The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) on Tuesday voiced deep concern about a new regulation in the Maldives that effectively overturns a 60-year moratorium on the use of capital punishment in the country and allows for children as young as seven to be sentenced to death.
“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 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“We equally encourage the Government to repeal the new regulations and other provisions that provide for the death penalty,” she told reporters in Geneva.
Adopted on 27 April, 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.
“According to the new regulation, minors convicted of intentional murder shall be executed once they turn 18. Similar provisions in the recently ratified Penal Code, allowing for the application of the death penalty for crimes committed when below the age of 18, are also deeply regrettable,” Shamdasani said.
Under international law, those who are charged and convicted for offences they commit while they are under 18 years of age should not be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without possibility of release, the spokesperson added.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer said the chances of killing an innocent person after completing all the procedures in the regulation – titled “procedural regulation on investigating and penalising the crime of murder” – was “far-fetched” and “almost impossible”.
With the new regulation, the president will no longer have this authority if a person is sentenced to death for murder by the Supreme Court, Naseer noted.
Although the death penalty has proven to be a contentious issue, Naseer assured the international community that the Madlives has a firm reason to continue with the ruling.
“There will be some parties who will be concerned about this. Concerned countries, concerned NGOs. Some counties are not too pleased with it [death penalty, but we will know about the issue of executing people in this country, the overcrowding of prisons in this country, how much the criminal environment is more lively in this country. And we are a hundred percent Islamic country and there are certain values that we all believe in,” Naseer said.
Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has called for the death penalty to be put into practice in the Maldives from as early as July 2013.
The half brother of former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, first told media of his “change of heart” while speaking on the program Voice of Maldives on July 22 2013.
Yameen explained that although he had not been not an advocate of the death penalty, he now believed it must be implemented to save Maldivian society from commonplace murders that have become too commonplace.
“Murder has to be punished with murder,” Yameen said.