Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today slammed the statement by the Singapore government that Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam was given “full due process”, saying he was in fact denied this from the start as the city-state at the time had no procedures to accommodate his disabilities.
LFL adviser N Surendran, who is also representing Nagaenthran’s family, said due process in the case of a person like him must include accommodations and specific procedures in the criminal justice system that take into account his disabilities and makes crucial adjustments for it.
“From the moment of arrest and investigation to the conclusion of the trial, these ‘procedural accommodations’ should have been made in Nagaenthran’s favour,” he said.
“If treated like any other defendant with normal mental abilities, Nagaenthran would not have been accorded a fair process or fair trial.
“But this is precisely what transpired: Nagaenthran was dealt with like any normal suspect or accused person.”
Surendran was referring to the Singapore government’s response to the letters written by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on behalf of Nagaenthran, whose execution on Nov 10 was delayed indefinitely after he was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had said in a statement that Nagaenthran, who was arrested in 2009 for smuggling 42.72g of diamorphine into the republic and sentenced to death in 2010, had been accorded “full due process under the law”.
The request by his lawyer for a presidential clemency was rejected in June last year.
Prominent human rights lawyer M Ravi had been due to launch a last-ditch appeal in an eleventh-hour bid to save his life.
Rights groups and activists meanwhile held protests reminding the Singapore government of its obligation to abide by international treaties prohibiting capital punishment for mentally disabled persons.
At the heart of the outrage over his scheduled execution was 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.
But authorities have said Singapore courts were satisfied he knew what he was doing.
Singapore has some of the world’s toughest laws against illegal drugs.
Surendran today said that its response to the letters sent by the Malaysian leaders was “false, callous and untenable”.
“It was this fact that a person with such mental disabilities was to be hanged that triggered the worldwide condemnation we have seen in recent weeks,” he added.
“To say that ‘due process’ has been granted to a person with Nagaenthran’s mental disabilities means nothing at all.”
Instead, he said, police interrogations and statements were recorded which would later be used against Nagaenthran in court.
“In short, Nagaenthran was denied due process from day one.”
Reminding Singapore again of its obligation as a state part to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he said there was only one response Singapore could make to Malaysia that would be consistent with this as well as its own constitution.
“That response is to exercise clemency in favour of Nagaenthran and prioritise bringing Singapore’s criminal laws and procedures in accord with the rights of persons with disabilities.”