Lawyers for Liberty refers to the persecution of prominent Singapore human rights lawyer M Ravi by the Singapore authorities over his advocacy and defence of Malaysian death row prisoners in the notorious Changi prison.
On 19 September, the disciplinary tribunal of Singapore’s Law Society inflicted a fine of S$10,000, as well as S$3,000 in costs, upon Ravi as a result of a complaint initiated by the Singapore attorney general.
This action by the Singapore authorities on Ravi, arose from a press conference held in Kuala Lumpur by Ravi together with Lawyers for Liberty on 23 July 2019.
In the press conference, Ravi strongly criticised Singapore’s plans to execute Malaysian death row prisoner Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who is mentally ill. Nagaenthran has an IQ of only 69 and has very little understanding of the situation he is in.
Nagaenthran was convicted and sentenced to death on 22 November 2010 for allegedly smuggling 42.72 grams of diamorphine into Singapore.
Despite evidence from an independent psychiatrist that Nagaenthran suffers from mental illness, the Singapore judicial system has sent him to death row.
At present, Nagaenthran remains on death row and could be executed at any time.
It is shocking and unacceptable that Singapore is now targeting M Ravi for speaking out and calling for justice for this Malaysian citizen. Ravi is the lawyer for Nagaenthran’s family. Hence, this is a serious interference by the Singapore authorities with Nagaenthran and his family’s right to legal advice and assistance.
The action against M Ravi for taking up the cause of this mentally impaired Malaysian citizen facing death by hanging is clearly intended to undermine or sabotage the legal efforts to save Nagaenthran.
The baseless punishment meted out to M Ravi by the Singapore authorities is in breach of international legal norms as well as Singapore’s own Constitution. Article 9 of the Singapore constitution enshrines the right to a fair trial. Punishing Nagaenthran’s family lawyer for carrying out his duties jeopardises this right.
We urge the Singapore government:
- to retract the hefty fine levied on M Ravi and nullify the finding of guilt recorded against him
- to cease all current and future attempts to interfere with, intimidate or silence Mr M Ravi
- to respect the right of Malaysian death row prisoners to legal advice and advocacy.
We further urge the Malaysian government to make the necessary objections or representations to the Singapore government over the ongoing intimidation of the Nagaenthran family’s legal counsel.
N Surendran is the advisor for Lawyers for Liberty