President Yameen welcomes restrictions on right to silence and legal counsel

Expressing concern over the rise of dangerous crime in the Maldives, President Abdulla Yameen has welcomed restrictions on the constitutional right to remain silent and right to retain a lawyer.

“The constitution guarantees many rights for citizens. But to my interpretation, these rights are only afforded if they do not obstruct the other’s rights. If they abuse their rights and violate those of others, their rights must be narrowed,” he said speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a link road to be built by China in Laamu Atoll.

At least five people have been stabbed to death this year alone. Today also marks the 130th day since Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared.

The People’s Majlis on Monday amended the 2010 law banning threats and possession of dangerous weapons and sharp objects to curb the right to remain silent of any suspect arrested for assault with sharp objects.

Suspects who are accused of murder, or of causing death or loss of limb and organ by assault, cannot exercise the right to remain silent “to any extent” and would only be able to speak to their lawyer for the first 96 hours of arrest in the presence of the police.

Further, suspects would only be allowed six hours to appoint a lawyer. If the suspect fails to appoint a lawyer or if the lawyer is not able to present a valid reason for absence from interrogations, police are authorised to question the suspect without a lawyer.

The amendments also relax requirements courts must consider in extending pre-trial detention.

“The most important aims of this administration is to ensure the streets of Malé and the islands are safe. Today, the strongest bill required for this task has been passed,” Yameen said.

Safety and security are crucial for investor confidence, Yameen said.

“If foreign investors are to invest, start mega projects here, they will first consider if they would be able to work in a secure and peaceful environment.”

“Then they will consider if their assets would be safe here. Third, if they would be able to take back the benefits of their work to their countries. Fourth, if any issue they may have can be resolved speedily, free and fairly through the courts,” he added.

Law enforcement agencies would not take undue advantage of their new powers, Yameen pledged.

The amendments passed with 47 votes. Two MPs abstained while 17 opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs voted against the revisions.

Advocacy NGOs the Maldivian Democratic Network and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) on November 30 said the amendments “absolutely violates rather than limits fundamental rights of the people” and that, if passed, “will seriously hinder the democratic system Maldives has transited to”.

Opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed has recently expressed concern over deteriorating public safety and said the government’s failure to investigate and prosecute serious crimes are tantamount to “deliberate state-sponsored terrorism.”

He also accused senior government officials and elements of the police of complicity in abductions, murder, arson attacks, and gang violence.

“I note that the government has not investigated such incidents that have occurred throughout the year and serious criminals are on the loose. The state has not pressed charges against them.”

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