24 Death Row Inmates Who Tried to Sue the Government Had Their Case Thrown Out By Apex Court


In international law, the death penalty is seen as inhumane and draconian.

Singapore has maintained that capital punishment is an effective form of deterrence and stuck to its nooses, regardless of the censure of public opinion.

2022 appears to be a busy year for the gallows; two more death row inmates are scheduled to hang in Changi Prison this Friday (5 Aug), which brings the number of executed inmates to eight this year alone.

Abdul Rahim Shapiee and his accomplice Ong Seow Ping were convicted in 2018 for trafficking 39.87 grams of heroin.

Inmates: Deprived of Their Rights to Counsel

Perhaps due to the expediency of the recent hangings, 24 prisoners on death row sued the Attorney-General, alleging that they have been deprived of their right to counsel.

The 24 death row inmates’ civil suit against the Attorney General was filed on 1 August.

On Wednesday (3 Aug), High Court Judge See Kee Oon dismissed the claim.

Their case appeal was then heard by the court composed of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justices Tay Yong Kwang and Woo Bih Li.

The group of inmates were led by Iskandar Rahmat, a former policeman who was sentenced to death for the 2013 Kovan double murder.

In the hearing that was held through a video conference on Thursday afternoon (4 Aug), Iskandar claimed that lawyers were unwilling to act on their behalf in the post-appeal applications because they were afraid of being ordered to pay personal costs.

The court can order a lawyer to pay costs if the court deems the legal action as frivolous or vexatious or an abuse of the court processes.

Towards this, Iskandar argued that legal provisions that invested power in the court to impose such costs were unconstitutional.

In response, Chief Justice Menon said that these provisions cannot reasonably deter lawyers from acting in bona fide—real and genuine—applications.

These costs orders are only imposed in proceedings brought or conducted with some impropriety.

Therefore, the cost provisions don’t infringe on the right to counsel as all because there can be no right to an improperly advanced case.

After some seven hours of hearing the inmates’ argument, the apex court delivered its judgement in the early hours of Friday morning and threw out the appeal.

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The Rejected Stay of Execution

This case comes after Abul Rahim’s appeal for a stay of execution was rejected on Wednesday (3 Aug), with Chief Justice Menon citing that the claim was without merit, and it was an abuse of processes.

He also noted that the appeal was filed at the very last minute, five days after Abul Rahim was notified of his execution, which was scheduled on 5 August.

Furthermore, when another lawyer took over Abdul Rahim’s appeal in March 2020, Abdul Rahim did not raise an issue either.

His accomplice in the drug trafficking offence, Ong Seow Ping, is also scheduled to be hanged on the same day.

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Featured Image: Shutterstock / New Africa