Lawyers for Liberty urges Singapore to withdraw “unacceptable threats” against lawyer representing Malaysians on death row

Human rights and law reform organisation Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) released a statement today (16 July) calling for Singapore authorities to withdraw “baseless allegations and unwarranted threats” against Malaysian lawyer and founder of LFL N Surendran who has been representing Malaysians death row prisoners, including Pannir Selvam Pranthaman.

It appears that the Singapore-General’s Chambers has made the accusation in a letter dated 12 July noting that the lawyer has made “scandalous allegations against Singapore and its legal system, including accusing Singapore of acting in total disregard of international legal norms and decent world opinion,” said LFL director Melissa Sasidaran in a statement.

She added, “Coming from the Attorney General’s office in a formal note to the High Court, this amounts to a serious threat against Surendran. Singapore is notorious for bringing contempt of court or criminal defamation charges against its critics. British author Alan Shadrake was similarly prosecuted and jailed in 2011 for making remarks on the death penalty in Singapore.”

Mr Surendran is the lead Malaysian lawyer and an instructing solicitor to the Singapore lawyers representing Pannir in court.

For those who are unfamiliar with the name Pannir, the 31-year-old is actually a Malaysian sentenced to death for a drug offence committed in May 2017. He recently gained prominence after he was granted a last-minute reprieve from execution by the Singapore Court of Appeal on 23 May, and his legal challenge against denial of clemency by the President will be heard this Friday (19 July).

Besides Pannir, Mr Surendran is also acting as counsel for the four other Malaysians drug mules facing death sentence in Singapore.

LFL pointed out that Singapore authorities’ action “is a calculated attempt to sabotage Pannir’s legal team, as well as hindering legal assistance from Malaysia for the other Malaysian prisoners”.

If that is not all, the threat made against the lawyer is also a breach of The Republic’s own laws and Constitution, the statement noted. This is because based on Article 9 of the Constitution, it gives everyone the right to a fair trial including the right to legal advice and representation.

“In doing so, Singapore is also in flagrant breach of international law and standards; the right to be provided legal assistance is enshrined in Article 14(3)(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”

As such, LFL demands that Singapore “urgently withdraw the baseless allegations and unwarranted threat” made against the lawyer, and urged Malaysian government to intervene in order to ensure Pannir and the four other Malaysian drug mules facing death sentence “are not prejudiced or deprived of legal defence or assistance” in Singapore.