Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has released an order on the Maldives Correctional Services mandating the implementation of the death penalty.
“I order the Maldives Correctional Services [MCS] to implement the death penalty – as sentenced by the Supreme Court – through the use of lethal injection, and to make all necessary arrangements for the implementation of such sentences, and to obtain all necessary equipment for the implementation and maintain the set-up at the Maafushi Prison,” read the order signed by Naseer and made public at a press conference today.
The home minister’s decision comes just days after a death sentence was handed to Hussain Humam Ahmed on charges of murdering the moderate religious scholar and MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.
The order was received by MCS Commissioner of Prisons Ahmed Shihan at today’s event.
Naseer stated that the order is in alignment with the draft bill on death penalty implementation which the state has made ready for submission to the parliament. He confirmed that advice had been sought from the attorney general prior to the signing of the order.
“We will not wait for laws to be drafted and passed. The law allows for implementation, and it is at the discretion of the home minister to order implementation,” Naseer said, adding that – should a relevant law be passed in the future – the state would then abide by the new laws.
Implementation only after appeals
The home minister further stated that the death penalty will be implemented only after all appeal processes are exhausted. If the sentenced fails to appeal his case, the state itself will initiate all avenues of appeal prior to the implementation of the sentence, he added .
Naseer said that while the order applies to all pending death sentences, and not just the ones that come after the issuance of the order, the state will not seek to expedite any of the existing appeal cases.
“The government will not interfere with the work of the judiciary, either to expedite or slow down a process. The bottom line is, the death penalty will only be implemented once all the appeal processes are completed,” he stated.
“Regulations on how this penalty will be implemented have already been compiled. Media will have access to the centre of implementation, but not will be allowed inside. The MCS now must run training programs for those who will be involved in this work and they will also begin work on establishing the necessary set up,” he continued.
“While this order does not detail a specific deadline for completion of this task, the MCS will have everything ready by the time we will need to implement such a sentence.”
The minister added that, in the case of minors sentenced to death, “I think the rule is to wait till they turn eighteen for implementation of the sentence. It will be done in accordance with international treaties we have signed”.
Naseer stated that, as Home Minister, he would need to sign a specific order to authorise the execution of each individual person sentenced to death.
A source at the Home Ministry stated that, although there are approximately twenty individuals currently sentenced to death, all cases are being appealed at the High Court and have not yet reached the Supreme Court.
While death sentences continue to be issued in the country, these have traditionally been commuted to life sentences by presidential decree since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954 for the crime of practising black magic.
In May last year, the UN country team called for the abolition of death penalty in the Maldives, stating: “in view of the country’s more than 50 year moratorium, the United Nations call upon the Maldives to take the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to its international human rights obligations, and abolish the death penalty”.
Earlier in 2013, calls for presidential clemency to be blocked resulted in then Attorney General Azima Shakoor asking the High Court to decide upon the matter.
Azima further drafted a bill in December 2012 favouring the implementation of the penalty via lethal injection. This was met with opposition from religious groups including Jamiyathul Salaf, which called for the draft to be amended in favour of beheadings or firing squads.
In June 2013, Dhivehi Qaumee Party MP Riyaz Rasheed submitted a bill asking for death penalty to be implemented by hanging. The bill was rejected by 26 votes to 18, with no abstentions.
During campaigns for 2013 presidential elections, incumbent President Abdulla Yameen stated that “murder has to be punished with murder”. Yameen revealed that, although he was previously not an advocate of the death penalty, he “had a change of heart” due to “murders that have become too commonplace”.