Activists seek Singapore clemency for disabled Malaysian man on death row

Activists seek Singapore clemency for disabled Malaysian man on death row
Activists hold posters against the execution of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, sentenced to death for trafficking heroin into Singapore, outside the Singapore High Commision in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2022

Activists seek Singapore clemency for disabled Malaysian man on death row

Activists seek Singapore clemency for disabled Malaysian man on death row
  • Singapore’s appeal court yet to issue ruling on Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam’s case
  • Malaysia’s PM among those who pleaded with Singaporean government to grant clemency

KUALA LUMPUR: Rights groups on Wednesday made a clemency plea for a Malaysian man facing execution in Singapore for drug offenses, after an appeal court last week reserved a ruling in the case that has drawn international attention over his mental disability.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, 34, was arrested in 2009 for trafficking 43 grams of heroin into Singapore, which has some of the world’s strictest drug laws. He was handed the death sentence in 2010.

Dharmalingam was to be executed by hanging in November, but it was stayed after mounting pressure from international rights groups, Malaysia’s prime minister, and the EU.

The clemency appeal was made by rights groups based in Malaysia — including the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, and Amnesty International — to Singapore President Halimah Yacob through the city state’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

ADPAN said in the petition that Dharmalingam was suffering from “psychosocial and intellectual disabilities,” and pointed out that executing such a person would be against international law and put a “stain” on Singapore’s global reputation.

“To show Nagaenthran mercy would be an act that will not only uplift many souls during these troubled times but also provide proof that this is a city where change for the better is possible,” ADPAN added.

Dharmalingam’s Singaporean lawyer, Violet Netto, had pleaded with the Singapore Court of Appeal last week to show “mercy” by allowing him to undergo an independent psychiatric assessment. The court has yet to issue its ruling.

“From the hearing last week, the judiciary’s reserved judgment suggests Singapore is silently figuring out how to deal with a person of reduced mental capacity,” ADPAN executive director Dobby Chew told Arab News.

Advocates argued that Dharmalingam had been coerced into the non-violent crime. His lawyers said that with an IQ of 69 — a level recognized as a disability — he was not capable of making any intellectual decision. The case put a spotlight on Singapore’s use of capital punishment, triggering international condemnation. If Dharmalingam was hanged, it would be the first execution in Singapore since 2019.

“He should not be executed, and the next course of action is through clemency. They have to act; they cannot sit behind the law and have no action. The Singapore Cabinet has to act soon on this,” Chew said.

Dharmalingam’s Malaysian lawyer, N. Surendran, said Singapore, which ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2013, was “obliged to reverse the conviction or grant clemency.”

The widely reported case was just the tip of the iceberg, Amnesty International Malaysia researcher Brian Yap told Arab News, adding that the group was also urging Singaporean officials to place a moratorium on executions “as a first step toward the full abolition of the death penalty.”

He said: “It is also important to stress that while today we are advocating for Nagaenthran’s life to be spared, he is one of many awaiting executions in Singapore’s prisons.”