Proposed crime prevention legislation may sideline human rights

MPs voted yesterday 71 to 2 in favour of convening a special sitting of parliament during its recess in May, to vote on crime prevention legislation amended to include provisions from delayed bills on criminal justice procedure, evidence law and jails and parole.

On the proposal to convene parliament next Monday during the recess, Speaker Abdulla Shahid explained that as the crime bill was completed by committee only yesterday, there was not enough time to table it in today’s agenda and vote on amendments before breaking for recess.

“And since the report sent by the Public Accounts Committee after evaluating the President’s nominee for Auditor General was received today, in order to complete the matter of these two reports that will be sent to MPs today, I ask the honourable MPs to vote as see fit on whether to hold a sitting outside the normal session under section 33(c) of the Majlis rules of procedure,” said Shahid, putting the proposal to a vote.

The bill on special measures to prevent crime, originally submitted by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa in April 2010, proposes restricting the right to remain silent and allowing judges to extend detention periods and protect state witnesses.

Following consultation with the National Crime Prevention Committee last week, parliamentary group leaders agreed to add provisions requested by the authorities to the draft legislation in lieu of submitting a new bill, which would have had to pass through a lengthy legislative process.

The additions to Musthafa’s bill were reportedly drafted by Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South Mohamed Nasheed, who was Legal Reform Minister in the previous government.

Minivan News understands that the amended draft legislation contains a number of provisions that could violate or restrict constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent and a mandatory 15 day detention period.

If passed into law, police would be empowered to enter private property without a court order to arrest a person suspected of any of the crimes listed in the legislation or in case evidence is being or hidden.

Moreover, a person accused of any of the crimes in clause four of the bill could meet a lawyer in private only after 96 hours after the arrest, prior to which any such meeting would have to take place in the presence of police officers.

If a suspect is arrested at the scene of a crime with related evidence either on his person or at the place, the court could interpret the silence of the accused as an admission of guilt or association with the crime.

On extension of custody or remand detention, courts must consider the criminal record of the accused along with police intelligence and grant a minimum mandatory period of 15 days of remand detention.

In addition, refusal by the accused to disclose information on finances or assets considered as evidence shall be deemed an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

The list of offences for which the above provisions shall apply are murder; death by assault; loss of a limb or organ due to assault; seriously injury caused by assault; participation in assault while possessing a dangerous weapon; presence at the crime while possessing a dangerous weapon; use of force or threatening to employ a dangerous weapon at a crime scene; involvement in armed robbery or mugging while possessing a weapon that could be used for murder; group involvement in armed robbery and mugging; robbery by breaking and entering or causing damage to property; armed robbery; crimes specified under Prohibition of Gang Crimes Act; kidnapping and holding a person hostage; blackmail; sexual abuse; trading and possession of more than three grams of illicit drugs; committing any of the above-listed crimes while under influence of alcohol; attempting, assisting or participation in any of the above-listed crimes.

“Special provisions”

The original bill meanwhile had also proposed restricting the right to remain silent in cases of threats of violence against persons or property, violent assault with a weapon, manslaughter and murder; drug trade and trafficking; possession of dangerous weapons in public; sexual assault involving two or more persons; and the crime of terrorism.

Article two clause (b) states that video footage of confessions made during police interrogation shall be admissible as evidence.

While article four enables the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to seek protection for state witnesses either upon request by the witness or by the discretion of prosecutors, judges would be authorised to grant witness protection after studying detailed reasons that has to be put forward by the prosecution.

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15 thoughts on “Proposed crime prevention legislation may sideline human rights”

  1. While this poor small island country has so many problems that are not addressed, how come everything even remotely related to human rights is magnified here? There is a method and a pattern to this..

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  2. Since when did 'Human Rights' become exclusive to criminals and suspected criminals' rights?

    One should read the Bill of Rights in the Constitution as a whole. While the Constitution grants the "right to remain silent" if arrested, so are there other clauses guaranteeing peace and security to the innocent public.

    Any single person's rights will end at a point where those 'rights' encroach on the rights of the next person. The rights of the society and the general public to live in peace, safety, security and harmony is far greater than the individual rights of suspected murderers and gangsters to remain silent.

    The Constituion grants The Majlis the authority to narrow the rights enshrined in the Constitution within certain limits for the greater good of the society.

    At times of critical threat to the security of the Nation, it is not only a permissible act for the Majlis, but an important obligation for the Majlis to pass such legislation to enable the Law Enforcement Authorities deal with the rampant crime spreading in our society like wild fire.

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  3. This the beginning of the end. We can all look at things like Ilyas. Such people assume that those who have ever seen the inside of a detention cell are a separate breed of creature. Let's term them Homo Sapien Criminalis.

    What if one day, Ilyas' daughter, son, brother, parents, grandparents or (lord forbid) himself, gets either falsely or rightly accused of a crime? Would he then be prepared to live in a police state where the President is empowered to arrest and detain "suspects" at will and indefinitely. Would he then wish to own property in a country where a fledgling and ill-trained police force have the authority to violate such property without judicial review?

    Then by all means. Let us applaud the beginning of an 18 month Military dictatorship. Let's all dance in glee at the prospect of handing all our powers to a President and administration that has failed us in almost all aspects.

    Sympathizing with criminals is not the same as trying to save one's own skin. Prepare yourselves Ilyas and Co. Just don't step on the wrong side of our new lords and masters.

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  4. this law will be abused by police and potentially used against political opponents..If passed into law, police would be empowered to enter private property without a court order to arrest a person 'SUSPECTED' of any of the crimes listed in the legislation or in case evidence is being or hidden.In addition, refusal by the accused to disclose information on finances or assets considered as evidence shall be deemed an offence punishable by up to five years in prison.Moreover, a person accused of any of the crimes in clause four of the bill could meet a lawyer in private only after 96 hours after the arrest, prior to which any such meeting would have to take place in the presence of police officers.

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  5. dabbling with laws and bylaws will never get the job done. the correct methodology is used at Sri Lanka where Rajapaksa's bro has almost finished off this gang violence. their method is to make the gangsters disappear.. they are just made to vanish and nobody asks any more questions. ppl want to live in peace. arguing about human rights can come later..

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  6. Agree with Ilyas.

    Furthermore given the situation we are in where gangs and mobs rule the streets and everyone's life, priority MUST be given to protecting the rights of the innocent public! While human rights of criminals also need to be addressed, it shouldn't be at the expense of human rights of the innocent people that these criminals are stabbing or killing!

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  7. Well said Ilyas. We do not have to give luxury to criminals to encourage more violence. Human rights are for people behaving like humans not to an alien creature looking like a human being.

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  8. Are we talking to protect these gagsters? There are many groups like Kuda Henveir, BG, Masodi, why can' we ban these groups and bring those behind these groups in front of the justice and investigate their crimes.

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  9. we dont have any "human rights" for the everyday hardworking citizen right now...i say even if we lose some rights in the process till the job gets done, we can accept it if it'll get the criminals behind bars for a long time. this human rights bullshit has cost us too much now...

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  10. This piece of legislation has many accesses but yes I agree the right of the collective society is much more important with the current climate of crime in Maldives.

    This cannot be stressed any further; the legal system and judiciary of this country need hefty improvements.

    This is the result of how poorly the judiciary has always functioned and is functioning, also how inactive/slow the legislative processes have been, and how our beloved Majlis is driven by self interest and greed.

    When the Judges use judicial discretion it is as an abuse and not to correct this flawed system. What can you expect from them? The Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed does not understand what cross examining is or if the defense or prosecution should go first or second in questioning the witness.

    We can make all the legislation we want but as long as those who implement it or interpret it are fools this country will be in ruins.

    Something that is seldom mentioned is DPRS and Criminal Court. Department of Penitentiary and Rehabiliation Services is the big elephant in the room which nobody mentions. Criminals who are sentenced to life imprisonment are seen roaming on the streets and when questioned about this they usually give a bogus answer. They are failing our country. They should be thoroughly INVESTIGATED. Why would anybody who is sentenced for life need 'integration into society programs'? This by the way is their usual excuse and it is purely ridiculous. Even a 9 year old child would not buy that excuse but this is what different authorities are told when the DPRS is questioned.

    MALDIVIANS WAKE UP!

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  11. People, those gangs have money, power and the right links. No law passed in this country can touch those in or having power. They will only be directed at the weak.

    That means you and me! The MDP/DRP or any other party in this country, especially those with majority support, are not going to touch "gangs" and "gangsters" that are either financiers, employees or key members of those parties.

    My point is, be prepared for the ultimate violation of everything we wished to hold sacred. Say goodbye to democracy and accept the fact that President Nasheed is going to be a dictator without parallel. Forget our economic woes and hand over unlimited powers of arrest and detention to a President who should be removed from office for all of his failures.

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  12. The moment someone commits a crime against an innocent individual or group, that person just threw away his rights. So I am against any Human Rights law which gives freedom to a murderer or rapist. That is in my opinion called Western Rights, not Human Rights.

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  13. Back to square one, now, are we? Arbitrary detention, entry into private property without a warrant....what exactly is the 'change' that we all wanted? If the Majlis passes this, and worse, if President Nasheed approves this, we may as well throw in the towel and come clean: democracy was never our goal, all we wanted was regime change. Sham, shame.

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