Civil society groups have condemned proposed amendments to the law prohibiting possession of dangerous weapons, which would restrict the rights to remain silent and to retain legal counsel
The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) have urged parliament to withhold from passing the amendments.
A joint press statement by the two organisations stated their belief that the amendments to the 2010 law “absolutely violates rather than limits fundamental rights of the people” and that, if passed, “will seriously hinder the democratic system Maldives has transited to”.
The statement also expressed concerns that the amendments’ use of the phrase ‘..although the Constitution states such..’ appears to bring in laws above the Constitution, opening space for similar amendments to be made which also violate the Constitution.
Attorney General Mohamed Anil revealed the government’s intention to narrow constitutional rights at a press conference in October after a spate of violent assaults in the capital – which police said were a series of gang reprisals – saw three young men stabbed to death.
While presenting the amendments to the Peoples Majlis earlier this month, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ibrahim Didi said special measures were needed to curb increasing violent assaults, to ease the public’s fears and anxiety, and to establish public order and safety.
The amendments bill states that suspects arrested for assault with sharp objects or dangerous weapons will not be able to exercise the right to remain silent “to any extent”.
Police could also question the suspect if he or she is either unable to have an attorney present within six hours, or waives the right to retain legal counsel.
Moreover, the suspect could only consult a lawyer in the presence of a police officer for the first 96 hours after the arrest.
MDN and CHRI argued that such amendments would eventually result in the “subversion of the Constitution”. Opposition MPs have also described the changes as unconstitutional, suggesting that the government was blaming a lack of legislation for its own failure to curb violent crime.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy has said that the actual obstacle to securing convictions for violent crimes was “incompetency and corruption within the criminal justice system”.
The MDP has condemned the growing insecurity within the country after the current government’s failure to adequately address public fears following a rise in violent crimes.
However, President Abdulla Yameen said that his administration has achieved “peace and order in Malé and all regions of Maldives” while acknowledging that “isolated and significant” dangerous crimes do occur.
Speaking at a PPM rally this month, President Yameen reiterated the government’s resolve to implement the death penalty for the sake of human rights and dignity.
“I want to say tonight as well in your presence, this government will have no mercy at all for those who slaughter Maldivian citizens with no mercy,” said Yameen at the ‘Successful 365 Days’ event held in Malé on November 21.
While speaking at a seminar on strengthening the criminal justice system yesterday (November 30), Vice President Mohamed Jameel – formerly justice minister under the presidency of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – said that the hands of investigating officers were tied by the Constitution.
“The changes we brought to our legal system are very good. They are very complete. However, they have not been implemented in a very good manner,” Sun Online reported Jameel as saying.
“In completing the desired results of those changes, many have been negligent, and the society is becoming frustrated as a result. The people have begun questioning about the reliability of laws and the protection that should be guaranteed by a judicial system.”
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