M’sian death row prisoners in Changi Prison sue S’pore A-G over threat to their counsel M Ravi

Alleged threat against Mr M Ravi a breach of right to fair hearing under S'pore Constitution, customary international law

Singaporean international human rights lawyer M Ravi speaking at the Lawyers for Liberty press conference in Petaling Jaya on Tue (23 Jul). Source: TOC/Danisha Hakeem

Two Malaysian death row prisoners in Changi Prison on Mon (10 Feb) sued the Attorney-General of Singapore over a threat allegedly made against their lawyer M Ravi regarding an application they recently made to the High Court.

In an affidavit filed by Datchinamurthy s/o Kataiah — one of the prisoners — today, it was alleged that representatives of the Attorney-General told the court during a pre-trial conference on 4 Feb that they “reserve” their “rights against Mr. M Ravi”.

Mr Datchinamurthy and another Malaysian death row prisoner, Gobi s/o Avedian, made an application 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.

Mr Datchinamurthy claimed that despite Mr M Ravi’s repeated attempts to seek clarification from the Attorney-General’s representatives regarding their statement, he was not given any explanation regarding the statement.

The Malaysian death row prisoner subsequently deduced — following advice from the solicitors representing him and Mr Gobi — that the statement made by the Attorney-General’s representatives was “an express or implied threat” against Mr M Ravi.

The Attorney-General’s representatives’ statement, he added, is “an interference with our rights to a fair hearing and independent legal counsel” as provided for under Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution.

The right to a fair hearing, Mr Datchinamurthy said, is “a universal right” the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, and is “a widely accepted principle” under customary international law.

LFL urges S’pore AGC to withdraw threat against Malaysian death row prisoners’ counsel M Ravi

Malaysia-based human rights group Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) last 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 alleged that the AGC had “launched an attack” upon M Ravi during a hearing in the High Court for the case filed by Mr Datchinamurthy and Mr Gobi.

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.

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.

The High Court will hold a hearing on Mr Datchinamurthy and Mr Gobi’s lawsuit at a later date.

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