As parliament faces requests to ensure the death penalty is carried out when administered by the courts, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said it was presently impossible to know the level of support within the Majlis for such an act without voting on the matter.
Local media, citing the home minister, reported yesterday that a letter had been sent to parliament requesting that death penalties assigned by the country’s courts be enacted in future. In previous cases where the death sentence had been favoured as a punishment by the judiciary over the past 60 years, the state has intervened to commute such verdicts to life imprisonment (25 years) instead.
Following the murder of a 26 year-old police officer yesterday on Kaashidhoo island in Kaafu Atoll – the eighth recorded homicide recorded this year in the Maldives – Dr Jameel, Attorney General Azima Shakoor and other prominent lawyers and lawmakers have publicly endorsed their support for implementing capital punishment to deter similar crimes.
According to a police statement, Lance Corporal Adam Haleem was suspected of having been attacked around midnight while on his way to report for duty.
Speaking to Minivan News, Dr Jameel said that amidst an issue of “general concern” concerning violent crimes being committed in the country, current statutes adopted in the Maldives failed to provide “guiding principles on the implementation” of the death sentence.
One recent high-profile case regarding the death penalty has been seen in the murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb. On Thursday (July 19), Ahmed Murrath, 29, and his girlfriend Fathimath Hana, 18, were both sentenced to death after being found guilty in the Criminal Court of each having a role in Najeeb’s death.
The couple were arrested and charged with Najeeb’s murder after his body was discovered by police at Maafanu Masroora house, (Murrath’s residence) in early evening of July 1. The badly beaten body was found stuffed inside a dustbin with multiple stab wounds.
Responding to the trial’s conclusion last week, the government said it expected both verdicts to be commuted to life imprisonment (25 years) pending the outcome of a cabinet consultation – as his been the case with all other death sentences administered by the courts over the last sixty years.
With parliament already reviewing a proposed amendment that would make the enforcement of capital punishment mandatory, should it be upheld by the Supreme Court, Dr Jameel said he personally had no say on the outcome of a sentence already passed by the judiciary.
“I do not believe that the home minister has got any discretion to decide whether to implement or not to implement any sentence after it is delivered by a court of law,” he said.
Ask whether he believed that President Waheed would opt to commute the sentences passed to Murrath and Hana, Dr Jameel claimed that where alternative punishments were available for certain offences, it was possible in these cases to commute a punishment.
“However, in [regards to the] death sentence it is not clear whether this option is available or not,” he said.
When also considering the potential method of execution to be used on convicted criminals facing the death penalty, Dr Jameel contended that present statues failed to provide any procedures on how to implement such sentencing should parliament opt to uphold such verdicts.
“In the case of death sentences, the statutes do not provide procedures for its implementation, hence, where a death sentence exhausts all stages of the criminal justice process, a question of implementation arises that will still require implementation procedures to be enacted by legislation,” he said. “Currently, the statutes do not provide guiding principles on the implementation of this form of punishment.”
In addressing the sentences given by the court, the government said that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan would be consulting with his cabinet and Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor over the verdicts.
President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News last week that while consultations on the matter would be held, he did not expect a “departure” from the long-standing state policy of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.
“There has been pressure from certain groups to uphold death sentences, but I do not think these calls are in line with the will of the Maldivian people,” he said. “The president will also have to look into our obligations under the various international treaties we have signed.”
Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) asked the Maldivian state to enact legislation to officially abolish the death penalty as part of a wider review of human rights commitments in the nation.
“The state itself has admitted that capital punishment does not deter crime,” the statement noted.
Despite such calls, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz said the death penalty could be executed within the existing justice system of the Maldives.
The chief justice told local media that Maldives legal system, being based on Islamic Sharia, allows the death penalty to be implemented.