Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has called on Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor to amend the government’s draft bill on the implementation of death penalty, urging that convicts be beheaded or shot instead of given lethal injection.
In letter to the AG proposing its recommendations for the bill, Salaf explained that by beheading the convicted murderer, the pain he endured would be reduced while the heirs of the victim would still receive satisfaction.
Salaf argued that Islamic history had precedents for this form of execution, while the purpose of Qisas – an Islamic legal term for equal retaliation which follows the principle of Lex talionis (‘an eye for an eye’) – would be achieved if it acted as a deterrent to others from committing such crimes.
Salaf also expressed support for the execution of convicts through firing squad, noting that scholars of Islamic jurisprudence had spoken in favour of the method.
The Attorney General in 2012 announced that the government had drafted a bill on implementing the death penalty through lethal injection, and presented it to the public for comment.
Salaf disputed the reliability of this method, contending that such injections have been proved ineffective in executing a convict within a single needle.
The NGO argued that due to the West’s opposing stance towards death penalty, the Maldives could face difficulties and restrictions in receiving stocks of lethal injections, which would be a “perfect excuse for any president who does not wish to enforce the death penalty”.
“If that is the case, it is a huge injustice to society. It is very dangerous that the current draft paves way for one government to execute it while another can make excuses to not execute it. It is unacceptable. Even today, convicts in several countries are still un-executed because of the non-availability of such injections,” Salaf said.
Salaf also proposed several other recommendations including barring intoxication as a legal defence for the crime of murder, meaning that even involuntary intoxication would not commute a convict from facing the death penalty. Salaf argued that if intoxication could be considered a defense, the purpose of implementing death penalty would be undermined as an accused could always misuse the defense of intoxication to avoid execution.
The current draft bill stipulates that the death penalty should be given to a convict who has murdered someone while in possession of his senses and conscience. In theory, a murder committed while under the influence of a substance will therefore not attract the death penalty.
Salaf also recommended that the current position of the bill on minors should be abolished and that even minors should face execution as soon as the final verdict is made.
Currently the bill stipulates that should a convict who is a minor, pregnant or in a critical medical condition be found guilty of murder, the execution shall be delayed.
Among other recommendations, Salaf proposed amendments to the number of judges that should hear a case concerning death penalty.
Salaf proposed that at a lower court level, the case should be heard by a panel of three judges, while a four member panel should hear such a case at the High Court and a five member panel at Supreme Court level.
Salaf also urged that such cases concerning the death penalty must be heard by male judges only. The NGO also recommended that a clause be included in which before the execution the convict should be given the opportunity to repent and carry out a short prayer.
According to current stipulations in the bill, a suspect found guilty of murder should also be provided with the opportunity to meet his family on the day of execution and say their last farewell.
Salaf in its recommendations called upon the attorney general to remove the clause in the draft bill giving the President the power to commute any death penalty sentence to a life imprisonment sentence, claiming that such a clause defeated the overall purpose of the bill.
Meanwhile, 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.
Push for the death penalty
In October last year, the government announced its intention to introduce a bill in the People’s Majlis 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 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 president at the time has commuted these verdicts to life sentences.
Speaking to Minivan News, President of Jamiyyathul Salaf Abdulla Mohamed stated that the current bill by the attorney general was “incomplete” as it had only focused on death penalty, and said that the principle of Qiasas was much broader.
“For instance, the bill does not give a remedy to the victims who are subjected to assault and other bodily harm. They should also get a legal remedy. However the bill is more focused on death penalty,” he said.
Asked if the NGO was of the view that victims could get a fair trial, given the present concerns raised over the impartiality and competency of the Maldivian judiciary, Abdulla Mohamed said the NGO had proposed recommendations to the judiciary on the issue.
“We have previously sent recommendations to the authorities concerning the state of judiciary. We have clearly highlighted the necessary qualifications and standards that a judge should have,” he said.
However, he rejected claims made by critics of judiciary that the judiciary was unprepared to implement death penalty, stating that it was just a “mere excuse” to avoid the laws of Allah prescribed in Sharia’ law.
“There are other laws passed such as the law against the abuse of women and several other laws where the authorities make efforts to ensure they are enforced and that justice is delivered. Why can’t it be the same in a law that lays down the principles of Islamic Sharia’?” he questioned.
He further said that Islamic Criminal Law was very broad and very detailed, such that there are several conditions and requirements that have to be fulfilled before giving a punishment.
“The purpose of death penalty in Islam is to ensure that the orders of Allah are followed. It is an obligation to all of us as Muslims. Secondly, Islam greatly values a human being’s right to life. No one has the right to take the other person’s life. If he does so, he has to be punished,” he stated.
However the death penalty does not always mean one has to be executed, he explained. There are alternatives, as if even one heir decides to forgive the convict, he cannot be executed. Similarly, it is up to the heirs to demand blood money instead of the death penalty, and that even blood money can be forgiven if the heirs wish to do so.
Speaking to Minivan News previously, former Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Dr Ahmed Shaheed has 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.
“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.”