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.

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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.


Islamic justice or state sponsored murder?

Home Minister Umar Naseer has justified the government’s decision to implement the death penalty after a sixty-year moratorium on Islamic values, while Islamic groups have said capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari’ah.

But Scholar Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan has called on the state to abolish the death penalty, arguing Islam is first the religion of forgiveness.

Mueed, a graduate of Qatar’s Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University with a permit to lecture on religious issues, contends the Islamic Shari’ah does not encourage capital punishment. The death penalty comes with several qualifications in order to discourage its implementation, he argued.

The government’s new regulations says a suspect may be executed by lethal injection if the Supreme Court upholds the death sentence and if all heirs of the victim desire qisaas – an Arabic term referring to the heirs’ right to ask for a murderer’s death.

Quoting from Sayyid Sabiq’s Fiqh Sunnah, Mueed said there are four requirements which need to be fulfilled before qisaas can be carried out.

“Firstly, it has to be seen whether the victim was pure of blood [Whether he is a blasphemer, a fornicator or an infidel]. Then whether the culprit has reached puberty. Thirdly, whether the culprit was sound of mind at the time he or she committed the murder. Qisaas cannot be implemented even if he was intoxicated at the time of murder. Lastly, it has to be proven without a doubt that the culprit committed murder out of his own free will. If not, it is the person who ordered the murder and drove the culprit to commit murder who will be subjected to execution,” he explained.

The victim and the culprit must also hold similar levels of freedom and religiosity, he said.

“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 same exact 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,” he said.

Further, forgiveness precedes qisaas in Islam, he argued, quoting Verse 32 of Surah Al Maida: “Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.”

Islam does not permit punishment for Hadd offenses – which include murder, theft, fornication, adultery and consumption of alcohol – to be delivered if there is any doubt in the matter, he said.

Additionally, if the executioner believes that the death sentence was wrong, he must refuse to implement it. If he carries out the execution while in doubt then he himself must face the same fate, Mueed said.

“The Prophet has also said that when seeking to implement Hadd on a person, even of the slightest reason to let it go without implementing the Hadd is detected, then do so. He then says that this is because it is far better for the person in charge – be it a judge, a president or an Imam – to err in forgiving a person than to err in sentencing a person,” he stated.

Even in Saudi Arabia – the largest 100 percent Muslim nation – the King himself intervenes in cases of murder to urge forgiveness instead of qisaas, Mueed noted.

The public voice

When I spoke to several members of the public on their views, I found those who favored the death penalty did so believing it would deter crime. In recent years, there have been spates of gang related killings, including the murder of MP Dr. Afrasheem Ali.

Waheeda Omar, a 56-year-old housewife, believed the death penalty was crucial to prevent murder.

“Let the state kill whoever is accused of murder, whether or not they have the right man. The point is, once someone is killed for the crime, other people will hesitate from committing similar crimes,” she said.

Ahmed Ubaidh, a 48-year-old taxi driver, expressed faith in the state, saying it could not go wrong in deciding on life and death.

“I don’t have an opinion on this matter. The state is the highest authority, next to the Qur’an. If both feel that death penalty must be implemented, then they must be right. Who am I to question God’s will?”

Hassan Iqbal, 32, said death must be punished with death: “They killed. Let them feel what it feels like to be at the sharp end of the blade.”

President Abdulla Yameen has also said “murder must be punished with murder.” In an interview during the 2013 presidential campaign, Yameen said he had not supported the death penalty previously, but had “a change of heart” due to “commonplace murders.”

Several members of the public, meanwhile, opposed the move, saying the Maldivian judiciary is not fit to decide on the life and death of a human being.

A 39-year-old civil servant who asked to remain anonymous, on account of “speaking about a manner that will have people accuse me of blasphemy,” stated “Islam is a religion of forgiveness. It is a corrupted version of Islam, full of political and self-interest, that promotes the idea of taking lives. In a country as small as ours, state executions will lead to more rifts, more crimes, and more hatred and unrest. I am strongly against it”.

Ali Akhtar, 28, said he “wouldn’t trust this judiciary with my property, much less my life.”

“I am not a scholar, so I will not speak in light of what the Shari’ah says. But even I know for sure that Allah would never want people to be ordered to death by a judiciary as corrupt as ours, where there is a chance that it is minority groups, and us everyday people, who are mostly unjustly sentenced to die,” he said.

Mohamed – a 25 year old who previously worked in a human rights organization – said: “Putting aside the fact that death penalty is a clear violation of Maldives’ international obligations and right to life guaranteed under the new Constitution, death penalty is clearly not a deterrent to murder. Maldives does not have the legal framework to provide the accused a fair trial.

“The judiciary is not equipped with the skill sets to examine forensic evidence put before them. Furthermore, being a small and well-connected society, the ramification of it would be huge and can have a lasting impact as the regulation puts the life of the accused in the hands of the families of victims.”

Lethal injection

The state’s decision to administer the death penalty by lethal injection has also raised controversy.

A group of medical doctors, who requested to be unnamed, said death by lethal injection is unreliable.

“There are many recorded cases where administration of lethal injection has gone wrong, leading to paralysis or worse instead of death. I would not recommend it,” one doctor stated.

“I do not think the state will, and sincerely hope they don’t, approach anyone in the medical field to administer the injection. It is strictly against our ethics; we work to save lives, not take them,” his partner added.

Dr Faisal Saeed meanwhile opined that “The specific role of health professionals in society is to heal and to alleviate suffering”.

“There is a consensus among most professional bodies that doctors and nurses involvement in executions is unethical because it contradicts the dictates of the medical profession to alleviate pain and suffering. The use of medical devices and knowledge as a method of execution distorts the life saving purpose of medicine and portrays the doctor or nurse as an executioner, which will risk to undermine public trust.”

“Execution is not the role of doctors or nurses. Although the death penalty regulations do not state who will administer the lethal injection, the state cannot ask doctors or nurses to be in a position to violate their professional ethics and values,” he concluded.

Except for the location of execution, the state has not revealed details of the procedures for administration of the lethal injection so far.

The last Maldivian to be executed by the state was Hakim Didi, who was killed by a firing squad for the crime of practising black magic in 1952.

A backward leap

Local NGOs, advocacy groups and members of the public have started to raise concern about what they term to be “a backward leap” for the Maldives.

“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,” a recent statement by the Maldivian Democracy Network, and supported by Dhi Youth Movement and Transparency Maldives said.

Islamic blogger Aisha Hussein Rasheed has also said the death penalty can be used to silence political dissent.

“The issue is that of corruption in the justice system: police, judiciary, lawyers, etc. Look at the death sentences given recently in Egypt for example. Capital punishment can easily be used to silence political dissent or to subdue personal or business rivals,” she said.

An advocacy group – calling themselves “When The State Kills”- have launched an Aavaaz petition urging public support to convince the state to abolish the death penalty.

“The implementation of the death penalty is especially troubling given the state of the country’s criminal justice system. Even in countries with long established justice systems, innocent people have been wrongly convicted and executed,” administrators of the group told Minivan News.

“It is a well known fact that judges in the Maldives use their own discretion when handing out verdicts, without following any particular procedure or even due process. We have seen innocent people being convicted in the past, so it is likely to happen in the future. The death penalty is an irreversible punishment. It would be an inhumane error,” they said.

Over 69 percent of Maldivians believe the judiciary is among the most corrupt institution in the country, Transparency International’s global corruption barometer of 2013 has revealed. Numerous international actors, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges Gabriela Knaul have released statements of concern about the judiciary’s lack of independence and failure to serve justice.

In addition to the perceived incompetency of the judiciary, the Maldives lacks legislation for witness protection, evidence or criminal procedures.


Goverment will enforce death penalty, declares President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has declared that the Progressive Party of Maldives-led (PPM) coalition government will implement the death penalty despite international pressure.

Speaking at a campaign event for PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof in Male’ last night, President Yameen said his administration’s decision to enforce the death penalty was a “historic day” in the Maldives’ democracy.

“Enforcing the death penalty is not something I will do because I want to. This is a very difficult thing. This is not an easy thing to do for any president or [public] servant. But our society cannot bear the loss of a life as well as the opportunity for further loss of life as a result of not respecting [the value of a human life],” he said.

“For that reason, no matter how much I don’t want to do it or how difficult it is, I have to do this on behalf of the people as they have placed that trust in me.”

President Yameen revealed that the government had formulated regulations implementing capital punishment on Thursday, based on the advice of the cabinet.

The government decided to enforce the regulations to ensure the safety and security of the community, he said, adding that the public wished to see action taken to stop the “slaughter of innocent citizens.”

Moreover, a majority of the Maldivian people were in favour of introducing the death penalty despite opposition from international partners, Yameen contended.

He stressed that a convict would only be put to death in accordance with Islamic Shariah following due process through the courts.

At the final stage, he explained, the Supreme Court would decide whether capital punishment was warranted as qisas (retaliation).

Under the new regulations specifying procedures for enforcing the death penalty, President Yameen said that both the victim’s and the convict’s family would be consulted after the Supreme Court decision to see whether the former demanded the death penalty and not blood money as retaliation.

Following an order issued by Home Minister Umar Naseer in January to the Maldives Correctional Services for implementation of the death penalty through lethal injection, Amnesty International called upon the government to halt any plans to end the current moratorium on the death penalty.

The international human rights organisation described the possible reintroduction of capital punishment as a “retrograde step and a serious setback for human rights in the country”.

Meanwhile, President Yameen – on a state visit to Sri Lanka at the time of Naseer’s announcement – subsequently promised “broad discussions” on the issue in his cabinet.

Death sentences have traditionally been commuted to life sentences by presidential decree since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954 for the crime of practising black magic.

The Maldives currently has 20 prisoners sentenced to death by the Criminal Court.


Cabinet to discuss implementation of death penalty

The cabinet had not discussed implementing the death penalty before Home Minister Umar Naseer ordered the correctional services yesterday to enforce death sentences through lethal injection, President Abdulla Yameen has revealed.

Asked by reporters last night upon his return from a state visit to Sri Lanka if the home minister’s directive followed cabinet deliberations, President Yameen said the cabinet has not discussed capital punishment as his administration “has not faced this issue before.”

“This issue has not been discussed in our cabinet yet. However, as a rule, since the death penalty is already in the penal code, the home minister has issued his opinion,” he said.

“Broad discussions” on the subject will take place in cabinet next week, Yameen said.

“Our government will prioritise protecting the rights of innocent citizens. However, I have to say along with that, in such matters, even a convict who had a judgment passed upon him in the first stage has rights. He has stages of appeal to conclude,” he said.

The government would make a decision after the appeal process was exhausted and guilt has been established beyond doubt, he added.

“Before it comes to that, we have now decided to have discussions in cabinet. Even if I have my own thoughts [on the issue], decisions on such serious matters will be made after cabinet deliberations,” Yameen said.

The government’s highest priority was assuring a safe and peaceful environment for citizens, he stressed, adding that legal advice would be sought on enforcing the death penalty.

President Yameen had spoken in favour of introducing the death penalty during the campaign for last year’s presidential election.

“Murder has to be punished with murder,” Yameen had said.

While he was previously against the death penalty, candidate Yameen said he “had a change of heart” due to “murders becoming too commonplace”.

Home Minister Umar Naseer – who lost the Progressive Party of Maldives’ presidential primary against Yameen and was subsequently dismissed from the party – signed the order to the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) in front of the press at a ceremony yesterday.

The MCS was ordered to implement the death penalty through the use of lethal injection and to set up the necessary equipment at the Maafushi prison.

The move comes after a death sentence was handed to Hussain Humam Ahmed on charges of murdering the moderate religious scholar and MP, Dr Afrasheem Ali, in October 2012.

Naseer told the press that the order was in line with provisions of draft legislation on implementing the death penalty prepared by the government for submission to parliament, adding that legal advice was sought from the attorney general.

“We will not wait for laws to be drafted and passed. The law allows for implementation, and it is at the discretion of the home minister to order implementation,” Naseer said.

Since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954 for the crime of practising black magic, there has been an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty with the president commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.

While 20 individuals currently face the death penalty, according to an official from the Home Ministry, all such cases have been appealed at the High Court and have yet to reach the Supreme Court.

In May 2013, the UN country team called for the abolition of the death penalty in the Maldives: “In view of the country’s more than 50-year moratorium, the United Nations call upon the Maldives to take the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to its international human rights obligations, and abolish the death penalty.”

Earlier in 2013, calls for limiting the presidential power to grant clemency resulted in then-Attorney General Azima Shakoor asking the High Court for a ruling.

Azima drafted a bill in December 2012 outlining the implementation of the penalty through lethal injection.

The proposal was met with opposition from religious groups, including NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, which called for the draft to be amended in favour of beheadings or firing squads.

In June 2013, MP Riyaz Rasheed submitted a bill asking for the death penalty to be implemented by hanging. The bill was rejected by 26 votes to 18, with no abstentions.


Home Minister Umar Naseer orders preparations for death penalty

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has released an order on the Maldives Correctional Services mandating the implementation of the death penalty.

“I order the Maldives Correctional Services [MCS] to implement the death penalty – as sentenced by the Supreme Court – through the use of lethal injection, and to make all necessary arrangements for the implementation of such sentences, and to obtain all necessary equipment for the implementation and maintain the set-up at the Maafushi Prison,” read the order signed by Naseer and made public at a press conference today.

The home minister’s decision comes just days after a death sentence was handed to Hussain Humam Ahmed on charges of murdering the moderate religious scholar and MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.

The order was received by MCS Commissioner of Prisons Ahmed Shihan at today’s event.

Naseer stated that the order is in alignment with the draft bill on death penalty implementation which the state has made ready for submission to the parliament. He confirmed that advice had been sought from the attorney general prior to the signing of the order.

“We will not wait for laws to be drafted and passed. The law allows for implementation, and it is at the discretion of the home minister to order implementation,” Naseer said, adding that – should a relevant law be passed in the future – the state would then abide by the new laws.

Implementation only after appeals

The home minister further stated that the death penalty will be implemented only after all appeal processes are exhausted. If the sentenced fails to appeal his case, the state itself will initiate all avenues of appeal prior to the implementation of the sentence, he added .

Naseer said that while the order applies to all pending death sentences, and not just the ones that come after the issuance of the order, the state will not seek to expedite any of the existing appeal cases.

“The government will not interfere with the work of the judiciary, either to expedite or slow down a process. The bottom line is, the death penalty will only be implemented once all the appeal processes are completed,” he stated.

“Regulations on how this penalty will be implemented have already been compiled. Media will have access to the centre of implementation, but not will be allowed inside. The MCS now must run training programs for those who will be involved in this work and they will also begin work on establishing the necessary set up,” he continued.

“While this order does not detail a specific deadline for completion of this task, the MCS will have everything ready by the time we will need to implement such a sentence.”

The minister added that, in the case of minors sentenced to death, “I think the rule is to wait till they turn eighteen for implementation of the sentence. It will be done in accordance with international treaties we have signed”.

Naseer stated that, as Home Minister, he would need to sign a specific order to authorise the execution of each individual person sentenced to death.

A source at the Home Ministry stated that, although there are approximately twenty individuals currently sentenced to death, all cases are being appealed at the High Court and have not yet reached the Supreme Court.


While death sentences continue to be issued in the country, these have traditionally been commuted to life sentences by presidential decree since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954 for the crime of practising black magic.

In May last year, the UN country team called for the abolition of death penalty in the Maldives, stating: “in view of the country’s more than 50 year moratorium, the United Nations call upon the Maldives to take the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to its international human rights obligations, and abolish the death penalty”.

Earlier in 2013, calls for presidential clemency to be blocked resulted in then Attorney General Azima Shakoor asking the High Court to decide upon the matter.

Azima further drafted a bill in December 2012 favouring the implementation of the penalty via lethal injection. This was met with opposition from religious groups including Jamiyathul Salaf, which called for the draft to be amended in favour of beheadings or firing squads.

In June 2013, Dhivehi Qaumee Party MP Riyaz Rasheed submitted a bill asking for death penalty to be implemented by hanging. The bill was rejected by 26 votes to 18, with no abstentions.

During campaigns for 2013 presidential elections, incumbent President Abdulla Yameen stated that “murder has to be punished with murder”. Yameen revealed that, although he was previously not an advocate of the death penalty, he “had a change of heart” due to “murders that have become too commonplace”.


Sentencing children to death is alarming: Amnesty International

Amnesty International has condemned the sentencing of two 18 year-olds to death for a murder committed while they were minors, and called on Maldivian government authorities to commute the sentence.

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 Male’ and later died during treatment.

Following the sentencing Amnesty International issued a statement urging Maldivian authorities to commute the death sentence and stop the potential execution of the pair, who were sentenced to death after being found guilty of a murder committed when they were under 18.

“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.

“The authorities must immediately reverse these death sentences, and the prosecution must not try to uphold the death sentences in any appeals,” Truscott added.

Amnesty International also called for the sentences of other prisoners on death row to be commuted, the establishment of an official moratorium on executions, as well as the abolition of the death penalty.

“Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty works as a special deterrent against crime,” said Truscott.

On December 30, 2012 the Juvenile Court finished taking statements from the heirs of Abdul Muheeth, where all approved passing the death sentence against the trial’s defendants should they be found guilty.

In March, Police Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said Muheeth was mistakenly killed by a gang and that he was not the intended target.

Police previously announced that Muheeth was not a member of any gangs, adding that he had also held a responsible job at the time of his death.

Death penalty controversy

Article 88[d] of the Maldives Penal Code states that murders should be dealt with according to Islamic Sharia and that persons found guilty of murder “shall be executed” if no heir of the victim objects, according to Islamic Sharia.

Although the Maldives Penal Code allows for the death sentence, it has traditionally been commuted to 25 years in prison.

In October 2012, the government announced its intention to introduce a bill to the People’s Majlis in order to guide and govern the implementation of the death penalty in the country.

In December 2012, the Attorney General’s Office completed drafting a bill outlining how the death sentence should be executed in the Maldives, with lethal injection being identified as the state’s preferred method of capital punishment.

However, earlier this year religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has called on 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.

The bill is currently pending approval by parliament, and has given rise to dissenting opinions on the matter.

This April, the Maldivian state sought a High Court ruling on the President’s discretion to commute death sentences to life imprisonment.

During a hearing on April 22, in a case filed by five citizens seeking to annul laws granting the President discretionary powers of clemency, the state attorney said the government would prefer the court itself provided a decision on the matter in accordance with Islamic Sharia.

The state attorney insisted that the decision be made by the court, despite the High Court Judges Bench emphasising that the state must provide an answer since the case concerned a constitutional matter.

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 sitting president has commuted such verdicts to life sentences.