Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Singapore defends plan to cane German pair


A combination photo shows German citizens Andreas Von Knorre, left, and Elton Hinz, arriving at Singapore’s State Court on Nov. 22 last year.

Photo: Reuters

Singapore yesterday defended a local court order for two German men to be caned for spray-painting a mass transit train and trespassing into a high-security depot, rejecting claims that the punishment amounts to torture.

A court in the city-state, which takes a hard stance against vandalism, last week sentenced Andreas Von Knorre, 22, and Elton Hinz, 21, to nine months in prison and three strokes of the cane over the incident that occurred in November last year.

US-based Human Rights Watch has slammed Singapore’s continued use of caning — a punishment dating back to British colonial rule — as a “shameful recourse to using torture.”

Singapore’s public prosecutor yesterday said that the court’s decision showed that the Southeast Asian nation was holding the two Germans to “the same standards as all others.”

“Singapore’s laws against vandalism are well-known. Caning is a prescribed punishment for the offense of vandalism, and the law applies to any person who chooses to break it,” a spokeswoman for the Singaporean Attorney-General’s Chambers told reporters.

“Caning is not torture. It is carried out in Singapore under strict standards, monitored at all times by a doctor,” she added.

Von Knorre and Hinz are “vandals who broke the law for their own self-aggrandizement, without consideration of the social costs, and the disruptions that their acts would cause to others,” she said. In their final hearing, both men called their acts a “stupid mistake” and pleaded for mercy.

Court documents said that they had broken into a suburban depot of state-linked mass transit operator SMRT on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 last year. On the second occasion, they spray-painted graffiti on a train carriage.

Under the law, those convicted of vandalism using an indelible substance face a minimum mandatory three strokes of the cane.

The punishment, which entails being whipped on the back of the thigh below the buttocks, is also imposed for serious crimes such as rape, gang robbery and rioting.

Human Rights Watch said after the Germans were sentenced that “every day that Singapore keeps caning on its books is a dark day for the country’s international reputation.”

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