Maldives defends death penalty and flogging

The Maldives has defended the death penalty for murder and flogging for fornication at a UN human rights review on Wednesday, stating the punishments are mandatory in Islamic law.

Several countries including France, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Namibia, Spain, Australia and Montenegro expressed concern over Maldives’ decision to end a six-decade moratorium on the death penalty last year.

However, speaking to the UN human rights council in Geneva, legal affairs secretary Aishath Bisham said: “We would like to stress that Islamic principles dictate that its legal measures are to be enforced and regulated by law and process after necessarily subjecting it to rigorous judicial framework.”

The Maldives constitutional assembly had declared Islam to be the state religion and the basis of all laws enacted in the country, and requires judges to refer to Islamic law, she noted.

However, the enforcement of the death penalty and flogging are “never intended to be arbitrary or capricious,” she said.

The former UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay and Amnesty International have called on the Maldives to abolish flogging, describing it as an inhumane and degrading treatment.

In 2012, the juvenile court’s decision to flog a 15-year-old rape victim sparked international outrage and led the high court to overturn the ruling.

Information previously made available by the Department of Judicial Administration showed that, while applicable to both men and women, flogging is largely discriminatory against women in practice.

But Bisham said the enforcement of flogging is never served “as a retributive penalty” and primarily serves as a deterrent.

“It is strictly regulated and enforced only when the appeal or its opportunity is exhausted and is executed with civility. The respective regulations disallow flogging on any woman found to be mentally incompetent, or if there is a potential risk to the person’s life, limb or even the function of his her senses.

“Flogging is never enforced on children and pregnant women. The practice itself is with minimal force, with absolutely no instances of nudity or exposure, in full recognition of the person’s right to dignity constitutionally prescribed in the Maldives,” she added.

The standard of proof required in proving an offence prescribed in Islamic law is “far stricter than the conventional threshold of beyond reasonable doubt.”

Flogging is enforced in the Maldives in only five out of a potential 425 offences, she said.

Meanwhile, the death penalty will be enforced in cases of wilful murder alone, and only if the accused confesses in a court of law and when all three tiers of the judiciary deem the accused guilty, she said.

If the accused denies the charges at any stage of prosecution, it will be legally impossible to issue the death sentence, she said.

The government will “urgently strengthen” the legislative and judicial framework in cases of flogging and death penalty and will continuously subject the process to periodic independent assessments, she added.

The Maldives also maintained reservations on the call for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and freedom of religion.

“Provisions on the country’s Islamic identity are evident in every single draft of constitution ever adopted all throughout our constitutional history. The government emphasises proudly that Islam has been and will remain as the defining part of the nation, its culture, and its people,” she stressed.


“Maldivians must rise against terrorism”: Attorney General

Attorney General Aishath Bisham has stated the Maldives is facing a high risk of terrorist attacks and that the country must take a strong against terrorism.

Speaking at the closing ceremony on Thursday of a US Bureau of Diplomatic Security-organised program titled “Police Leaders Role in Combating Terrorism”, aimed at training senior officers in counter-terrorism tactics, Bisham said the September 2007 Sultan Park bombing was the first incident that demonstrated terrorism had found its root in the Maldives, and that it was an undeniable that terrorism was spreading widely in the country.

“Acts of terrorism are spreading wildly in various countries across the world. And we are now in a position where we must keep vigilant to see if their acts have found their way into the Maldives and if such acts are spreading across the country,” Bisham is quoted as saying in local media.

Referring to Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam’s remarks earlier in the week, Bisham echoed that a number of Maldivian youth had enrolled themselves in terrorist groups and training camps abroad.

The Attorney General called this “a significant warning of looming threats” and stated it is important that Maldivians stood up against the dangers of terrorism through training and awareness programs, and how such programs need to be implemented more widely in a manner where general citizens are also included.

While noting the importance of strengthening the legislative framework governing the issue, Bisham said it will prove difficult for a country like Maldives to battle the threats of terrorism and said that it was necessary to seek international assistance to better deal with the issue.

Rising threats of terror attacks: Chief of Defence Force

Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam earlier this week warned of rising threats of terrorism attacks in the Maldives, cautioning against assuming the country was completely safe from attacks simply based on the fact that no major terrorist activities have been uncovered in the country to date.

He warned that there was an increased risk of terrorist attacks stemming from “religious extremism and political turmoil,” but noted that while messages encouraging such activities were circulating on social media, these focused mainly against a certain group of people, or to encourage youth to partake in activities of ‘jihad’.

“Regardless of how these dangers come forth to us, ultimately the result is the same: that is the destruction of our nation’s social fabric,” Major General Shiyam said.

Increased pressure in 2012 to conform to stricter form of Islam: US

The US State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom notes that, especially following the February 7 controversial transfer of power, there has been an increased pressure in the Maldives to conform to a “stricter interpretation of Islamic practices.”

The report highlighted that there have been increased reports of religious freedom abuses. Concerns were also raised over government restriction of religious freedom.

“There was an increasing use of religion in political rhetoric, which led to derogatory statements about Christianity and Judaism, and harassment of citizens calling for a more tolerant interpretation of Islam. Anti-Semitic rhetoric among conservative parties continued,” the report said.

The report also referred to statements made by President Waheed, who came to office following last year’s transfer of power.

“During the year, President Waheed warned the nation that foreign parties were attempting to influence the country’s ideology and promote secularism; he urged citizens to resist these impulses,” the report read.

The report further pointed out instances of societal harassment and abuse targeted against citizens, especially women, who do not conform to strict guidelines seen as acceptable under narrow interpretations of Islam.