The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has condemned the Maldivian government’s decision to implement the death penalty in a press release issued on Wednesday.
The MDN expressed “great concern” over the move to break a sixty-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty in the country. New regulations allow for children as young as seven to be sentenced to death.
“Given the state of the Maldivian judiciary, which is also perceived to be highly politicised and corrupt, it is most concerning that as grave a matter as life and death of humans is to be decided by it,” the MDN stated.
Adopted on April 27, the new regulation provides for the use of the death penalty for the offence of intentional murder, including when committed by individuals under the age of 18. The age of criminal responsibility in the Maldives is ten, but for hadd offences, children as young as seven can be held responsible. Hadd offences include theft, fornication, adultery, consumption of alcohol, and apostasy.
The MDN’s statement closely follows a statement by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in which the organization called for the practice to be abolished.
“We urge the Government to retain its moratorium on the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, particularly in cases that involve juvenile offenders and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the OHCHR.
“We equally encourage the Government to repeal the new regulations and other provisions that provide for the death penalty,” she told reporters.
A step backwards
The regulation on the implementation of the death penalty and the penal code pushes the Maldives backwards in an age when several countries in the world, including Muslim nations, are moving away from it, the MDN said.
The lack of legislation on evidence, witness protection and criminal procedures lead to a systematic failure to do justice and as a result innocent lives may be lost, the organization noted.
“The Maldivian criminal justice system lacks crucial legislation on evidence, witness protection and criminal procedures, leading to structural gaps and systematic failures to do justice as independent observers have noted in the past.
“A catastrophic result of this may be the loss of an innocent life, which is neither replaceable nor correctable.”
The MDN also highlights the possibility for minors to be sentenced to death as a major concern, and violation of the minor’s rights.
“We are also deeply concerned the regulation violates the rights of the child. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a death penalty may not be imposed for a crime committed by a person under 18 regardless of his/her age at the time of the trial or sentencing or of the execution of the sanction.
“In addition to this, research shows that capital punishment does not deter murder any greater than the threat and application of lesser punishments. Maldivian Democracy Network implores the government to reconsider the decision to implement the death penalty in the Maldives, and make meaningful efforts towards prevention of crime and the protection of human life,” the statement concluded.