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Prabagaran Srivijayan

  • D.O.B: 16 November 1987
  • Singapore
  • Death penalty; mandatory death penalty

Prabagaran Srivijayan, a young Malaysian man, was found guilty of drug trafficking in Singapore. He was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty with no consideration of the individual circumstances of his case. After he had exhausted all his appeals in Singapore Prabagaran began legal proceedings in Malaysia. He was executed in 2017 with an appeal still pending before the Malaysian courts.

Prabagaran's story

On the 12th April 2012 twenty-five year old Prabagaran (“Praba”) was travelling from his home in Malaysia across the border to work in Singapore. He was driving an acquaintance’s car, which he maintains he had borrowed after falling behind on the instalment payments for his motorbike. Having passed customs at the Malaysia-Singapore border Praba stopped to fix a faulty window on the car. He was called into an inspection pit, the car was searched and 22.24g of diamorphine, more commonly known as heroin, was found concealed in the arm rest. In Singapore, anyone found guilty of trafficking 15g of diamorphine will be automatically sentenced to death, unless – following narrow reforms introduced in 2013 – they can prove that their role was limited to that of a drug mule, or “courier” and the Public Prosecutor certifies that they substantively assisted in the investigation.

Praba maintains that he had no knowledge of the substance found in the car. However, under Singaporean law, an illegal substance found in a vehicle will be presumed to belong to the driver unless they can prove “on the balance of probabilities” that they did not know anything about the drugs. The burden of proof is therefore stacked against the defendant.

The only people who could corroborate Praba’s story, the owner of the car and his friend who had suggested that he borrow the vehicle, were not called as witnesses at trial, even though Praba had identified the men and provided addresses for both of them. Without any witnesses called in his defence, Praba could only rely on his own oral testimony at trial. It was a case of his word against that of the prosecution. Despite his cooperation with the investigating authorities, Praba was not provided with a certificate of assistance which would have meant a life sentence could be imposed. He was found guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in September 2014.

Appeals exhausted

Praba appealed unsuccessfully against his conviction and death sentence. We assisted his Singaporean legal team in bringing a constitutional challenge to the mandatory imposition of the death sentence, arguing that the new legislation introduced in 2013 did not go far enough to safeguard the rights of those facing the death penalty and that judges should have full discretion over what sentence to impose. The appeal was dismissed.

Having exhausted all his appeals in Singapore, we assisted Praba’s Malaysian legal team in bringing a Judicial Review Proceeding before the Malaysian courts on behalf of Praba and three other Malaysian prisoners also sentenced the mandatory death penalty in Singapore. Malaysia has a duty to take all reasonable steps to protect the life and liberty of all its citizens, including by making diplomatic representations on their behalf. We argued that Malaysia had so far failed in its responsibilities towards Praba and the the appellants, and was compelled to bring proceedings against Singapore in the International Court of Justice to protect the rights of its citizens.


Praba’s execution date was set while his proceedings were still pending before the Malaysian courts. A last minute application for a stay of execution was refused and Praba was executed before the Malaysian court had an opportunity to make a decision in his case.

Case Timeline

  1. Praba is stopped at the Singapore-Malaysia border and found in possession of 22.24 grams of heroin

  2. Praba is found guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced to death

  3. Praba appeals unsuccesfully against his conviction and sentence

  4. The Death Penalty Project becomes involved in the case

  5. A constitutional challenge to the mandatory nature of Praba's death sentence is dismissed

  6. Judicial review proceedings are commenced in the High Court of Malaysia and shortly after dismissed

  7. A Notice of Appeal is filed against the decision of the High Court of Malaysia

  8. Praba’s family receives notice that he will be executed in a week’s time

  9. An emergency application for a stay of execution is refused

  10. Prabagaran Srivijayan is executed

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