Press Statement
Singapore must drop bid to disbar Malaysian death row prisoner’s lawyer, M Ravi
20 August 2019


We refer to Singapore’s move to take action against human rights lawyer M Ravi who has been representing the family of Malaysian citizen Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, who is on death row in Changi prison.

Nagaenthran is an alleged drug mule whose final appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2018 and is now facing the gallows. Singapore is threatening to hang him, despite the fact that he is mentally impaired.

Prominent Singaporean lawyer M Ravi has been fighting a vigorous battle to save Nagaenthran’s life on grounds that it is in breach of international legal norms to hang a person who suffers from mental disability.

However, yesterday Mr M Ravi was served with notice of action by the Singapore Attorney-General against him for allegedly ‘prejudicing the administration of justice’. The AG has filed a complaint on those grounds to the Singapore Law Society, which is likely to result in Ravi being barred from legal practice. In addition, contempt of court charges may also be brought against M Ravi.

The complaint against Ravi arises from a statement he had issued in Malaysia during a press conference on 23rd July 2019 in his capacity as lawyer for the family of the Malaysian death row prisoner Nagaenthran.

Singapore is notorious for prosecuting those who criticise its unfair death penalty regime which targets drug mules, whilst the drug kingpins are free to ply their trade. In 2010, British author Alan Shadrake was jailed for criticising capital punishment in Singapore.

For courageously defending a mentally impaired Malaysian citizen, M Ravi now stands to lose his licence to practice law.

This is consistent with the ongoing targeting by Singapore of Malaysian citizens for conviction and execution as drug mules. This was confirmed by Singapore Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in May this year when he publicly stated that they will ‘not go easy on Malaysian drug offenders’.

It is shocking that not only are Malaysians being targeted, but they are also being denied legal representation. It is clear that Singapore now wants to hang Malaysians without giving them the benefit of proper legal representation.

In July this year, Singapore threatened to take action against myself as instructing solicitor for Malaysian prisoners in Changi on a trumped up charge of scandalising their judiciary.

Similarly, they are now persecuting M Ravi, who is known internationally for his relentless advocacy on behalf of death row prisoners and against the death penalty. In 2010, Ravi was instrumental in saving the life of Sabahan Yong Vui Kong from the hangman’s noose.

We condemn this high-handed action against M Ravi and demand that Singapore drop all charges against him. We further demand that Singapore cease and desist from further threatening or interfering with the lawyers of the Malaysian death row prisoners.

We also urge the Malaysian government to make urgent representations to Singapore in protest against the continual persecution and threats against the lawyers of Malaysian death row prisoners.


Released by,
N Surendran
Lawyers for Liberty