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The case capturing Singapore

There is a huge case in Singapore that has attracted a lot of international attention. It concerns a man from Malaysia and the death penalty. 

The background 

Malaysian man Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam was caught in 2009 (when he was 21 years old), attempting to smuggle 43 grams of heroin into Singapore. He was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010, and has remained on death row ever since. Singapore notoriously has some of the strictest laws in the world surrounding illicit drugs.   

Originally, Dharmalingam’s execution date was set for earlier this week. However, the execution was halted for 24 hours as Dharmalingam’s legal team managed to successfully argue for a temporary stay (a delay) on the execution after an appeal to the High Court. His execution was then delayed for a second time this week after Dharmalingam tested positive to COVID-19.

People are urging Singapore to change its mind

The case has attracted international attention, with Malaysian authorities and human rights organisations pleading with the Singapore Government to spare his life. Along with his lawyers, many argue Dharmalingam’s low IQ of 69 interferes with his ability to make informed decisions, with advocates arguing this IQ level is an indication of an intellectual disability. A group of United Nations experts explained in a statement, “we are concerned that Mr Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam did not have access to procedural accommodations for his disability during his interrogation. We further highlight that death sentences must not be carried out on persons with serious psychosocial and intellectual disabilities.”

Singaporean authorities, however, argue Dharmalingam was aware of what he was doing when he committed the offence. A previous court ruling found his conduct demonstrated “the working of a criminal mind”. The Ministry of Home Affairs further argued, “Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance stance against illicit drugs. The penalties, including the death penalty, for the illegal trafficking, importation or exportation of drugs are made clear at our borders, to warn traffickers and syndicates of the harsh penalties they potentially face.

“The approach Singapore has taken has resulted in it being one of the safest places in the world to live, relatively free of serious crime, and without the scourge of drug-related crimes and homicides – which take thousands of lives, and destroys countless young people and families, in some countries”, said the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

Singaporean authorities have not yet scheduled a new execution date for Dharmalingam, and it remains unclear when a date will be selected or what date it might be.

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