Now, death penalty for acts of nuclear terrorism in Singapore

A new legislation has been passed in Parliament whereby a person committing an act of terror using radioactive material or nuclear explosives will face the mandatory death penalty.

Speaking in Parliament, Desmond Lee, Second Minister for Home Affairs, said, “While the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack in Southeast Asia was remote, the rise of terror group Islamic State means Singapore cannot discount such a scenario and must treat the threat seriously. Especially when many countries, including those in our region, use nuclear energy, or are actively exploring the use of nuclear energy.”

person committing an act of terror using radioactive material or nuclear explosives will face the mandatory death penalty.
A person committing an act of terror using radioactive material or nuclear explosives will face mandatory death penalty in Singapore. Photo courtesy:

He added, “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.”

This legislation has paved the way for Singapore’s ratification of the United Nations’ (UN) International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).

After passing of the legislation, it will now be a criminal offence to intentionally and unlawfully use 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.

The penalties will be pegged at the same level as a murder offence in the Penal Code and therefore, in the event of death caused, lead to the gallows, said Lee, adding that in any other case, life imprisonment will be the punishment.

Lee added, “The new laws also provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction – meaning any person outside Singapore who commits an act which constitutes a nuclear terrorism offence if carried out in Singapore, is deemed to have committed the act here.”

Desmond Lee, Second Minister for Home Affairs
Desmond Lee, Second Minister for Home Affairs of Singapore. Photo courtesy:

He said, “If taken into custody, the person would be charged, tried and punished accordingly in Singapore. 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.”

Lee also apprised the House about the measures that have been taken to control and face the risks of nuclear terrorism. He said, “Agencies such as NEA (National Environment Agency) and SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) have developed the necessary operational capabilities to deal with illicit use of nuclear and radioactive material in Singapore. MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) and NEA have also been working together to tighten security measures at premises storing high-risk radioactive material.”

An inter-agency committee continually assesses the threat of nuclear terrorism in Singapore, and in the event of an attack, there will be processes to deal with possible scenarios.

While outlining the plan for any kind of nuclear attack, Lee said, “Should such an incident occur, MHA will coordinate a whole-of-Government response. SCDF will render assistance to casualties and contain the radioactive material, assisted by our armed forces where necessary. NEA will provide technical advice to help mitigate harm. The police will investigate the act, find the perpetrators and take them to task.”