Malaysian NGO ordered to pay $1,000 as costs for joining drug traffickers' bid to halt execution

The Court of Appeal said Lawyers for Liberty had abused the court's process by joining the pair in filing a criminal motion. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Malaysian non-governmental organisation Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), which participated in a last-ditch court action by two drug traffickers to stop their execution, was ordered on Wednesday (July 27) to pay $1,000 in legal costs.

Lawyer Charles Yeo, who acted for Singaporean Roslan Bakar and Malaysian Pausi Jefridin, was similarly ordered to pay $4,000 in costs to the Attorney-General.

The Court of Appeal said LFL had abused the court's process by joining the pair in filing a criminal motion that asked the court to review its earlier decision to uphold their death sentences.

The procedure "is not there to be used by private organisations for their own purposes", said the court.

LFL's purpose in becoming an applicant "must have been to further, or obtain publicity for, its abolitionist aims", said the court, referring to the organisation's campaign against the death penalty.

As for Mr Yeo, the court said he had acted improperly in filing and presenting the criminal motion, as well as a separate civil appeal, when he had no basis to justify the two legal actions.

This caused the Attorney-General to incur costs unnecessarily in both proceedings, especially as the work had to be done on an urgent basis, said the court.

Roslan, 51, and Pausi, 37, were given the death penalty in 2010 and have unsuccessfully challenged their sentences over the years.

They were scheduled to be hanged on Feb 16 this year.

On Feb 14, Mr Yeo filed a criminal motion asking the apex court to review its 2018 decision.

LFL was named as a party in the application, which was dismissed on Feb 15.

Mr Yeo then filed a civil application to start judicial review proceedings to declare that the death sentences were unconstitutional.

This was dismissed on Feb 16.

The pair's executions have been put off for an unstated length of time, as they were granted a respite by President Halimah Yacob.

The Attorney-General sought costs of $2,000 against LFL and costs totalling $25,000 against Mr Yeo.

The costs applications were heard on June 27, with Mr Yeo representing himself and Malaysian lawyer N. Surendran K. Nagarajan appearing via video link for LFL.

The court rejected Mr Surendran's arguments that the provisions which empower the court to make costs orders in respect of criminal proceedings were unconstitutional as they impede access to justice.

The court said: "Having accepted that LFL had no standing to make any application in this court... he yet had the temerity to question the validity of a law that was passed precisely to discourage the wasting of valuable court resources by persons who have no business being a party before the courts in the first place."

The court said an accused person's access to justice is not unlimited to the extent that one could infinitely take out applications that are frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an abuse of process in order to delay the carrying out of punishment.

The court said Roslan and Pausi had been accorded every opportunity to defend their innocence and challenge their convictions and sentences.

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