End The Death Penalty In the news

Stephen Fry, Richard Branson and UK MPs call on Singapore to halt execution of man with mental disability

The authorities in Singapore are set to execute a mentally-disabled Malaysian man who has been on death row for more than a decade, despite rising international calls for him to be spared.

The high-profile execution case has sparked a global outcry and support for the Malaysian national as activists and human rights groups have asked authorities to commute the death sentence.

British billionaire Richard Branson, actor-broadcaster Stephen Fry, disability-rights activists Timothy Shriver and several United Nations experts have appealed for mercy for Dharmalingam with Singapore’s president Halimah Yacob and prime minister Lee Hsien Loong.

British MP Chris Matheson, who is the vice chair of the all party parliamentary group for Singapore, has also written to the Asian country’s president, pointing out that Dharmalingam’s right to life is protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by Singapore on 18 July 2013.

In the letter, seen by The Independent, the Labour MP said that the convention’s Article 10 requires states to “refrain from imposing the death penalty on individuals who face specific barriers in defending themselves on an equal basis with others, such as persons whose psycho-social and intellectural disabilities impeded their effective defense”.

Mr Matheson and other signatories of the letter, including Dan Jarvis, Sir Peter Bottomley and Hilary Benn, noted that Dharmalingam was not provided with any such accommodations throughout the legal process.

“When he was informed of the court’s verdict on 29 March, he was reported to have shown no visible reaction to the prospect of execution,” the letter to Ms Halimah read.

Human rights organisation Reprieve has also condemned the decision.

“Nagen’s belief that he may be coming home and his excitement about being reunited with his family is heart-breaking evidence that he does not fully understand he faces execution in less than a week,” Maya Foa, Reprieve’s director, said.

“Killing someone who clearly lacks mental competency will directly undermine Singapore’s efforts to champion the rights of persons with disabilities,” she added. Ms Foa has appealed to the Singaporean administration to grant Dharmalingam clemency or to transfer him to Malaysia “where he may receive family support and care for his condition and his deteriorating mental state”. Read the full story in The Independent.