Singapore must withdraw unacceptable threat against Pannir Selvam’s lawyer
16 July 2019
This statement is in relation to threats made by the Singapore authorities against lawyer N Surendran who has been representing Malaysian death row prisoners, including Pannir Selvam Pranthaman.
Pannir, who is sentenced to death for a drug offence, was granted a last-minute reprieve from execution by the Singapore Court of Appeal on 23 May 2019; his legal challenge against denial of clemency by the President is to be heard on 19 July 2019.
Surendran is his lead Malaysian lawyer and an instructing solicitor to the Singapore lawyers representing Pannir in court.
In a letter dated 12 July 2019, the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers has made the accusation that Surendran had made “scandalous allegations against Singapore and its legal system, including accusing Singapore of acting in total disregard of international legal norms and decent world opinion”.
Coming from the Attorney General’s office in a formal note to the High Court, this amounts to a serious threat against Surendran. Singapore is notorious for bringing contempt of court or criminal defamation charges against its critics. British author Alan Shadrake was similarly prosecuted and jailed in 2011 for making remarks on the death penalty in Singapore.
The threat against Surendran is an unlawful interference by the state of Singapore with the death row prisoners’ right to counsel and legal assistance. Apart from Pannir, Surendran is also acting for several other Malaysian ‘drug mules’ on death row in Changi Prison including Datchinamurthy a/l Kataiah and Gobi a/l Avedian.
By virtue of Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution, every person is entitled to a fair trial which includes the right to legal advice and representation. The threat against Surendran is hence in breach of Singapore’s own laws and Constitution.
It is a calculated attempt to sabotage Pannir’s legal team, as well as hindering legal assistance from Malaysia for the other Malaysian prisoners.
In doing so, Singapore is also in flagrant breach of international law and standards; the right to be provided legal assistance is enshrined in Article 14(3)(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Last week it was revealed that 4 Malaysian drug mules in Changi prison are targeted for execution after their clemency petitions were simultaneously rejected. Singapore must now at least allow them legal advice and assistance without threats or hindrance.
We strongly urge Singapore to urgently withdraw the baseless allegations and unwarranted threat made against lawyer N Surendran, to enable the death row prisoners to seek legal recourse unimpeded.
We further urge the Malaysian government to take up this matter with the Singapore authorities to ensure that Malaysians facing capital charges in Singapore are not prejudiced or deprived of legal defence or assistance.
Lawyers for Liberty