Attorney General Azima Shukoor has 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.
Shukoor today held a press conference to provide local media with information about the bill, which is also to be opened for public comment.
The Attorney General’s Office has said that it has 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.
With the bill favouring the use of lethal injection to execute suspected criminals, Shukoor said the proposals would be open for public comment for one month.
In the case of a suspected murder trial, the bill drafted by Shukoor obliges the accused to be represented by a lawyer during their trial. In any case where the accused refuses to have a lawyer, the bill would require the state to provide legal representation for the respondent.
According to the new bill, when the Criminal Court proceeds with a murder case, it would need to have a bench consisting of three judges, one of whom has to have studied Islamic Sharia.
The bill would also oblige the High Court to have a panel of five judges overhearing murder cases, with the Supreme Court required to have a panel of seven judges.
According to the bill, any death sentence cannot be executed without the final judgement of the Supreme Court.
Photographing and filming of any execution carried out by the state would also be deemed unlawful under the attorney general’s proposals.
Should a suspect who is a minor, pregnant or in a critical medical condition be found guilty of murder, the bill states that the execution shall be delayed.
Shukoor also included an article concerning the authority currently given to the Head of State to commute death sentences to life sentences. The bill noted that AG’s Office needed further time review the matter as the opinions of different experts were inconsistent on the president’s prerogative to commute sentences.
According to the bill, a suspect found guilty of murder would also be provided with the opportunity to meet his family on the day of execution and say their last words.
In October this year, 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 at the time.
“But for full guidance and matters governing the matter, legislation is required,” he added.
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 has commuted these verdicts to life sentences.
Speaking to Minivan News earlier this month, former Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Dr Ahmed Shaheed identified the “pathetic state of the [Maldives] judiciary” as one of the key human rights concerns he believed needed to be addressed in the country.
“[The judiciary] is not only corrupt, but also coming under the influence of radical Islam, even to the extent of violating codified laws of the Maldives and clear international obligations,” Dr Shaheed claimed yesterday.
“Disregard for rule of law has also meant that a culture of impunity is deeply entrenched, rendering many of the human rights of the people meaningless.”