Additional reporting by Neil Merrett
Parliament on Monday rejected 26-18 with no abstentions a bill proposed by government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed to implement the death penalty by hanging.
The death penalty legislation was put to a vote to decide whether or not to proceed with the bill at committee stage.
Presenting the bill at a sitting earlier this month, the MP for Vilufushi said the legislation proposed implementing the death penalty by hanging if the Supreme Court upheld a death sentence passed by a lower court.
He contended that the death penalty would act as an effective deterrent to the increasing rate of premeditated murders in the Maldives.
MP Riyaz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed reportedly said he “will not vote to kill someone” at a time when the judiciary did not inspire public confidence.
“In reality, there are a lot of things I want to consider before I cast a vote that will allow a Maldivian citizen to be executed. Islam has determined penalties for certain reasons, to protect certain things. To protect property, life, religion, lineage and dignity. I don’t want a person to die because of a vote that I cast in favour of a law that does not protect these things,” the former MDP MP was quoted as saying by Sun Online.
The MDP meanwhile said today that there had been a “strong understanding” among the party’s MPs participating in the vote to dismiss the bill.
MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the party’s parliamentary group had opted to throw out the bill on the grounds that it would be “irresponsible” to approve such measures with ongoing concerns held by itself and independent experts over the functioning of the country’s judiciary.
Ghafoor additionally criticised the proposed bill as being irrelevant, arguing that the country’s draft penal code – a recent issue of contention between MPs and certain political parties – already included provisions for the death sentence as outlined under Islamic Sharia.
He said that with the implementation of the death penalty in the Maldives being a sensitive issue, some party MPs and politicians had preferred not to attend yesterday’s vote. Ghafoor said the vote highlighted the difficulties in the country of voting over issues requiring religious understanding.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said no whip line has been established for yesterday’s vote, which was attended by only a limited number of its parliamentary group.
“Most of the PPM’s MPs were not in Male’, but at campaign locations [at the time],” the spokesperson claimed.
The last person to be judicially executed in the Maldives was Hakim Didi, who was executed by firing squad in 1953 after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder using black magic.
Statistics show that from January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by Maldivian courts.
However, in all cases, the acting president commuted these verdicts to life sentences.
In October 2012, the government announced its intention to introduce a bill to the People’s Majlis in order to guide and govern the implementation of the death penalty in the country.
As well as the bill proposed by MP Riyaz, in December 2012, former Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor drafted a bill outlining how the death sentence should be executed in the Maldives, with lethal injection being identified as the state’s preferred method of capital punishment
The Attorney General’s Office at the time said that it had looked to procedures followed by Egypt, Malaysia and the US in carrying out the death sentence, while also obtaining the opinions of religious scholars and lawyers when drafting the bill.
Minivan News understands that the bill submitted by the former AG remains open for comments on potential amendments.
The state’s stance to review implementation of death sentences has led to strong criticism from certain human rights-focused NGOs this year.
Speaking to Minivan News immediately following a visit to the Maldives in April 2013, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director Polly Truscott raised concerns about the recent drafting of new bills outlining implementation for executions.
She argued that even in practice, such bills would be deemed as a human rights violation, with the NGO maintaining that there remained no research to support the assertion that executing criminals served as an effective deterrent for serious crimes.
Truscott said that with the draft Penal Code also including provisions that would leave applying the death sentence to the discretion of an individual judge, the whole purpose of codifying laws would be undermined should the bill be passed.
She noted this was a particular concern considering the recent findings of various international experts such as UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, regarding the politicised nature of the country’s judicial system.
“To leave Sharia law to the discretion of individual judges is something we believe would be a bad idea,” she said at the time.