No law or treaty bars execution of people with IQ under 70: Court of Appeal

The court had dismissed two last-ditch attempts last month by a pair of drug traffickers to stop their scheduled executions. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - No domestic law or international treaty explicitly prohibits the execution of people who have an IQ of less than 70, the Court of Appeal said in written grounds on Wednesday (March 9).

The court issued two sets of detailed grounds this week to explain why it had dismissed two last-ditch attempts in February by a pair of drug traffickers to stop their scheduled executions.

In the later bid, lawyer Charles Yeo, who acted for Singaporean Roslan Bakar, 51, and Malaysian Pausi Jefridin, 37, had argued that it was unlawful to execute people who have an IQ of less than 70.

Mr Yeo contended that Roslan has an IQ of 74, while Pausi has an IQ of 67.

The apex court said: "We rejected that argument primarily on the basis that both appellants had been found by the courts to have no abnormality of mind that impaired their responsibility for the offences they had committed."

The court stressed that the issue of their mental states has been dealt with in great detail in previous court proceedings, and that evidence from psychiatrists and psychologists has been considered.

It reiterated that Roslan was the central figure in the drug transaction, while Pausi was able to transport the drugs from Malaysia to Singapore and deliver them with no difficulty.

The court said it appeared that the men were trying to focus their argument on the basis of IQ because there was no new material which can cast doubts on court findings regarding their mental capacity.

In any case, said the court, Mr Yeo's argument would apply only to Pausi and not to Roslan.

The court said Mr Yeo was aware that there is no domestic law which prohibits the execution of persons with an IQ of less than 70.

Mr Yeo referred to Article 15 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to two resolutions passed by the United Nations on the rights of mentally disabled people.

But the court said: "Neither Article 15 of the CRPD or any other material relied on by the appellants expressly prohibits the execution of persons who have IQs of less than 70."

Roslan and Pausi were convicted in 2010 of trafficking in not less than 96.07g of heroin and sentenced to death.

Their appeals were dismissed in 2011.

In 2017, the High Court found that neither of them suffered from an abnormality of the mind that would qualify them to be spared the death penalty.

This was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2018.

In late January this year, President Halimah Yacob ordered the death sentences to be carried out on Feb 16.

Two days before their scheduled execution, Mr Yeo applied to the Court of Appeal to review its 2018 decision. This was dismissed on Feb 15.

Mr Yeo then filed an application seeking to start judicial review proceedings to declare that the death sentences were unconstitutional. This was dismissed on Feb 16.

In dismissing the first application, the court said: "Regrettably, it had been cobbled together without substance in a desperate attempt to halt the scheduled executions."

As for the second application, the court said the points lacked factual basis and repeated what had been raised and rejected in the earlier application.

Both men have filed a fresh application and their executions have been paused.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.