Thursday, December 2, 2021

Why the rush, group slams Singapore over tight deadlines before execution

Lawyers for Liberty says no criminal justice system in any country which upholds the rule of law rushes through criminal appeals in this manner.

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Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has hit out at the tight schedule for the hearing of an appeal in Singapore by the lawyers of a mentally disabled Malaysian on death row, questioning the rushed directions just hours after a stay of execution was granted today.

LFL adviser N Surendran said the Singapore High Court had fixed 2.30pm on Nov 9 for hearing of the appeal, the same time as the psychiatric assessment of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam’s mental state.

“If both matters are dismissed, then the stay order would no longer have effect,” he said.

In a statement, he said the appeals court had also directed late this evening that written submissions and affidavits be filed by 10am on Nov 9.

“No lawyer can be reasonably expected to file written submissions and prepare and file affidavits overnight. It is a plainly absurd direction from the court with what appears to be the pre-determined intent to dismiss both sets of hearings on Nov 9.”

Nagaenthran was arrested in 2009 for carrying 43g of heroin into the city-state, which has some of the world’s toughest anti-drugs laws.

He was sentenced to death the following year and was due to be hanged on Nov 10 after losing several appeals, despite supporters’ claims his intellectual disability means he can’t make rational decisions.

At the heart of the outrage over his looming execution is a diagnosis of his mental capability, which found among other that he has an IQ of 69 – below the threshold of 70 for declaring a person as intellectually disabled.

Rights groups and activists have held protests over the past two weeks reminding the Singapore government of its obligation to abide by international treaties prohibiting capital punishment for mentally disabled persons.

Describing the court directions as unreasonable, Surendran said the “unholy rush” to have both hearings in less than 24 hours would be a blatant denial of due process contrary to Article 9 of Singapore’s constitution.

“No criminal justice system in any country which upholds the rule of law, rushes through criminal appeals in this manner, all the more so in a death penalty case,” he said.

“We strongly urge that Nagaenthran’s lawyers be given adequate and reasonable time to prepare their case which involves complex issues and the life of a mentally disabled human being. And meanwhile the stay of execution granted today must be maintained until these hearings are properly and fairly disposed off.

“To do otherwise, will do irremediable damage to the reputation of the Singapore judiciary and government.”

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