Malaysia-based human rights group Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) on Wed (5 Feb) urged Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to withdraw its alleged threat against the Singaporean lawyer of two Malaysian death row prisoners in the Republic.
LFL in a statement today alleged that the AGC had “launched an attack” upon M Ravi during a hearing in the High Court for the case filed by Datchinamurthy s/o Kataiah and Gobi s/o Avedian.
The application was made by the two Malaysians against the Attorney-General and the Home Affairs Minister for the purpose of halting their execution and to provide protection for a former Singapore Prison Services (SPS) officer who is willing to testify regarding their case.
The AGC, according to LFL, had told the Court that they “expressly reserve all rights against Mr Ravi”.
“This means that the all-powerful Singapore AGC is dangling the threat of criminal proceedings or punitive action upon M Ravi, should he proceed with this controversial case.
“This is like a sword of Damocles left hanging upon M Ravi personally,” said LFL.
LFL also alleged that the AGC refused to withdraw its threat against Mr M Ravi “despite repeated requests”.
The human rights organisation said that the AGC’s alleged attempts at “intimidating” Mr M Ravi is “yet another attempt to suppress or cover-up the truth about the unlawful and brutal method of administering kicks to the neck of prisoners in carrying out executions”.
“Singaporean authorities appear fearful of the facts that may emerge in the course of this case, including the expected testimony of the former Singapore prison officer who had exposed the ‘neck-breaking’ method,” LFL alleged.
The human rights organisation called upon the Singapore government to “stop all further attempts to cover-up the truth” about the allegations made by LFL regarding judicial execution methods in Changi Prison, and to instead pursue a “fair and impartial investigation” into the allegations.
Threat to M Ravi “a blatant breach of prisoners’ constitutional right to a fair trial” under S’pore Constitution and United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): LFL
LFL also argued that the alleged threat made against M Ravi is “a blatant breach of prisoners’ constitutional right to a fair trial” not only under Singapore’s domestic law as provided within the Constitution, but also under international law.
Highlighting that Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution guarantees the right to a fair hearing, LFL said: “The two Malaysians cannot expect a fair hearing in the Singapore High Court of their bid to halt their executions, if the threat of criminal or punitive proceedings is kept hanging over their lawyer’s head.”
“Tampering with prisoner’s counsel is a direct violation of the right to a fair hearing,” the organisation added.
As a member of the United Nations, LFL argued that Singapore is “bound to respect” Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which similarly guarantees the right to a fair hearing.
“The threat to M Ravi and breach of the fair trial rights of the two Malaysians is thus contrary to international law.
“We are now considering all remedies available to us under international law,” said LFL.
Application made based on “an imminent risk” of undergoing execution not “in accordance with the law”, according to the Malaysian death row prisoners
In a copy of the application, filed on 28 Jan and seen by TOC the next day, the two Malaysian detainees sought a stay of execution on the basis that there is “an imminent risk” of undergoing execution that is not “in accordance with law” should the recent allegations of brutality in judicial executions be true.
The mandatory protection order for the former SPS officer against criminal and civil liabilities, according to the document, was sought by the plaintiffs “to enable him to provide the necessary information” in support of their application.
Mr Datchinamurthy and Mr Gobi were convicted on drug trafficking charges separately, and were sentenced to death in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
Last Jul, families of the two Malaysians, alongside activists from human rights organisations including LFL and Amnesty International, submitted a memorandum to President Halimah Yacob in a bid to appeal for clemency for Mr Gobi and Mr Datchinamurthy.
The memorandum called upon Mdm Halimah and the Government of Singapore to reconsider the death penalty, particularly against drug mules “while the drug kingpins and traffickers are still at large”.
“We hope that you, Madam President, and the Government of Singapore would take a moment to reconsider the death penalty. It has proven not to be an effective deterrent and will not improve crime rates or trends in Singapore,” the memorandum read.
Previously, Pannir Selvam Pranthaman — another Malaysian death row prisoner convicted for drug trafficking — was granted a stay of execution in May last year. However, a procedural application he made was dismissed by the High Court in Jul the same year.
Allegations on judicial execution method in Changi Prison “untrue, baseless and preposterous”: MHA
The allegations concerning the “brutal” and “unlawful” process of execution by hanging in Changi Prison first surfaced in a statement by LFL on its website on 16 Jan.
Citing an unnamed former SPS officer’s account, LFL advisor N Surendran said that the former officer and other prison officers were purportedly instructed to carry out a brutal procedure involving the kicking of the neck of the prisoner whenever the rope breaks during a hanging.
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on 22 Jan subsequently instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a Correction Direction under the Act, following LFL’s recent allegations on the judicial execution methods employed in Changi Prison.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its statement said that Correction Directions were also issued against media outlets such as TOC and Yahoo! Singapore, and to journalist Kirsten Han, for publishing and sharing articles and/or Facebook posts containing “falsehoods” pertaining to the allegations.
MHA also said that the statement made by LFL on 16 Jan regarding the alleged judicial execution methods in Changi Prison is “untrue, baseless and preposterous”.
The Ministry added that all executions by the state “are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others”.
MHA added that Singapore law also requires a Coroner — a Judicial Officer of the State Courts — to establish an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to ensure that “the execution was carried out duly and properly”.
“For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any “special training to carry out the brutal execution method” as alleged.
“Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with,” MHA said.
A pre-trial conference for Mr Gobi and Mr Datchinamurthy’s case was set for 18 Feb.