Malaysia-based rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has slammed the Singapore government over a S$5000 cost order imposed on local human rights lawyer Ravi Madasamy over the latter’s application for a case involving a Malaysian drug trafficker on death row.
LFL advisor N Surendran in a statement* on Tuesday (18 May) said that the cost, which is payable to Singapore’s Attorney-General, was ordered by the Court of Appeal here on 14 May.
“The excessive fine arose from a complaint by the AG (Attorney General) against Ravi over applications he had filed in court on behalf of death row prisoner Syed Suhail. This case led to disclosures in court that Singapore authorities had been illegally spying on communications from prison between Malaysian death row prisoners and their lawyers and family,” he said.
Through a legal challenge filed by 22 death row inmates in Changi Prison in January this year, it was revealed that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had sought access to the private correspondence of 13 of the 22 death row inmates and had received the letters from the Singapore Prison Service (SPS).
Mr Surendran added in his statement, “M Ravi has been at the forefront in defending Malaysian citizens facing the death penalty under Singapore’s notorious and draconian drug laws” and that the lawyer is consequently harassed and intimidated.
Last Friday, the Court of Appeal ordered Mr Ravi, widely known as M Ravi, to pay the prosecution personal costs of S$5,000 over an application he made in Mr Syed’s case.
The three-judge court stated that Mr Ravi’s conduct was “egregious”, “improper” and even “grandstanding”, as he chose to advance an unmeritorious application and incurring “unnecessary costs”, and highlighting various arguments “to see what would stick”.
Justice Andrew Phang, who delivered the judgment on behalf of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash, said Mr Ravi had brought the application in abuse of process and behaved improperly, with his conduct “(falling) short of what is expected of reasonable defence counsel”.
Commenting on the cost order imposed on Mr Ravi, Mr Surendran said that the move is “unprecedented” given that he was merely doing his job as defence counsel in a death penalty case.
“Singapore’s use of draconian drug laws and unjust profiling against low-income Malaysian citizens for arrest over alleged drug-trafficking is well-known. As stated above, they have even resorted to spying on privileged communications between lawyers and Malaysian prisoners,” he said.
Citing another case of Malaysian Gobi Avedian in October last year, Mr Surendran said that Mr Ravi’s efforts managed to successfully re-open the case of the Malaysian citizen, adding that the fine imposed on the Singaporean lawyer was “clearly intended to prevent him from vigorously pursuing appeals in the cases of the other Malaysians in death row”.
“Apart from this, the Singapore AG has also brought disciplinary action against Ravi, by faulting legitimate court applications Ravi had pursued in Gobi Avedian’s case,” he stated.
Mr Surendran went on to note that the prosecution of Mr Ravi in regards to his stance against death penalty has been “longstanding and a black mark upon Singapore’s international reputation”.
“We strongly urge the Singapore government to respect the rule of law, and allow lawyer M Ravi to carry on his efforts on behalf of Malaysian death row prisoners without further subjecting him to such oppressive proceedings,” said Mr Surendran, adding that lawyers in Malaysia have managed to raise the full sum of S$5000 in support of Mr Ravi, within hours after the decision was made.
*statement is not viewable in Singapore due to restriction by the Singapore government after LHL refused to comply with correction direction order under POFMA on a post made by the organisation.