Governments and human rights experts are calling on Singapore not to execute a convicted drug trafficker they say has “serious psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.”
On Monday, Singapore’s high court stayed the execution of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, known as Naga and Nagen, a Malaysian man sentence to death in 2010 for carrying 43 grams of the narcotic diamorphine into the country, and rights groups are pushing to make this reprieve permanent.
They argue that it would violate international law to execute Dharmalingam, who has an IQ of 69, and who supporters say there is evidence was forced to carry drugs as a victim of human trafficking.
“We are concerned that Mr Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam did not have access to procedural accommodations for his disability during his interrogation. We further highlight that death sentences must not be carried out on persons with serious psychosocial and intellectual disabilities,” a group of UN human rights experts said on Monday in a statement.
“We are also concerned that his past 11 years on death row has reportedly caused further deterioration of his mental health.” They added that under international law, the death penalty is appropriate for crimes involving intentional killing, but not for merely transporting drugs.
“Drug related offences do not meet this threshold,” the experts added. “Resorting to this type of punishment to prevent drug trafficking is not only illegal under international law, it is also ineffective. There is a lack of any persuasive evidence that the death penalty contributes more than any other punishment to eradicating drug trafficking.”
In 2012, Singapore, which has some of the world’s harshest drug laws and capital punishment policies, changed its rules, allowing drug couriers to be sentenced to life in prison instead of death if they assist the office of the Public Prosecutor, or have “abnormality of the mind.”
The execution has been stayed until an appeals court hearing, at a time to be determined, can proceed.
In the meantime, groups including Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network and Amnesty International have all condemned the possible execution, as has an EU delegation. The Malaysian prime minister has asked his counterpart in Singapore to stop the killing.
A group of more than 200 family members and friends of Singapore death row inmates have also called attention to the case in an open letter published by the Transformative Justice Collective.
“There are no words to describe the pain of having a loved one on death row. Perhaps that is why we don’t often speak of it, and our suffering goes unnoticed,” they wrote.
“Nagen’s family has been unable to visit him for two years, during the pandemic border closure, and with two weeks’ notice that their worst nightmare has arrived, they have to scramble to see him through a glass wall for just a few days before the date of execution.”Last week, the Singapore ministry of home affairs defended Naga’s execution process, noting in a statement the man “was accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process. His petition to the president for clemency was unsuccessful.”
The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty – with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.