The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on the case of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, 34, who has been on death row for over a decade.
Nagaenthran, a Malaysian, was to have been executed on Nov 10 last year for drug trafficking, but his execution was postponed after he tested positive for Covid-19 a day earlier.
He is said to have an IQ of 69 and to suffer from an intellectual disability. His case has received considerable international attention last year.
Many have pleaded for clemency on his behalf, including Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah, and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, rapporteurs from the United Nations and British business magnate Richard Branson, among other celebrities.
Nagaenthran has filed several appeals over the years, all of which have been dismissed. A clemency petition from his mother, Panchalai, was submitted to President Halimah Yakob but it was turned down.
In the latest appeal, the court of five judges, including Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, said on Mar 1 that they will hand down the decision on Nagaenthran’s case “soon,” but did not give a date.
Ms Violet Netto, Nagaenthran’s lawyer, has asked for her client to be granted an “urgent independent psychiatric assessment and up-to-date full neurocognitive test to evaluate his competency to be executed”.
She took over Nagaenthran’s case from M Ravi, who is on medical leave at present, but who said in a Facebook post that he will assist Ms Netto.
Ms Netto is also asking for sufficient time to find independent psychiatrists to evaluate her client’s condition, and has asked for his medical and psychiatric assessments from the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) to be given to Nagaenthran and his family on a confidential basis, TODAY reports.
Nagaenthran’s lawyers are arguing that under international human rights law, because of his intellectually disabilities, he should not be executed. They have also claimed that his mental capacity has further diminished since he has been in prison.
But Chief Justice Menon said Singapore’s laws provide for the mandatory death penalty in Nagaenthran’s situation, adding that the country is a dualist jurisdiction. This means that it does not recognize international treaties as having an effect on local laws without specific legalisation from Parliament.
“Even if there was a treaty that would be violated, it does not impact domestic court that is passing a domestic judgement,” he added.
CJ Menon also said that the that three medical reports from psychiatric experts the defence has presented have been based on the “unqualified opinion” of Mr Ravi and Nagaenthran’s brother.
The Chief Justice also asked Ms Netto why she prevented the court from looking at her client’s medical and psychiatric reports from SPS, adding that this would “provide an objective record of the subject’s competency for execution”.
“In order to be satisfied that there is a real issue to look at, we need some evidence. And the best evidence, in this case, is the medical records kept by prison authorities. But you have stopped us from looking at these records,” he said.
On the prosecution’s side, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Wong Woon Kwong said that there is “no reliable evidence” from Ms Netto to prove her claims of the decline in his mental capacity and that there is “no ground” to her claim that Nagaenthran is not competent for execution.
Ms Netto, who had arrived late to court and had submitted a psychiatrist’s report from a Danny Sullivan from Australia shortly before the hearing, was admonished by the Chief Justice. She apologised.
She was also called out by Justice Andrew Phang for “drip-feeding”, which is how he characterized her “one-by-one” submission of last-minute applications.
He said, ”It’s an abuse of court, I’ll be very direct with you.”
Ms Netto reminded the court that both she and Mr Ravi are on medical leave and asked for judicial mercy, Mothership reports.
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