With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has noted the increase of child participation in serious crimes, stating that children coerced or forced into committing such crimes should not be prosecuted.
“It has come to our notice that children are taking part in serious crimes of late. As children are persons who are sometimes unable to reflect on their situations and judge wrong from right, the number of children who realise they are committing a crime will be few,” the commission said.
The HRCM described it as “unacceptable that some adults are coercing children to commit crimes so that they can remain safely in the background and free of legal repercussions while it is the children who are prosecuted for these crimes.”
“Crimes involving children must be fairly investigated, and those who coerce the children to commit those crimes must be duly prosecuted and brought to justice,” the statement continued.
The participation of young people in Malé’s prominent gang culture has been well documented, as have the links between organised crime and powerful local politicians and businessmen.
Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed also noted the increase in child offenders, stating that theft, assault, drug abuse, and mugging were the most common crimes into which children are coerced.
Waheed spoke of the importance of organising a national level movement to bring an end to children being forced to participate in criminal activity.
The HRCM called upon parents to be mindful and for the relevant state authorities to raise the rights of the child as their highest priority.
The commission’s statement – released on the occasion of Children’s Day – followed the government’s introduction of regulation enabling the reintroduction of the death penalty last month, which allows for the sentencing of juvenile offenders once they turn 18.
Urging repeal of the new regulations, the spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, has said that such “deeply regrettable” practices contravened international law.
“We urge the Government to retain its moratorium on the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, particularly in cases that involve juvenile offenders and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether,” said Shamdasani.