Singapore to execute mentally disabled Malaysian man after final appeal rejected

<p>File photo: Activists attend a candlelight vigil against the execution of Nagaenthran  Dharmalingam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 8 November 2021</p>

File photo: Activists attend a candlelight vigil against the execution of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 8 November 2021

A Singapore court has rejected the final appeal against the death sentence of a mentally disabled Malaysian man convicted of smuggling drugs into the country, confirming his execution.

On death row for more than a decade, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam was arrested for trafficking 42.72g of pure heroin in April 2009. His lawyers argued that he has an IQ of 69 – a level internationally recognised as an “intellectual disability” – and is not mentally fit to face execution.

The 33-year-old’s lawyer Violet Netto had objected to disclosing his medical records, citing confidentiality, but urged the five-judge bench for an independent psychiatric review instead.

Rejecting the lawyer’s appeal, chief justice Sundaresh Menon said not disclosing Dharmalingam’s medical records was unreasonable, and that there was no admissible evidence to confirm a decline in the convict’s mental condition.

“The appellant has been afforded due process under law, and it is not open to him to challenge the outcome of that process when he has put nothing forward to suggest that he does have a case to be considered,” the panel said.

The appeals court has also rejected the request for an independent psychiatric review.

Wearing a purple prison uniform, Dharmalingam did not appear to show any reaction to the ruling of his execution.

The Malaysian national lodged in Singapore’s Changi prison has exhausted all possible legal options to prevent his execution, his former lawyer M Ravi said. Last year, Singapore’s president had also rejected a mercy plea from Dharmalingam’s family.

This undated photo provided by Sarmila Dharmalingam shows her younger brother Nagaenthran Dharmalingam holding his nephew in Ipoh, Malaysia

His case attracted wide support from activists, lawyers and the international community, who have argued that Dharmalingam should not be executed as he does not fully comprehend the legal and judicial action being taken against him due to reduced intellectual capacity.

Human rights legal group Reprieve has said that the man has faced an unfair trial and should be protected.

“We are extremely concerned about rushed hearings and decisions in this case, in violation of Nagaenthran’s fair trial rights. Nagaenthran should be protected from the death penalty because of his intellectual disability,” Maya  Foa, reprieve director, said.

“[The] heart-wrenching fact that he believes he is going home to his family and talks about sharing home-cooked meals with them shows that he does not fully understand he faces execution and lacks the mental competency to be executed,” she added.

N Surendran from the human rights organisation Lawyers for Liberty said that with this ruling, Singaporean courts have in effect “decided that it is okay to execute a person with mental disabilities and that it is acceptable for the country to disregard its international treaty obligations”.

The order is an “unprecedentedly bitter attack by the five-bench court upon Dharmalingam’s lawyers and proves the bias and unfairness of the Singapore legal system, which clearly does not uphold rule of law as required by Commonwealth norms”.

The date and time of execution is not immediately clear.

A total of 25 people have been executed in Singapore from 2016 to 2019 for drug-related offences. The country has some of the harshest laws governing drug-related crimes and trafficking.

Additional reporting by agencies

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