Rights group Amnesty International today joined the chorus of protest against Singapore’s impending execution of a mentally disabled Malaysian prisoner convicted of trafficking drugs into the city-state, saying Singapore is “once again on the wrong side of history with its draconian drug laws and policies”.
In a statement, Amnesty’s Singapore researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said to hang a person “convicted merely of carrying drugs, amid chilling testimony that he might not even fully understand what is happening to him, is despicable”.
“There is still time for Singapore to change course and stop this unlawful execution from taking place,” she added, citing “grave concerns” that there have been multiple violations of international human rights in his case.
Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, who was convicted of a drug offence 10 years ago but diagnosed as intellectually disabled, is scheduled to be executed on Nov 10.
He was convicted in 2011 of illegally importing 42.72g of diamorphine and sentenced to death under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, a controversial law that the city-state’s leaders have defended as an effective deterrent against drug trafficking.
He was diagnosed with mental disabilities and a low IQ level, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
Medical documents tendered during his trial said he could also have had little regard for the long-term consequences of his actions, while noting severe alcohol use disorder that would affect his judgment and decision making.
Chhoa-Howard said concerns of rights violations in Nagaenthran’s case range from the use of the mandatory death penalty to its imposition for drug-related offences and concerns on the fairness of the proceedings which she said would render his execution unlawful.
“As a petition signed by tens of thousands of people shows, Singapore is once again on the wrong side of history with its draconian drug laws and policies, which have failed to tackle drug dependence in the country,” she said.
The statement also cited Covid-19 restrictions which meant that Nagaenthran has not been able to see his family for over two years.
“It is only now that up to five family members are allowed to travel and visit the prison,” it said, adding however that activists had highlighted how Covid-related restrictions and quarantine requirements have added financial and logistical challenges to the process.
Protests have been mounting over Nagaenthran’s looming execution, with activists gathering at the Parliament building on Wednesday to hand over a memorandum to highlight his plight.
A Singapore court will hear on Nov 8 a constitutional challenge filed by prominent rights lawyer M Ravi in a last-minute bid to stop Nagaenthran’s execution.
Ravi is seeking an interpretation of Article 9 in line with its international obligations, citing a judgment in 2010 on the importance of adhering to the treaties a country has signed, as well as a constitutional clause on the right to equality and equal treatment.
Singapore itself has defended Nagaenthran’s death sentence, saying he clearly understood the crime and that he had exhausted all legal appeals.
The government also claimed that it had accorded facilities for Nagaenthran’s family to travel to Singapore.