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Singapore: Call to halt executions set for tomorrow despite concern over mental capacity

Responding to the rejection of the death penalty appeal of Malaysian national Nagaenthran Dharmalingam and the imminent execution of Abdul Kahar bin Othman in Singapore, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia Researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said:

“After two years without any executions, we urge the Singapore government to refrain from reinstating the use of this cruel punishment.

“Nagaenthran Dharmalingam lost his appeal, clearing the way for his execution by hanging as early as this week. This shocking outcome is despite serious concerns about his intellectual and mental capacity, and collective outrage from around the world.

“Throughout his 18 years in power, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s cabinet has not once approved an order for the President to grant clemency to someone facing execution. But if there was ever a time to do so, it would be now.

“The government must act immediately to stop a grave travesty of justice from taking place and end its inhumane, shameful strategy of using the death penalty to address drug-related problems.

“The use of the death penalty in Singapore violates international human rights law and standards. The death penalty is never the solution to crime or the solution to address the risks and harms of using drugs. We call on the government to abolish the death penalty once and for all.”

Breaking international law

There was mass outrage last year when, despite medical experts finding that Nagaenthran Dharmalingam has an intellectual disability, his family learned that the Singapore authorities had scheduled his execution for 10 November. Concerns mounted when his family reported that his mental health had deteriorated significantly when they visited him in prison, where he appeared to not fully understand what was happening to him.

The UN body monitoring compliance of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which Singapore is a party, stated that the imposition of the death penalty on people whose mental and intellectual disabilities is prohibited. 

Nagaenthran’s appeal hearing was postponed in November when he tested positive for Covid-19. His appeal hearing was re-set for today and, with other appeals exhausted, was one of his last opportunities for him to be spared execution. In the ruling, the court rejected arguments about the decline of his mental state, and they have similarly dismissed challenges based on his intellectual ability.

Furthermore international human rights law and standards prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for drug-related offences and as the mandatory punishment for any offences. All those who have had their execution set in Singapore since late 2021 have been convicted of and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences.

The authorities of Singapore have set another execution for this Wednesday, 30 March. The family of Abdul Kahar bin Othman were provided notice and asked to make arrangements for last visits in a letter dated 23 March. He was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2015.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances.

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