Monday, March 1, 2021

Rights group slams Singapore over fine on lawyer for mentally ill death row inmate

Lawyers for Liberty says this constitutes 'a serious interference' by Singapore with the prisoner's right to fair trial.

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Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at the Singapore government for its treatment of M Ravi, the lawyer known for defending Malaysian death row prisoners in the city-state, over his comments in a press conference last year on the planned execution of a mentally ill inmate.

LFL adviser N Surendran said Ravi had spoken out against the plan as the prisoner, N Dharmalingam, was mentally ill and had an IQ of only 69.

He said Dharmalingam, who was convicted and sentenced to death on Nov 22, 2010 for allegedly smuggling 42.72g of diamorphine into Singapore, had also been certified by an independent psychiatrist as suffering from mental illness. Nevertheless, he was sent to death row.

M Ravi.

For his criticism of the plan, voiced in a joint press conference with LFL on July 23 last year, Ravi was fined S$10,000 in addition to S$3,000 in costs by the Disciplinary Tribunal of Singapore’s Law Society.

Calling this “shocking and unacceptable”, Surendran said it also constituted “a serious interference” by Singapore authorities with the right of Dharmalingam and his family to legal advice and assistance.

He added that the punishment handed down to Ravi was in breach of international norms as well as the constitution of Singapore.

“Article 9 of the Singapore constitution enshrines the right to a fair trial. Punishing Dharmalingam’s family lawyer for carrying out his duties jeopardises this right,” he said in a statement.

He urged Singapore to retract the fine and nullify the finding of guilt against Ravi, and to cease any attempts to intimidate or silence the lawyer.

He also called on the republic to respect the right of Malaysian prisoners on death row to legal advice and advocacy, adding that Putrajaya should make the necessary objections or representations to Singapore on the matter.

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