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.