The Maldives has accused critics in the UN Human Rights Council of making statements “rooted on misrepresentation and media speculation”.
The response followed comments made by the Swiss delegation criticising the Maldives for its decision to allow the death penalty for minors.
“Switzerland condemns the recent decision of the Maldives Government to amend its legislation to permit the death penalty for children as young as 7 years old – this is a grave contravention of international law,” said the Swiss during yesterday’s session.
The Maldives has this year amended regulations regarding the death penalty as well as introducing a new Penal Code. Combined, the rules allow for the sentencing of a minor to death, though execution cannot be carried out until the offender is 18-years-old.
Using its right of reply, the Maldives pointed out that its new Penal Code – passed in April – granted the “immaturity excuse” to all those under the age of 15.
“The Maldives once again would like to state on record that this Council is mandated to do serious work and it is appalling that statements made here are rooted on misrepresentation and media speculation,” said the Maldivian delegation.
Legal sources have told Minivan News that, while the new Penal Code does include the “immaturity excuse” – removing criminal responsibility from those under 15, Article 15c still allows for minors to be held accountable for hadd offences.
The Maldives legal system follows a combination of common law and Islamic Sharia, with homicide considered a hadd offence warranting a sentence of death.
Informing the Human Rights Council of the new Penal Code, the Maldives delegation called it “a hallmark piece of legislation that is intended to modernise the criminal justice system of the Maldives and to bring it on a par with international best standards.”
In response to the Swiss remarks made during the general debate section yesterday’s session, the Maldives noted that it “holds the worlds longest moratorium on the death penalty”.
However, the government’s decision to end the unofficial moratorium on the practice has been met with global condemnation, with both the EU and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urging reconsideration of the decision.
“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.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called such moves a “retrograde step and a serious setback for human rights in the country”.
Following a wave of attacks in the country last month, resulting in three deaths, the Ministry of Home Affairs reiterated that it would not hesitate to implement the death penalty.