrary serve important human interests and deserve a measure of respect. They may be legitimate even if they are morally imperfect. This is not so hard to understand, is it?

73

Jeff 11.29.05 at 7:09 pm

As a point of information, when entering Singapore, every plane passenger is given a form that states in big, bold letters (I think they are in red) that those bringing drugs into the country will be killed.

74

mpowell 11.30.05 at 12:01 pm

gr,

When you talk about legitimate authority, you are clearly referring to legitimate legal authority. I don’t see any reason to read it that way. It could just as easily be legitimate moral authority. Then you drop into a discussion about how consistency delivers (moral) legitimacy to a penal system. Fine. But Brian doesn’t argue that their regime is arbitrary in its administration of justice- just nonsensical in its standards. There is something extra morally objectionable for not only executing someone, but executing a foreign citizen for carrying heroin through your airport. I believe that’s the point.

Part of my problem is that lawyer-type people think that the legal question is the most important one- which is why they assume that everyone must be making legal arguments. But for most people, its not the legal question that matters.

75

Jake McGuire 11.30.05 at 2:20 pm

Brian was clearly using the legal terms in his argument, and claiming that not only was Singapore wrong in applying the death penalty for drug possession, but that they couldn’t even justifiably make it a crime.

But sadly for Mr. Nguyen, it would appear that his time is up, and this issue will recede until the next Westerner comes up for execution.

76

john le 11.30.05 at 8:22 pm

i think that mr van tuong nguyen should not be hanged but as a crime he should be put 2 at lease 10 years of jail.As we say we pick up from our mistakes and by saying that he would not do it again.If so he would be hanged therefore it would be ok to hang him. thank you for reading my comment..=]

77

unknown 12.01.05 at 5:34 pm

why should people have to take care of this man in prison for almost selling drugs to our children ???
Hang his butt and make people understand it is time to stop this madness. BOO HOO
You do the crime …. you do the time!! airports have to protect all of us!!!!

78

John 12.01.05 at 7:20 pm

I can not see the parallel view of a murder that may have been commited in an other country and having or trying to smuggle drugs through a transit airport, in this case singapore, having the drugs personally on him or her, is bringing drugs into singapore, regardless if he or she is on a transit flight. The objection of a ruling government is to uphold the rules of law and this law states that any drugs are bought into singapore is a criminal offence. having commited a murder in an other country and having the guilt bought through singapore airport is not a crime unless you are shipping or carrying the alleged victim through changhi airport.

79

Russell 12.01.05 at 9:57 pm

I still don’t understand the transit lounge juristiction arguements.

Consider someone who buys a substantial quantity of Tylenol with Codeine in Canada (because it is cheaper) and passes through Singapore on the way back to Australia. Codeine is legal without prescription in Australia and Canada(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codeine). The person never enters Singapore and never passes through Singapore customs. Does this allow Singapore to arrest and hang them if they find a bunch of pills during a routine security check?

80

Sharel 12.01.05 at 10:16 pm

I think the decision to hang him was correct. He was going to bring drugs into Australia, how many lives would have been ruined, how many lives would have been lost from his smuggle. Everyone knows smuggling drugs in Asian countries may inflict the death penalty and he knowingly took that chance. I may not agree with capital punishment for all cases but that is their law and he knowingly chose that path.

81

Tom Lynch 12.01.05 at 10:36 pm

Nguyen’s dead now.

82

tiffany nguyen 12.01.05 at 11:36 pm

i am so shocked the singaporean government have been so stubborn and firm with their decision to hang Van Nguyen an Australian citizen. i am appalled with their law of capital punishment, it should be demolished. i read about 15 or something years ago some men were not faced with capital punishment by the singaporean government when their crime had been murder! how could they kill a man of only 25 years old because of carrying drugs that frankly had nothing to do with them? i am disgusted with the singaporean government and strongly oppose to capital punishment.

83

Rachel 12.02.05 at 1:47 am

Why should tax payers in Singapore “feed” a drug trafficker for 2-10yrs. Is Australia Govt gonna fund his “stay” in Singapore Changi Prison? Based on Brian’s comments, if someone from Singapore transit in AUS to NZ killed a American at the transit lounge, he shdn’t be charge by AUS govt? Means people can use the excuse of transit to do whatever hell they want? That is a “free area” to do anything? Why there wasn’t any pledge for clemency for Bali Bombers for 2001 by Aussies? That guy deserved death sentence becauase he killed Aussie. Who and what makes Aussies think they are superior to decide who should die and who should not?

84

Martin James 12.02.05 at 2:29 am

It is so wonderful to see this post reflecting the moral diversity in the world. War makes so much more sense that way.

A few points.

1. How bizarre to see the foolishness and stupidity of the perpetrator used as an argument FOR the death penalty rather than against it. I guess clearly the foolish of the world deserve their miserable lot. I guess these people would support “being really dumb” or “getting caught too easy” as aggravating factors for the death penalty.

2. Talk of “legality” and ” legitimate legal rights” internationally is so quaintly silly. The law is a ficiton and therefore legal rights are whatever we pretend them to be. Philosophers can argue about moral relativism, but legal relativism is obvious.

3. Hans is a Free Man. Hans critics are not.

4. Mpowell asks ” Its awfully hard for me to buy that anyone actually believes this. If your values aren’t better than why do you hold them?”

Well, because I LOVE them. Do I have to believe my children are better to hold them?

Not only do I dsagree with you, I don’t quite trust people who aren’t motivated primarily by irrational love. Makes them not only arrogant but utilitarian.

5. I favor the death penalty primarily because it is perceived as justice by SOME friends and family of innocent victims. However, talk of a State having a Right to use the death penalty seems backwards. Rights are needed by the weak. The State has power. It doesn’t need rights talk too.

6. There’s a good damn reason J. H. and B. W. won’t be commenting on this thread. FEAR.

85

Ex 12.02.05 at 3:02 am

I cannot believe you people, NO ONE deserves to die, Drug trafficers Don’t kill people, it’s the people who take the drugs who kill themselves if you want to stop drugs you need to stop where it is made and all the Rich bastards that get away with it because they have the money and power, He made a mistake and you have not?
When desparate people do stupid things…
Having to STILL kill shows that we humans are still lacking intelligence, we are certainly a world with too many narrow minded people in it.
Death sentence is utter crap and makes us just as bad as the person who commited the crime.

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