Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has proposed an amendment to the Clemency Act (Act no 2/2010) which would make performing the death penalty mandatory in the event it was upheld by the Supreme Court.
The amendment was submitted by PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof, the third MP to submit an amendment to put the death penalty into practice.
Mahloof’s amendment would require the President to enforce any death penalty if the Supreme Court issues the verdict of death, or if the Supreme Court supports the ruling of the death penalty made by either the Criminal court or the High Court. The move would halt the current practice of the President commuting such sentences to life imprisonment.
Mahloof, in a press conference held in his party head quarters on Monday, stated that he had proposed the amendment in an effort to stop crimes of murder and violence.
He claimed people were of the view that if death penalty or capital punishment is enforced it would bring down crime, and that he had decided to propose the amendment in consultation with several people including fellow parliamentarians.
“I believe nobody would want to die. So if the death penalty is enforced, a person who is to commit a murder would clearly know that if he carries out the act, his punishment would be his life. I believe this will deter him from committing such acts,” Mahloof said.
However, Mahloof admitted that enforcement of capital punishment would not be the sole solution to the problem. He reiterated that in order to achieve a solution, the new penal code and the criminal evidence bill had to be passed.
He also stated that he has been working on drafting a separate bill which is intended to prevent ongoing violence, murder and other criminal activities.
Mahloof has proposed to amend the article 21 of the Clemency Act.
The article 21 of the existing Clemency Act states: “Even if stated otherwise in this act, if the Supreme Court issues a death sentence, or a lower court or High Court issues a death sentence and if the Supreme Court upholds that sentence, the President has the authority to relieve the sentence into a life imprisonment, after consideration of either the state of the guilty, the legal principles behind the issue, consensus of the state or the values of humanity. But once such a sentence is being relieved to a life imprisonment, the guilty shall not be eligible for pardon, under any clause of this act.”
Mahloof’s amendment to the same article reads: “Even if stated otherwise in this act, if the Supreme Court issues a death sentence, or a lower court or High Court issues a death sentence and if the Supreme Court upholds that sentence, the President shall enforce the sentence.”
In Islamic Sharia, death penalty is the punishment of a murderer (one who kills deliberately) and that he is to be killed in retaliation (Qisaas) unless the victim’s next of kin let him off or agree to accept the ‘Diyah’ (blood money).
Previously, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed and later MP Ibrahim Muthalib submitted similar amendments to the clemency act but both subsequently withdrew these.
MP Rasheed at the time said that he felt he had to present the amendment because of the increase in assaults and murder cases, which had “forced the living to live amid fear and threats.”
After the preliminary debate was concluded and he was given the opportunity to say the last word on the amendment, MP Rasheed withdrew the changes he had originally submitted to parliament citing that he withdrew the amendment because other necessary bills related to curbing criminal activities, such as the Penal Code and Criminal Justice Procedure Bill, had yet to be passed.
In April 2011, MP Ibrahim Muthalib became the second MP who had proposed amendments to Clemency act requiring the state to enforce death sentence.
MP Muthalib at the time told Minivan News that the purpose of the amendment was to uphold Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.
“[The amendment aims] to avoid human beings from changing the verdict determined by Islamic Shariah,” said Muthalib. “It’s the same bill as presented last time. [Referring to MP Rasheed’s amendment]”
On November 2010, Criminal court sentenced Mohamed Nabeel to death for the murder of Abdulla Faruhad, after reviewing the statements of witnesses and finding him guilty of the crime, making it first such sentence to be issued in a case related to gang murder.
The Judge issuing the sentence stated that article 88 clause (d) of the Penal Code of the Maldives stated that murders should be dealt accordingly to the Islamic Shariah and that persons found guilty of murder “shall be executed” if no inheritor of the victim denies the murderer to be executed, according to Islamic Shari’ah.
Previous death sentences issued in the Maldives have included (in 2005) those found to be involved in the death in custody of Evan Naseem, and the perpetrators of 1988 coup.
However none of these sentences were implemented and the guilty were given sentences of life imprisonment.
“An attempt to conceal the real truth”
Aishath Velezinee, formerly the President’s appointee to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), said the amendment was another attempt by the MPs to avoid “the real issue” and to “deceive the public”.
“The real issue for thriving crime is corruption. The constitution has recognised this and required the judiciary be checked and cleansed. The JSC breached the constitution, and those MPs are proposing this to cover up the JSC,” Velezinee said.
“Islam upholds justice, and not only has death penalty; it has very clear qualifications for judges too. Neither MP Mahloof, nor any of the Sheikhs, has expressed alarm that the judges are far below standard and some of them are convicted criminals themselves. This is pure politics and abuse of Islam,” she added.
Velezinee also stated that she had earlier sent a letter to the Parliament highlighting the incapacities of the judiciary and the question of public trust upon the the courts and the JSC, when the amendment had earlier been proposed by MDP MP Ahmed Rasheed.
Velezinee claimed that Mahloof’s amendment was an attempt to hide what her letter had highlighted about the Criminal Court and the Judiciary as a whole.
Speaking to Minivan News, MDP MP and spokesperson, Imtiyaz Fahmy stated that the amendment was a “childish act” from MP Mahloof and that it could be a popularity stunt, especially at a time when a very “complete” and “relevant” Penal Code is about to be passed by the Parliament.
The last person to be executed in the Maldives after receiving a death sentence was in 1953 during the first republican President Mohamed Ameen. Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic.