Implementation of the death penalty “is not advisable” without cabinet and parliamentary approval, Attorney General Mohamed Anil has told local media.
Last week, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer ordered the Maldives Correctional Services to prepare for the implementation of the death penalty through lethal injection, despite the lack of laws administering capital punishment.
Naseer said he had sought advice from Anil before signing the order, but Anil refused to comment on the matter.
Instead, he said Naseer’s order had not been discussed in the cabinet. Anil has called for an advisory mechanism within the cabinet stating that the president of a Muslim country bears a personal responsibility in the implementation of death sentences.
“It is crucial that there is an established mechanism through which the cabinet of ministers has a role, and the president gets the opportunity to make an informed decision about the matter. However, the order recently released by the Home Minister was not conducted through such a process,” Anil said.
The best method to implement death penalty is through legislation passed by the parliament, he added.
Although the current legislative framework does not mandate legislation for the implementation of death penalty, Anil said broad and in-depth discussions needed to take place before the change in policy.
Since 1954, Maldives has had a moratorium on the death penalty, with the president commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.
“When we are bringing about such a huge change in policy, there are discussions that we must undertake within the cabinet, as well as with the Parliament. I do not believe it is the best thing to do to implement such a sentence at this moment without first going through these motions,” he said.
Former Attorney General Azima Shakoor had drafted a bill on the administration of the death penalty, but the government does not have a time frame to submit the bill to parliament, Anil said.
Once the parliament passes the bill, the death penalty can be implemented in retrospect, he added.
High crime rates in recent years has lead to widespread public support for the death sentence, Anil claimed.
“The rate of crime is rapidly increasing in the Maldives. This includes crimes of a heavily serious nature. Things are escalating to the point where individuals do not even hesitate when committing crimes,” he said.
“Therefore, I believe that the best medium through which we can get the general public’s view on the matter is through the parliament. It is imperative that the parliament holds a debate and comes to a decision on the matter.”
Anil also highlighted the importance of a responsible justice system, pointing out that implementation of such a sentence is in nature an irreversible act.
Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer said he wished to refrain from commenting on the matter at this stage.
Naseer’s order followed the passing of the death sentence on Hussain Humam Ahmed on charges of murdering the moderate religious scholar and MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.
President Abdulla Yameen told local media on Friday that Naseer had released the order under his mandate, but without prior discussion with the cabinet. The cabinet would hold in depth discussions about the matter before coming to a final discussion, he added.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on the Maldives to halt any plans to end the current moratorium on the death penalty, calling such moves “a retrogade step and a serious setback for human rights in the country”.
In May 2013, the UN country team also called for the abolition of death penalty in the Maldives, stating “in view of the country’s more than 50 year moratorium, the UN calls upon the Maldives to take the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to its international human rights obligations, and abolish the death penalty”.
The last execution in the Maldives was the death of Hakim Didi in 1954 who was sentenced to death for practicing black magic.