The government has 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.
“It is currently a punishment passed by the judiciary and a form of punishment available within the penal system of the Maldives,” said Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.
“But for full guidance and matters governing the matter, legislation is required,” he added.
A meeting of the cabinet yesterday strongly condemned last week’s murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and urged President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan to start taking immediate measures to ensure safety and security in the country.
President’s Office spokesman Masood Imad said that the government had received a large number of calls for implementing the death penalty.
“We are having enormous pressure since these high profile murders,” he said. “We have indications – the talk around the town – that there will be more murders.”
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has this week proposed a no-confidence motion against the home minister, citing the unprecedented instances of murder and assault in the country since he assumed office in February.
Afrasheem’s murder was the 10th in the small country this year, sparking much debate on the death penalty.
Public outcry over Najeeb’s murder prompted Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz to declare that full enforcement of the courts’ rulings is necessary to maintain the effectiveness of the judiciary.
A case was submitted to the High Court in August, requesting that it annul the President’s ability to commute death sentences to 25 years imprisonment, provided in the Clemency Act.
Similarly, in April Ahmed Mahloof – parliamentary group member from the government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) – proposed an amendment to the Clemency Act to ensure that the enforcement of the death penalty be mandatory in the event it was upheld by the Supreme Court.
In a comment piece written for Haveeru following Najeeb’s murder, however, Special Advisor to the President Dr Hassan Saeed warned that implementing the death penalty could be both arbitrary and prohibitively expensive.
Judiciary and human rights
The last execution in the Maldives came in 1953 when Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic.
Since that time, the Maldives has retained the practice of the death penalty for murder although Islamic Shariah tenets also give the courts the power to pronounce capital punishment for offences such as sodomy, fornication, apostasy and other crimes against the community.
Statistics show that from January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by Maldivian courts.
Jameel said that there was to be no re-consideration of the Clemency Act but that “necessary reform to legislation governing the criminal justice system will be undertaken by the government.”
Concerns over the judiciary were confirmed in the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report which investigated the events surrounding the resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed in February.
The final report recommended that immediate steps be taken to improve the performance of the judiciary.
“The judiciary must enjoy public confidence and where there are allegations about judges’ conduct, the Judicial Services Commission must act in a timely and definitive way and report,” read the report.
Aishath Velezinee, formerly Nasheed’s appointee to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), has said that corruption and an unreformed judiciary were the primary causes of crime in the country.
“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 told Minivan News in a previous interview.
In July, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said it was “deeply concerned about the state of the judiciary in the Maldives,” as well as calling for the abolition of the death penalty, in order to ensure the Maldives’ compliance with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
After speaking with a Maldivian delegation headed by Jameel, the council released a statement saying that the state had acknowledged both that the independence of the judiciary was severely compromised and that the death penalty did not deter crime.
Today marks World Day Against the Death Penalty – organised by an alliance of more than 135 NGOs, bar associations, local authorities and unions seeking the universal abolition of capital punishment.