Singapore: Halt the execution of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam

Press release

(Paris) Singaporean authorities must immediately halt the imminent execution of Malaysian national Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, FIDH urged today. Mr. Dharmalingam is scheduled to be executed by hanging at Singapore’s Changi Prison on 10 November 2021. A constitutional challenge to his execution is expected to be heard by the High Court of Singapore on 8 November.

“The disregard for human rights and international standards in the case of Nagaenthran Dharmalingam is compounded by the Singaporean government’s callous treatment of his family. After keeping Mr. Dharmalingam on death row for more than a decade, the government is now rushing to execute him and makes it almost impossible for his family to visit him. This behavior marks a new low for the government.”

Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General

On 28 October 2021, Mr. Dharmalingam’s family in Ipoh, Malaysia, received a letter from the Singaporean government dated 26 October 2021, which informed them of his planned execution. Under Singapore’s current COVID-19 travel restrictions, Mr. Dharmalingam’s family members are permitted to travel to the city-state to visit him before his execution. However, they would have to follow an array of strict administrative obstacles, including arranging extensive paperwork, COVID-19 tests, undergoing a mandatory 10-day quarantine, and being prohibited from taking public transport to-and-from the prison during their stay.

Mr. Dharmalingam could become the first prisoner to be executed in the city state since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The country’s last executions were carried out in 2019, when a total of four individuals were executed – two for drug-related offenses, and two others after being convicted of murder.

In April 2009, Mr. Dharmalingam was arrested at the Woodlands border checkpoint for illegally importing 42.72 grams of heroin into Singapore from Malaysia. In November 2010, he was found guilty and sentenced to death under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act. During his trial, the psychiatric evaluation result showed that he suffered from mental disabilities and an intellectual impairment. The application of the death penalty in Mr. Dharmalingam’s case appears to be in breach of Articles 5, 10, 13, and 15 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which Singapore is a state party. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has affirmed the duty of state parties to the treaty “to refrain from imposing the death penalty on persons with intellectual or psychosocial disability.” [1]

FIDH reiterates its condemnation of Singapore’s ongoing use of the death penalty, in particular for offenses that do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes.” UN jurisprudence has repeatedly and unequivocally stated that drug-related offenses do not meet such threshold.

During Singapore’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR), adopted on 1 October 2021, the government refused to accept 17 recommendations on the abolition of capital punishment, including recommendations that called for the establishment of a moratorium on executions, and the ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The government justified its non-acceptance of those recommendations by claiming that capital punishment was reserved only for the most serious crimes, such as drug trafficking.

FIDH renews its calls on the Singaporean government to make progress towards the abolition of capital punishment for all crimes, including by: reinstating the moratorium on executions (which was lifted in July 2014); commuting all death sentences; and signing and ratifying the ICCPR and the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.

FIDH, a founding member of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP) and a member of its Steering Committee, reiterates its strong opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances.

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