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Singapore: 'Time running out' for man with learning disabilities set to be hanged tomorrow

Responding to the last-minute stay that has been granted in the planned execution of Malaysian national Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, pending an appeal scheduled to take place today, Rachel Chhoa-Howard, Amnesty International’s Singapore Researcher, said:


“This stay offers a glimmer of hope for Nagaenthran, following an outpouring of calls from around the world to halt the carrying out of this deeply cruel sentence against a man who may not fully understand what is happening to him.

“However, time is running out as his appeal has been hastily set only one day before the scheduled execution by hanging.

“To meet international standards of fairness, an appeal process must not be rushed, but needs to serve as a meaningful opportunity to reconsider Nagaenthran’s case.

“There is wide evidence of multiple human rights violations including deep concerns about Nagaenthran’s mental capacity and current mental health condition, which would render his execution unlawful, and must be fully assessed.

“Nagaenthran’s execution must be completely called off, his sentence commuted and these violations addressed. There is still an opportunity for Singapore to prevent a massive travesty of justice from taking place.”

Concerns over mental capacity

Yesterday lawyers for Nagaenthran made an application to Singapore’s High Court seeking declarations that executing him would be unconstitutional. This application was dismissed, but his lawyers are able to appeal that dismissal in a hearing set for today at 2:30pm in Singapore alongside a second motion asking for Nagaenthran to be assessed by psychiatrists. A stay will be in place until the Court of Appeal hears the case and delivers a decision. However, if both appeals are dismissed, the stay will be lifted and the execution will proceed as scheduled tomorrow.

Nagaenthran was convicted and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in November 2010 for importing 42.72 grams of diamorphine (heroin) into the island state in April 2009. His conviction and death sentence have so far been upheld on appeal.

But medical experts who have assessed Nagaenthran found that his cognitive deficits may have contributed towards his diminished responsibility when carrying out his offence. In recent days, Nagaenthran’s youngest brother has expressed deep concerns about his brother’s mental state and incomplete understanding of his imminent execution when he was able to visit him in prison.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. As of today, 108 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds are abolitionist in law or practice.


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