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.


Parliament to consider mandatory Shariah punishments

Anara Naeem MP; Haa Dhaal Makunudhoo; Adhaalath1

An amendment to make Islamic Shariah punishments mandatory in the new penal code was accepted for consideration at today’s sitting of the People’s Majlis.

Proposed by Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem, the amendment to article 1,205(a) (Dhivehi) reads: “If a person is found guilty of a crime with qisas [retaliation in kind] or hadd [a punishment fixed in the Quran or teachings of the Prophet], the sentence must be the penalty prescribed in Islamic Shariah.”

Introducing the amendment, the MP for Haa Dhaal Makunudhoo referred to Article 10(b) of the Constitution, which states, “No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

The new penal code is due to come into force on April 13. Anara noted that the law currently states that Islamic Shariah punishments must be meted out only for crimes with a punishment fixed in the Quran.

The purpose of her amendment is to “further improve” the provision in line with the constitution, Anara said.

The six crimes with punishments fixed in the Quran are theft (amputation of the hand), illicit sexual relations (death by stoning or one hundred lashes), making unproven accusations of illicit sex (eighty lashes), drinking intoxicants (eighty lashes), apostasy (death or banishment), and highway robbery (death).

The only one of these punishments that is currently implemented is the flogging punishment for illicit sexual relations, normally enforced on women. However, the home minister last year established a death chamber at Maafushi jail, ending a six-decade moratorium on the death penalty.

The amendment bill was unanimously accepted for consideration with 44 votes in favour and sent to the National Security Committee for further review.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ibrahim Riza also proposed several amendments to the penal code on behalf of the government to correct minor errors and problems noted during the preparations for implementing the new law.

The government-sponsored legislation proposes amending issues of conflicting interpretations and confusing provisions as well as reordering sections.

Riza’s bill was accepted with 40 votes in favour and two abstentions.


Arham’s father asks for death sentence for son’s killers

The father of Mohamed Arham, a 16-year-old murdered in a gang attack in Malé in 2012, has asked for the death penalty for the four defendants.

Arham’s father Abdul Ghafoor Ali was brought to Criminal Court today, reported Haveeru, and asked whether he wanted blood money, to forgive the defendants, or the death penalty if they are found guilty of stabbing Arham to death.

“I want the death penalty,” Gafoor had reportedly said.

The four defendants of the case are Sufyan Ali from Gaafu Dhaalu Gahdhoo, Mohamed Wisam and Mansoor Yoosuf from Laamu Maavah, and Athif Rasheed from the capital Malé.

Out of the four, Sufiyan was reported to have spoken in court today, complaining of the long period they had been held in detention, saying that justice would be served by concluding the sentencing.

Arham, who had no criminal record, was found in dead inside ‘Lorenzo Park’ in Henveiru ward with several stab wounds, with police later saying he had been the victim of a gang feud.

The government has since moved to end the 60-year moratorium on the death penalty, announcing last April that executions could start after those facing death sentences had exhausted all their appeals.

Source: Haveeru


Thulusdhoo murder suspect sentenced to death

The Criminal Court has sentenced Mohamed Niyaz of Kaaf Thulusdhoo Redrose to death after he was found guilty of murdering 35-year-old Ali Shiham at Thulusdhoo on the night of July 31.

The Criminal Court sentence (Dhivehi) read that Niyaz was proven guilty based on his confession to investigators and his refusal to defend himself from the evidence provided to the court by the prosecutors.

Niyaz voluntarily handed himself over to the local police department after fatally stabbing Shiham in what the police have described as an act of vengeance after Shiham accused Niyaz of stealing from a construction site under the supervision of the victim.

The sentence was issued after Shiham’s four heirs – his wife, two children and grandmother – demanded qisas at the court. The decision of children was made by Shiham’s wife.

While speaking to the press at the time, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said that Niyaz had been arrested 10 times previously for theft and drug-related crimes.

The government has made moves this year to end the country’s 60-year moratorium on the death penalty, introducing regulations in April to oversee the process.

While speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) rally this month, President Abdulla Yameen reiterated the government’s resolve to implement the death penalty for the sake of human rights and dignity.

“I want to say tonight as well in your presence, this government will have no mercy at all for those who slaughter Maldivian citizens with no mercy,” said Yameen at the ‘Successful 365 Days’ event held in Malé on November 21.

Home Minister Umar Naseer said in April that death penalty can be implemented in Maldives from April 27 after the procedural regulations were published on the government’s gazette on that day.

“We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned,” said Naseer told the media.

The last person executed in the Maldives was Hakim Didi, found guilty of practicing black magic in 1953. The common practice has since been for the president to commute all death sentences to life imprisonment through powers vested in him by Clemency Act.

With the new regulation, the president will no longer have this authority if a person is sentenced to death for murder by the Supreme Court.

The decision to re-implement the death penalty has received a mixed response at home and abroad, with some questioning the current state of the judiciary, while others claimed that the Islamic Sharia dictates a willful murderer should be put to death if there is sufficient evidence.

Related to this story

Man stabbed to death in Thulusdhoo

Yameen pledges to end violent crime at ‘Successful 365 Days’ rally

Death penalty can be implemented starting today: Home Minister


High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not “shy away” from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

“We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned,” Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

“While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it”.

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty  has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari’ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

“In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas,” Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state’s preferred method of implementing capital punishment.


Human Rights Commission summoned to Supreme Court

Members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) have been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court next week.

The summons closely follows the HRCM’s report for the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review, submitted earlier this week which criticised the court’s growing powers.

“Judicial system is controlled and influenced by the Supreme Court, weakening judicial powers vested in other superior courts and lower courts,” wrote the commision for the HRC’s examination of human rights in the Maldives.

Members of the commission have revealed that the summons, originally for today (September 18) has been delayed until September 22 due to the current absence of members from the capital, Malé.

The President’s Office has today criticised the report, suggesting in particular that sections on the death penalty could mislead international opinion.

Minivan News understands that the letter of the Supreme Court summons says only that the HRCM is being summoned “for the purposes of the court”.

Changes to contempt of court regulations made in June authorised courts to initiate legal proceedings and punish individuals for any expression, action, gesture, or piece of writing “inside or outside a courtroom” that could be considered contempt of court.

Contempt of court charges were also used to dismiss senior members of the Elections Commission (EC) just weeks before March’s Majlis elections.

Constitutionally protected testimonies given to the Majlis was included in evidence used to remove EC President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz for violating article 141 of the Constitution – which prohibits interference with the functioning of the courts.

The HRCM was accused of interfering in the work of the Juvenile Court earlier this year following a report on the infamous case of an abused 15-year-old sentenced to flogging. The court summoned commission members after suggesting the report contained false information.

Through a raft of regulations enacted in recent months, the Maldives Supreme Court has sought to consolidate control over administrative affairs of the judiciary.

The HRCM report to the UN said that “due to shortfalls in judicial system, functioning of the judiciary is often questionable on various grounds including independence, transparency, interference, influence, competency, consistency, and accessibility”.

Criticism and confusion

The report – part of a study of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states – has been criticised by the President’s Office, which has suggested the report was “very confusing” on the death penalty issue.

The ‘Child Rights’ section of the report calls for the abolition of the “death penalty” for minors after moves to end the 60-year moratorium earlier this year.

While the revised Penal Code, passed in April, ensures those under 15-years cannot be held criminally responsible, minors can still be charged for Hadd offences, with death sentences not carried out until 18-years of age.

“The Government of Maldives is not going to give the death penalty to children,” President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz told Minivan News today.

Comments from the Swiss delegation on the Maldives’ death penalty policy, made during the general debate session of Tuesday’s HRC meeting, prompted an angry response from Maldivian counterparts.

After being criticised by the Swiss for changing legislation “to permit the death penalty for children as young as 7 years old”, the Maldives itself attacked statements “rooted on misrepresentation and media speculation”.

Legal sources told Minivan News that, while the new Penal Code does include the “immaturity excuse” – removing criminal responsibility from those under 15, Article 15c still allows for minors to be held accountable for hadd offences.

Human Rights Commission member Jeehan Mahmood has defended the overall report submitted for the UPR.

“It’s the one chance we get to bring the world’s attention to issues that the state chooses to ignore on domestic forums”.


Appeal hearings on Farhad murder case ends

Appeal hearings on the death sentence issued by the Criminal Court on Mohamed Nabeel of Reef in Galolhu ward on charges of the murder of Abdulla Farhad of Lilymaage in Seenu Atoll Hithadhoo have been completed.

The High Court will be announcing its verdict at the next hearing, which has not been scheduled so far.

The murder of Farhad was committed on March 9, 2009 in capital Malé city near Sosun Store on Majeedhee Magu.

He was allegedly attacked for harassing a girl who worked at a nearby shop. The girl has previously been reported to be a sister of the accused, Nabeel.


Government will not hesitate to implement death penalty: Home Ministry

The Maldives Government will not hesitate to implement the death penalty, the Ministry of Home Affairs has assured.

The statement follows a wave of attacks within the past 7 days, including fatal stabbings in Malé and Thulusdhoo.

The Home Ministry said that the government “will not hesitate to implement the death penalty placed by the courts upon persons who stab and murder with the willful intent to kill,” according to local media Sun Online.

The ministry also said that the Maldives Police Service is conducting a number of special operations to prevent further attacks, assuring that the government is taking every possible measure to bring an end to the outbreak of violence in the capital.

Measures to re-introduce the death penalty were finalised in April, while local media reported last month that the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) had completed a facility in which to administer the lethal injection.

Minivan News has been unable to obtain comment from either the Home Ministry or the MCS regarding these preparations.

Prior to this policy change, the Maldives had maintained an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty since 1953, when Hakim Didi was executed by firing squad for the crime of practising black magic.

Several people have been sentenced to death during the moratorium, although they have traditionally had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment by presidential decree.

Despite widespread concerns over the state of the Maldivian justice system, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer said the chances of killing an innocent person after completing all the procedures in the regulation was “far-fetched” and “almost impossible”.

Although the death penalty has proven to be a contentious issue, Naseer assured the international community that the Madlives has a firm reason to continue with the ruling.

Conversely, Amnesty International have pointed out that the decision to resume the death sentence is in contradiction with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a treaty to which the Maldives became a party in 2006.

Similarly, The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has condemned the Maldivian government’s decision to implement the death penalty.

“Given the state of the Maldivian judiciary, which is also perceived to be highly politicised and corrupt, it is most concerning that as grave a matter as life and death of humans is to be decided by it,” the MDN stated.

“In addition to this, research shows that capital punishment does not deter murder any greater than the threat and application of lesser punishments,” the statement concluded.

The practice of the death penalty, and the use of lethal injections, has recently grabbed international headlines again after  aconvicted murderer in Arizona appeared to take two hours to die.

Joseph Wood’s death is the third such instance in the US this year, and has prompted a suspension of executions while the state undertakes a review of its procedures.


Correctional services prepare chamber for lethal injection

The Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) has prepared a chamber in the Maafushi jail for the administration of the death penalty through lethal injection, reports Vnews.

While all administrative matters for implementing the death penalty have been completed, an MCS official said the home ministry was seeking the lethal injection.

Thazmeel Abdul Samad, media coordinator at the ministry, told vnews that the system for administering the lethal injection would be computerised.

Media officials at the MCS and home ministry were not responding to calls at the time of press.