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Death Penalty

Death row inmate Yong Vui Kong’s lawyer M. Ravi files for judicial review of Singapore government’s clemency process

July 27, 2010 update: The 28th July hearing on judicial review will be heard in-chambers instead of open court. Lawyer M. Ravi hopes the judge would decide otherwise as this is of public interest.

See here for my timeline of articles/reports/videos on Yong Vui Kong’s case.

Lawyer M Ravi files judicial review on Yong Vui Kong’s case
By Choo Zheng Xi, The Online Citizen, 22 July 2010

Mr M Ravi, the lawyer for death row inmate Yong Vui Kong on Wednesday filed a judicial review application to ask the Singapore courts to hold that his client’s right to a fair clemency hearing has been undermined.

Mr Ravi’s application argued that the clemency process has been so prejudged that the court should issue an order of prohibition to prevent the execution and the clemency process from moving ahead.

The application cited Law Minister K Shanmugam’s comments on Yong’s case on 9 May 2010 and the Ministry of Law’s subsequent press release on 9 July as having “irreversibly tainted the clemency process with apparent bias”.

Mr Shanmugam’s comments on 9 May were made at a community event when a member of the audience asked about Yong’s case in relation to the government’s policy on drug trafficking. Mr Shanmugam replied: “Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘We let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?”

The Ministry of Law’s statement on 9 July further re-stated the government’s position on Yong and the death penalty by highlighting that he “had also trafficked in other drugs such as Ketamine, Ecstasy, Ice and Erimin 5 when he was arrested”.

Mr Ravi’s rebuttal in a press statement noted that the additional trafficking charges were never brought and proven in open court, and that the Law Ministry’s highlighting of them further prejudiced the clemency process by highlighting the government’s antipathy towards Yong.

Mr Ravi’s application also argued that the Elected President’s powers under Article 22P of the Constitution has been usurped by Cabinet in advance of the clemency petition being received. He cited then Attorney-General Walter Woon’s comments in court that “The President does not have discretion in this matter (clemency).”

Yong was supposed to have been executed last year in December but Mr Ravi managed to obtain a stay of execution to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty four days before the execution. Yong’s appeal was subsequently rejected on 14 May 2010. Judicial review is one of his last chances at halting the execution.

22 July 2010, Straits Times
Trafficker’s lawyer files for judicial review
Process of granting presidential pardons is flawed, he argues
By Rachel Chang

IN A third attempt to save his 22-year-old client from the gallows, the lawyer for convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong has filed a petition for judicial review of the clemency process.

In his latest initiative, Mr M. Ravi wants to argue that the process by which the President grants pardons is flawed.

Legal observers say the move is unprecedented. Petitions for judicial reviews are usually for executive actions, not processes enshrined in the Constitution.

Mr Ravi’s two earlier attempts to save his client – for whom he is acting free of charge – led nowhere.

One was a plea for presidential clemency last year, the other an appeal to Singapore’s highest court, the Court of Appeal, this year.

The next obvious step is a second plea for presidential clemency following the Court of Appeal’s decision. He has until late August to file this.

However, Mr Ravi does not want to take that route yet.

He wants judicial review of the clemency process, arguing that the President is not independent in his decisions about clemency.

‘I can’t file for clemency for my client before this breach (in the clemency process) is addressed,’ he told The Straits Times yesterday.

He bases his argument on two sets of remarks, one by then Attorney-General Walter Woon, the other by Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

Arguing the prosecution’s case before the Court of Appeal in March, Professor Woon had said that ‘although in theory it is the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy, in fact it is the Cabinet who makes the decision’.

Mr Shanmugam, on his part, said during a dialogue with Joo Chiat residents in May: ‘Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘We let you go’, what is the signal we are sending? We are sending a signal to all the drug barons out there: Just make sure you choose a victim who is young, or a mother of a young child, and use them as the people to carry the drugs into Singapore.’

Mr Ravi argues that since Mr Shanmugam is a member of the Cabinet, his remarks on Yong’s case imply a prejudgment of Yong’s appeal for clemency – if the clemency decision is indeed taken by the Cabinet and not the President.

He wants the Court to declare that the President’s independent power to grant clemency has been ‘usurped’ by the Cabinet, and to grant Yong an indefinite stay of execution.

Mr Shanmugam’s comments were made at a May 9 dialogue in Joo Chiat, in reply to a resident asking whether the Government’s policy on the death penalty for drug offences would change as a result of Yong’s case.

Earlier this month, the Law Ministry issued a statement to rebut claims made by Mr Ravi in various forums that Mr Shanmugam’s remarks had interfered with Yong’s case.

Mr Shanmugam had not commented on any specific issue which was before the Court of Appeal, or on what the outcome should be, it said.

The minister’s comments, it pointed out, ‘were on the Government’s legislative policy and whether that policy will change, and the extent to which youthfulness (as in the case of Mr Yong), or other personal factors are relevant in the formulation of Government policy to tackle the drug menace’.

‘Mr Ravi’s proposition that the clemency process has been flawed, either by what the minister has said, or by reason of the Attorney-General advising the Government, is also incorrect,’ it said.

Lawyers interviewed yesterday said Mr Ravi’s petition was unprecedented.

‘To succeed in a judicial review, you need to show that there has been an error in the legal process,’ said criminal lawyer Edmond Pereira.


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