Number of juvenile offenders increase 55 percent

The number of juvenile offenders arrested in the first six months of 2014 increased 55 percent compared to the same period last year, a statistical report made public by the Home Ministry’s Juvenile Justice Unit (JJU) today has revealed.

Some 98 minors were arrested this year while the figure was 54 last year.

The majority of offenders were males between the ages of 16 and 18, the report noted, with only 10 cases involving underaged girls.

The most common offence was possession of drugs, followed by 18 cases of assault, 10 cases of disobedience to order, and 10 cases of theft.

Moreover, 36 percent of the offenders were school children while 56 percent were of indeterminate background.

The JJU suggested that broken families, physical abuse, and poor parenting were some of the causes behind the increase in arrests.

The report also noted flaws in the correctional procedures for juveniles and the lack of a separate system for juvenile offenders as challenges to rehabilitation.

Moreover, there was an absence of avenues for taking action against irresponsible and abusive parents, the report noted.


Three minors charged in gang murder

Three minors have been charged over the death of 21-year-old Hussein Waheed, who died from stab injuries to his chest on December 24, 2013.

A 16-year-old is also being charged with murder, while a second 16-year-old is being charged as an accomplice to murder. A 14-year-old is also being charged with attacking another individual at the scene.

Although the Juvenile Court reduces sentences for juvenile offenders, judges have no opportunity to offer leniency in murder-related offenses, a juvenile court spokesperson told Minivan News.

New death penalty regulations publicised in March allow children as young as seven to be executed for murder. The regulations came partly in response to a spate of gang-related killings in the capital in recent years.

Home Minister Umar Naseer said the regulations were a first step to “keeping peace and creating a safe environment for our citizens.”

According to the police, Waheed was murdered in a dispute over drugs between rival gangs in Malé. He was attacked at 10:30pm on December 24, and died shortly afterwards at 11:10pm at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

Malé’s prominent gang culture has been well documented in recent years as using young people to carry out illegal acts, with persistent suggestions that the groups are linked with powerful business and political factions.

The 16-year-old murder suspect is accused of stabbing Waheed in the chest with a six inch blade, while the second 16-year-old is accused of helping the suspect flee the scene.

The 14-year-old is being charged with attempting to attack another person at the scene with a 7-inch blade.

All three are currently under police custody.

The police also arrested two additional men over the murder and have previously noted that all four individuals initially arrested in this case – except the 14-year-old – have criminal records.

The murder suspect had previously been sentenced for three counts of theft but was released on completing a rehabilitation program by the Juvenile Court.

Hearings are scheduled for May 27 and June 3.

The victim Waheed also has a criminal record, being taken into police custody in April 2011 as part of a special operation to reduce crime in the capital, in connection to a stockpile of weapons and drugs found in a Malé house.

On December 29, Naseer said the police had prevented a second revenge attack for Waheed’s murder in late December.

In May 2013, Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the sentencing of two 18-year-olds to death for a murder committed while they were minors.

The Juvenile Court issued the death sentence to two 18 year-olds found guilty of the February 18, 2012 murder of Abdul Muheeth. Muheeth was stabbed at 1:45am near the Finance Ministry building in the capital Malé and later died during treatment.

“The Maldives is entering new and dangerous territory – imposing death sentences for crimes allegedly committed by children is alarming,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

“The Maldives authorities are flouting international law – anyone convicted of a crime committed when they were under 18 is exempt from the death penalty,” she said.


EU urges government to retain moratorium on death penalty

The European Union (EU) has called on the government to retain the unofficial moratorium on implementing the death penalty following the enactment of new regulations to enforce capital punishment.

In a statement on Thursday (April 29), EU High Representative Catherine Ashton expressed deep concern with the adoption of the procedural regulations, which would “break the de facto moratorium which has been in place since 1953 when the last execution took place.”

The High Representative holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty. The abolition of the death penalty is one of the key objectives of the European Union’s human rights policy worldwide. It is essential for the protection of human dignity, as well as for the progressive development of human rights,” the statement read.

The death penalty is cruel and inhumane, and has not been shown in any way to act as a deterrent to crime.”

The High Representative urged the Maldivian government to retain the longstanding moratorium, “including in cases that involve juvenile offenders, and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.”

The EU’s concerns were echoed in a statement last week by the the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which called for the abolition of the death penalty.

“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 Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the OHCHR.

“We equally encourage the Government to repeal the new regulations and other provisions that provide for the death penalty,” she added.


The OHCHR noted that that the new regulation “provides for the use of the death penalty for the offence of intentional murder, including when committed by individuals under the age of 18.”

While the age of criminal responsibility in the Maldives is 10, the statement noted that children as young as seven could be held responsible for hadd offences, while minors convicted of homicide could be executed once they turn 18 according to the new regulation.

Hadd offences include theft, fornication, adultery, consumption of alcohol, and apostasy.

The new regulation means that children as young as seven can now be sentenced to death,” the OHCHR observed, adding that “similar provisions in the recently ratified Penal Code, allowing for the application of the death penalty for crimes committed when below the age of 18, are also deeply regrettable.”

“Under international law, those who are charged and convicted for offences they have committed under 18 years of age should not be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without possibility of release,” the statement continued.

“International human rights treaties, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Maldives has ratified, impose an absolute ban on the death sentence against persons below the age of 18 at the time when the offence was committed.”

Local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network has also condemned the government’s decision to reintroduce the death penalty, contending that the “highly politicised and corrupt” judiciary was unfit to pass death sentences.