Three minors have been charged over the death of 21-year-old Hussein Waheed, who died from stab injuries to his chest on December 24, 2013.
A 16-year-old is also being charged with murder, while a second 16-year-old is being charged as an accomplice to murder. A 14-year-old is also being charged with attacking another individual at the scene.
Although the Juvenile Court reduces sentences for juvenile offenders, judges have no opportunity to offer leniency in murder-related offenses, a juvenile court spokesperson told Minivan News.
New death penalty regulations publicised in March allow children as young as seven to be executed for murder. The regulations came partly in response to a spate of gang-related killings in the capital in recent years.
Home Minister Umar Naseer said the regulations were a first step to “keeping peace and creating a safe environment for our citizens.”
According to the police, Waheed was murdered in a dispute over drugs between rival gangs in Malé. He was attacked at 10:30pm on December 24, and died shortly afterwards at 11:10pm at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
Malé’s prominent gang culture has been well documented in recent years as using young people to carry out illegal acts, with persistent suggestions that the groups are linked with powerful business and political factions.
The 16-year-old murder suspect is accused of stabbing Waheed in the chest with a six inch blade, while the second 16-year-old is accused of helping the suspect flee the scene.
The 14-year-old is being charged with attempting to attack another person at the scene with a 7-inch blade.
All three are currently under police custody.
The police also arrested two additional men over the murder and have previously noted that all four individuals initially arrested in this case – except the 14-year-old – have criminal records.
The murder suspect had previously been sentenced for three counts of theft but was released on completing a rehabilitation program by the Juvenile Court.
Hearings are scheduled for May 27 and June 3.
The victim Waheed also has a criminal record, being taken into police custody in April 2011 as part of a special operation to reduce crime in the capital, in connection to a stockpile of weapons and drugs found in a Malé house.
On December 29, Naseer said the police had prevented a second revenge attack for Waheed’s murder in late December.
In May 2013, Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the sentencing of two 18-year-olds to death for a murder committed while they were minors.
The Juvenile Court issued the death sentence to two 18 year-olds found guilty of the February 18, 2012 murder of Abdul Muheeth. Muheeth was stabbed at 1:45am near the Finance Ministry building in the capital Malé and later died during treatment.
“The Maldives is entering new and dangerous territory – imposing death sentences for crimes allegedly committed by children is alarming,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.
“The Maldives authorities are flouting international law – anyone convicted of a crime committed when they were under 18 is exempt from the death penalty,” she said.