Mandatory death for those who engage in nuclear terrorism: Parliament

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Those who engage in nuclear terrorism will face the mandatory death penalty. Parliament on Monday passed new legislations to that effect.

Citing the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) as an example, the Second Minister for Home Affairs, Desmond Lee, said Singapore cannot discount the scenario where a nuclear terrorist attack would take place in Southeast Asia.

This is”especially when many countries, including those in our region, use nuclear energy, or are actively exploring the use of nuclear energy,” Mr Lee said. “In February this year, Malaysian authorities arrested eight people connected to the theft of Iridium-192, a radioactive material which can be used to make dirty bombs.”

The new laws extends the reach of the authorities by providing for extra-territorial jurisdiction. Any person who commits an act of nuclear terrorism outside Singapore will also face prosecution if the act constitutes an offence if carried out in Singapore.

In other words, the offence would be deemed to have been carried out in Singapore.

“If taken into custody, the person would be charged, tried and punished accordingly in Singapore,” Mr Lee said. “This provision allows us to prosecute the offender in Singapore, if it is not possible or desirable to extradite him. It ensures that perpetrators do not escape punishment, regardless of which country they are from, and where they committed the offences.”

An act of nuclear terrorism is defined as an unlawful and intentional use of any radioactive material or nuclear explosive device, or use or damage a nuclear facility leading to the release of radioactive material, to achieve the effects of terrorism.

Mr Lee said the offence will be treated the same as that of murder – if death results because of the act of terrorism, the convicted person will be hanged. If death does not result, the punishment will be life imprisonment.

Nuclear terrorism is an issue which the government had raised in the past, notably by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in April last year when he spoke at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC.

PM Lee had said that the threat remains a “very plausible and believable” threat.

He noted had noted that IS has already demonstrated an intent to engage in nuclear terrorism.

The terror group is known to be actively seeking to purchase a nuclear device from the black market to launch an attack.

“If it (a nuclear terror attack) ever happens, it would be disastrous,” PM Lee said then. “So we must, as an international community, continue to fight against nuclear terrorism. And this series of summits, I am confident, has done a significant part to help towards that fight.”

In Singapore, the mandatory death penalty also applies to the offence of drug trafficking, besides that of murder.

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