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Singapore: UN experts urge halt to execution of drug offender with disabilities

GENEVA (8 November 2021)  ̶  UN human rights experts* today urgently appealed to Singapore to definitively halt the execution of Malaysian national Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam, known as Naga, who has psychosocial disabilities.

He was originally scheduled to be executed on 10 November for drug offences.

“We note that a temporary stay has been granted today until a final appeal can be heard tomorrow. However, we are seriously concerned that, if the appeal is dismissed, he could still be executed imminently,” the experts said.

Mr. Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam was apprehended in 2009 after he crossed the border carrying 42.72 grams of diamorphine a narcotic analgesic used in the treatment of severe pain. He was sentenced to death in 2010 and has been on death row since.

”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.”

“We are also concerned that his past 11 years on death row has reportedly caused further deterioration of his mental health.”

Under international law, countries which have retained the death penalty may only impose it for the most serious crimes, that is, those involving intentional killing, the human rights experts also stressed.

“Drug related offences do not meet this threshold,” they said. “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.”

The experts urged Singapore to ensure Mr. Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam is not executed and to commute his death sentence in accordance with international human rights law.

Singapore amended its drugs legislation in 2012, which allowed drug couriers to be sentenced to life imprisonment if they provide substantive assistance to the Public Prosecutor or if in cases of “abnormality of the mind.” In other cases, the death penalty remains mandatory.

“We urge Singapore to further reform its legislation to ensure the death penalty is never compulsory, as mandatory death sentences are inherently over-inclusive and unavoidably violate human rights law,” said the experts.

“We are further concerned by the decision to carry out an execution during the COVID-19 pandemic and the additional impact of the sentence on Mr. Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam’s family members, who are having to make frantic arrangements to travel to Singapore. This may amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

“We have also asked Singapore to honour its commitment to release data on the death penalty,” added the experts. In its 2011 Universal Periodic Review, Singapore accepted a recommendation to make available statistics and other factual information on its use of capital punishment. 
The experts have written to the Government of Singapore to express their concerns.
* The experts: Morris Tidball-Binz Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, Country Page — Singapore
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