Singapore execution deferred

Amnesty calls for execution of man with intellectual disability to be ended

Update 30 November

The 30 November appeal hearing has been postponed. Ahead of the appeal hearing before the planned execution of Malaysian national Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, Amnesty International’s Singapore Researcher Rachel Chhoa-Howard said:

“Singapore authorities must listen to the global outcry against executing Nagaenthran, whose case has shocked people around the world.  This appeal hearing provides an opportunity to call off this horrific punishment against a man who may not fully understand what is happening to him.

“Nagaenthran’s case has been marred by multiple human rights violations including deep concerns about Nagaenthran’s intellectual disability, which UN experts have stressed would render his execution unlawful. Recent testimony from his family and lawyer about his current mental health condition reinforces these concerns.

“Singapore must act now to avoid a stain on its international reputation by commuting Nagaenthran’s sentence, and avoiding another case like this by urgently reforming its use of the death penalty, and introducing a moratorium on executions as first steps towards full abolition of this cruel punishment.”


Lawyers for Nagaenthran made an application to Singapore’s High Court seeking a stay on the ground that executing him would be unconstitutional in light of his intellectual disability. This application was dismissed, but his lawyers were able to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.

The hearing was postponed after Nagaenthran tested positive for COVID-19 on 9 November, was rescheduled for 30 November, and has now been postponed again. The next date has yet to be confirmed. If appeals are unsuccessful, a stay will be lifted and the execution will proceed, possibly in a matter of days.

Nagaenthran was convicted and sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in November 2010 for importing 42.72 grams of diamorphine (heroin) into the island state in April 2009. His conviction and death sentence have so far been upheld on appeal.

Medical experts who have assessed Nagaenthran found that his cognitive deficits may have contributed towards his diminished responsibility when carrying out his offence. In recent weeks, Nagaenthran’s youngest brother has expressed deep concerns about his brother’s mental state and incomplete understanding of his imminent execution when he was able to visit him in prison.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. As of today, 108 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds are abolitionist in law or practice.

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