Two sentenced to death over crimes committed as minors

The juvenile court has today sentenced two young men to death over a murder committed when the pair were minors, but the two are unlikely to face the death penalty.

The two unnamed 19-year-olds denied charges over the stabbing and death of Hussain Waheed in Malé in December 2013. They were 16 at the time.

Waheed had died of heart failure due to the stab wounds to his chest.

Speaking at the UN human rights council last week, legal affairs secretary at the president’s office, Aishath Bisham, said “it would be legally impossible to issue the death sentence” if the accused denies murder charges at any stage of prosecution.

One of the suspects was charged with murder while the other was charged with being an accomplice to the murder. Another 14-year-old was arrested at the time and charged with assaulting an individual on the scene.

The juvenile court sentenced the pair based on testimony by four eyewitnesses. All nine heirs of the victim have asked the court to implement the death penalty.

In 2014, the Maldives repealed a six-decade-old de facto moratorium on the death penalty, ostensibly to tackle a surge in fatal stabbings. Over 30 people have been killed in violent crimes in the past seven years.

Under the new regulations, individuals as young as seven years of age can be sentenced to death if convicted of wilful murder.

The juvenile court has now sentenced a total of four young men to death for murders committed when they were minors. Two young men convicted of wilful murder in the death of Abdul ‘Bobby’ Muheeth were also sentenced to death in May 2013.

The government says capital punishment can only be enforced if all three tiers of the judiciary find the accused to be guilty and if all heirs of the victim request the death penalty. Bisham also said the president is required to review if due process was followed before he enforces the death sentence.

The last person executed in the Maldives was Hakim Didi, who was 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 the Clemency Act. The new regulations has revoked president’s authority.

Several countries at the Universal Periodic Review, including France, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Namibia, Spain, Australia and Montenegro expressed concern over Maldives’ decision to end the unofficial moratorium on the death penalty.


Justice “still out of reach” for Maldivian women, girls:

Social activism website Avaaz has said it remained concerned at the “appalling state” of women’s rights in the Maldives, despite welcoming a decision by the High Court this week to overturn a controversial flogging sentence handed to a 15 year-old girl charged with ‘fornication’.

Avaaz, which earlier this year launched an online petition signed by over two million people calling for the minor’s sentence to be quashed, has expressed continued concern that justice remains “out of reach” for Maldivian women.

The flogging sentence – handed to the minor by the Juvenile Court in February after she had been charged with ‘fornication’ – was overturned by the High Court on Wednesday (August 21) after the girl was found to have previously denied confessing to having had consensual sex with an unknown partner.

Sources from Feydhoo, in Shaviyani Atoll, where the girl is from, previously told Minivan News that islanders had raised concerns regarding the suspected abuse of the minor as far back as 2009.

Local people were said to have suspected that the girl had been the victim of sexual abuse, not just by her stepfather – who has subsequently been charged with several sex offences – but also by a number of other unidentified men from the island.

The High Court concluded that the minor, found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was also unable to correctly define pre-marital sex according to the law.

“The High Court’s ruling is a step forward, but the Gender Ministry should now ensure that the girl receives a proper education, is not sent back to the custody of relatives who failed to protect her, and ensure that she doesn’t end up ghettoised because of stigma,” stated Avaaz.

“Glimmer of hope”

After visiting the country earlier this year to lobby the Maldives government to overturn the minor’s case, Avaaz said it continued to advocate for systemic legal reforms to overcome “serious hurdles women and girls face in trying to get justice for gender-based crimes”.

“Today people in the Maldives and across the globe celebrate that this young girl is free and won’t be flogged,” said Avaaz Campaign Director Jeremy Waiser. “It is a glimmer of hope which must not be an isolated case – now it’s time to listen to the majority of Maldivians and kick start major reforms to protect women and girls and put an end to flogging for consensual sex outside of marriage, once and for all.”

Avaaz pointed to the recently published results of a survey conducted on its behalf by Asia Research Partners that concluded that nearly two-thirds of Maldives nationals surveyed would support a moratorium on flogging.

According to Avaaz, the first survey of its kind to be conducted in the Maldives found an “overwhelming” 92 percent of those surveyed believe that laws and systems to protect women from sexual assault should be reformed.

With the upcoming presidential election scheduled for September 7, Waiser argued that ensuring rights for both women and girls should be treated as an issue of huge importance by all candidates standing next month.

“The ruling and the recent opinion survey should serve as a wake-up call to all candidates and parties that they cannot afford to neglect one half of the Maldivian population – women and girls want to live without fear of persecution and with dignity,” he said.

“The vindictiveness with which the Prosecutor General’s office pursued the case against this Maldivian child highlights the dangers that women and children face in the Maldives,” the statement concluded.

“Politicised” issue

Some government figures have been critical of international campaigns targeting the reputation of the country’s lucrative tourism industry in order to push for legal reforms.

Discussing the campaign by Avaaz in the Maldives, Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukhoor criticised unnamed groups for  having “politicised” the issue, arguing such campaigns they had complicated the work of Maldivian authorities.

In March this year, former Deputy Tourism Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal directly questioned the motives behind the Avaaz campaign calling them “dubious”, despite accepting a need for “capacity building” in parliament and other institutions.

“People should not be doing anything to damage the [tourism] industry. In Switzerland, you would not see a campaign designed to damage Swiss chocolate. Likewise you would not see a German campaign to damage their automobile industry,” he said.

However, organisations like the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) have this week stressed the need for strengthening measures to protect victims of sexual abuse to prevent other similar cases from occurring.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International – which has previously warned that the 15 year-old’s case was the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the country’s treatment of victims of sexual offences – has released a statement this week calling for a moratorium on flogging.

“Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do. We are relieved that the girl will be spared this inhumane ‘punishment’ based on an outrageous conviction,” said Amnesty’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director Polly Truscott.