Don’t execute mentally challenged Malaysian, Singapore urged

Lawyers for Liberty legal adviser N Surendran (in red tie) and Singapore-based lawyer M Ravi and relatives of death row inmate Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam at the press conference today. Nagaenthran’s mother, Panchalai Subramaniam, is fourth from right.

PETALING JAYA: A rights group has urged the Singapore government not to execute a 31-year-old Malaysian who was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in 2010.

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who is said to be suffering from mental disabilities, was found guilty of importing 42.72gm of heroin into Singapore in 2009.

Lawyers for Liberty legal adviser N Surendran said executing a mentally challenged man was against international law and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Singapore had ratified.

“It is beyond dispute that he suffers from mental disability. This evaluation was made by an independent psychiatrist and the evidence has been submitted to court,” he told a press conference here today.

“Singapore is putting themselves in the same category as Iran or North Korea in sentencing to death or putting on death row a mentally challenged individual.”

Surendran noted Singapore Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugan’s statement in May 2009 that the island state would not be “going easy” on Malaysians convicted of drug trafficking.

Claiming again that Malaysians were being targeted by Singapore, he said: “The Malaysian government must take note of this.”

He said this may even affect bilateral ties.

Surendran accused Singapore of being “notorious” for not having an independent judiciary. This, he said, denied Malaysian citizens their right to a free trial.

He said Nagaenthran’s defence counsel had submitted a psychiatric report from a well-regarded independent psychiatrist, which suggested the accused was mentally disabled.

However, he said the report was disputed by the court and also by state psychiatrists.

Despite that, the court still accepted that Nagaenthran had a low IQ of 69 and suffered from a mild case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a learning disability.

Singaporean-based human rights lawyer M Ravi, who is acting for Nagaenthran’s family, said Singapore had been shown to have “inherent biases” against independent psychiatrists appointed by defence lawyers.

On the other hand, he said, psychiatrists from Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health were regarded as “objective” and “impartial”.

Ravi said this “institutional bias” had violated the rights of individuals to a fair trial.

He claimed that one of the psychiatrists commissioned by the state also failed to examine Nagaenthran in person.

“Instead, he only looked at the independent psychiatrist’s report in an attempt to poke holes at it,” he said.

Ravi said Singapore’s law allowed for an exemption from the death penalty in drug-related offences if the convict was found to have mental disabilities.

However, he said the state had “set the bar so high” for convicts to satisfy that criteria in the event he or she suffered from a mental disability.

Clemency petition

The lawyers said they were preparing a clemency petition to be submitted to the Singaporean government.

However, Ravi noted that since 1998, Singapore had not considered any clemency petitions and the chances of that happening now were slim.

He said he had also drafted a complaint to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on behalf of Malaysia, which has been sent to de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong.

Surendran said Malaysia had a valid case to bring to the ICJ.

“There is already a case to haul Singapore to the ICJ. Other countries have hauled each other for lesser reasons than this,” he said, adding that execution of a citizen who was disabled was one of the strongest cases for ICJ intervention.

However, he added that they would leave the matter to the government.

Both lawyers said the ICJ may issue an interim stay of execution even if Singapore had not submitted to the international court.

Surendran said they were running out of time to save Nagaenthran and they could no longer estimate how quickly he and others on death row were moving towards execution.

He said LFL had previously revealed there were 10 clemency petitions – four of them on behalf of Malaysians – dismissed by the Singaporean government at one go.