Press Statement


Singapore must withdraw unprecedented threat against lawyer M Ravi for acting for Malaysian death row prisoners in ‘neck-breaking’ case


5 February 2020


We refer to the case filed last week by two Malaysian death row prisoners in the Singapore High Court for a stay of their execution, pending investigation of the disclosure that executions in Changi prison are carried out by brutal kicks to the back of the neck, whenever the rope snaps. The two Malaysians are Datchinamurthy Kataiah and Gobi Avedian, both of whom are convicted drug mules.


Both Malaysians are represented by prominent Singapore human rights lawyer M Ravi. The cases are of critical importance as they are the last avenue for them to avoid the gallows.


Yesterday afternoon, during a hearing in the High Court for the case filed by the two Malaysians, the Singapore Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) launched an attack upon lawyer M Ravi, telling the Court that they ‘expressly reserve all rights against Mr Ravi’. This means that the all-powerful Singapore AGC is dangling the threat of criminal proceedings or punitive action upon M Ravi, should he proceed with this controversial case. This is like a sword of Damocles left hanging upon M Ravi personally.  Despite repeated requests by M Ravi during yesterday’s hearing, the AGC refused to withdraw their threat.


Singapore has a range of oppressive laws at its disposal to use against M Ravi, and has a long track record of intimidating or charging critics of its brutal death penalty regime.


For such a threat to be made against a lawyer defending prisoners facing execution is shocking and unprecedented, even for a notoriously intolerant country such as Singapore.


This bid to intimidate lawyer M Ravi is yet another attempt to suppress or cover-up the truth about the unlawful and brutal method of administering kicks to the neck of prisoners in carrying out executions. Singaporean authorities appear fearful of the facts that may emerge in the course of this case, including the expected testimony of the former Singapore prison officer who had exposed the ‘neck-breaking’ method.


The threat to M Ravi is a blatant breach of prisoners’ constitutional right to a fair trial. The two Malaysians cannot expect a fair hearing in the Singapore High Court of their bid to halt their executions, if the threat of criminal or punitive proceedings is kept hanging over their lawyer’s head.


Singapore is also in breach of Article 9 of their own Constitution, which guarantees the right to a fair hearing. Tampering with prisoner’s counsel is a direct violation of the right to a fair hearing.


In addition, Singapore is in breach of Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which guarantees the right to a fair hearing. Singapore is bound to respect this principle as it is a member state of the United Nations.


The right to counsel is widely accepted and is regarded as part of customary international law. The threat to M Ravi and breach of the fair trial rights of the two Malaysians is thus contrary to international law. We are now considering all remedies available to us under international law.


We urge the Singapore government to immediately withdraw the threat against M Ravi, and to guarantee the right to a fair hearing for the two Malaysians. Singapore must also stop all further attempts to cover-up the truth about the ‘neck-breaking’ disclosures made last month by LFL. Instead, they must carry out a fair and impartial investigation into the allegations.


We also urge the Malaysian government to take all necessary steps to safeguard the rights of Datchinamurthy and Gobi, as well as other Malaysians incarcerated in Changi prison by the Singapore regime.


Issued by,

N Surendran


Lawyers for Liberty