New penal code will ‘bury’ Islamic sharia

A religious NGO has said the new penal code will “bury” the principles of Islamic sharia in the Maldives, as it does not criminalise apostasy or include punishments of stoning for adultery and amputation for theft.

“We note with regret that this law has been formulated on a secular, liberal basis that is alien to the purposes of Islamic sharia, after changing the whole shape of the Islamic sharia that should be enforced upon Muslims in an Islamic country,” the conservative Jamiyyathul Salaf said in a statement on Sunday.

Salaf’s statement was released shortly before the pro-government majority in parliament delayed implementation of the penal code by three months, a day before it was due to come into force.

Ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan said more time is needed to raise awareness among the public and address concerns of religious scholars.

The law was ratified on April 13 last year, nine years after it was first submitted to parliament.

The current penal code was adopted in 1968 and has been widely criticised as outdated, draconian and unsuited to the 2008 constitution. The new law has meanwhile been touted as the first time Islamic sharia has been codified while upholding minimum international human rights standards.

However, Salaf claimed attempts to portray the law as sharia-compliant were intended to “deceive the citizens of a 100 percent Islamic nation”.

As the law currently states that shariah punishments must be meted out only for crimes with a punishment fixed in the Quran, Salaf argued that it “completely does away with” the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) under a “secular philosophy”.

The Sunnah is one of the “fundamental sources” of sharia law and specifies how punishments prescribed in the Quran must be enforced, Salaf said.

The law will also make it easier for criminals to escape punishment and encourage youth to offend, Salaf contended, claiming it was drafted by lawyers with a view to increasing their income.

The language of the law and criteria for constituting a crime are “alien to the principles of Islamic criminal jurisprudence,” Salaf argued.

The mandatory punishment for wrongfully accusing a chaste Muslim of adultery or homosexuality in the law is a jail term of no more than four years, Salaf noted, while meting out the sharia punishment of 80 lashes is left to the discretion of judges.

The offences of ‘murder and reckless manslaughter,’ ‘involuntary manslaughter,’ and ‘negligent manslaughter’ are based on English common law and is contrary to the degrees of murder in sharia, Salaf said.

Several punishments fixed in the Quran and Sunnah such as amputation of the hand for theft, death by stoning for adultery, death for highway robbery, and death or banishment for apostasy are not enforced in the Maldives.

However, flogging for pre-marital sex is implemented while the current administration has ended a six-decade moratorium on the death penalty.

Codifying sharia

In an op-ed published on newspaper Haveeru on April 7, former deputy prosecutor general Hussain Shameem stated that the Maldives is the first Islamic country to pass a criminal law in accordance with sharia and international standards.

While sharia punishments are specified in laws of other Islamic nations, Shameem said the Maldives’ penal code was drafted on the basis of codifying sharia.

“Therefore, the law will not include parts of principles contrary to Islam,” he wrote.

The law criminalises fornication, eating during daylight hours in Ramadan, consumption of alcohol and pork, and anti-Islamic activities, he added.

All crimes with punishments prescribed in the Quran are included, he continued, including the death penalty for murder.

“Therefore, the new penal code of the Maldives is in line with Islamic sharia and a victory for Islamic sharia,” Shameem asserted.

As a senior legal consultant at the Legal Sector Resource Centre established by the attorney general’s office with assistance from the UNDP, Shameem has been involved in training more than 1,100 individuals, including state prosecutors, lawyers, staff and members of independent commissions, customs officers, and 98 percent of police investigators.


Staff threw stones at intruder and left him in the water to drown, alleges Baros staff member

A staff member at Baros Island Resort has claimed to have witnessed three staff members throwing stones at one of the four men who invaded the resort wearing balaclavas last Wednesday, as the intruder was standing on the jetty.

The body of 20 year-old Ali ‘Immortal’ Shafiu was later was later discovered floating dead in the lagoon. Staff restrained another of the intruders, while two others were found and arrested by police.

Friends of the deceased who were present at Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) when his body was brought to the hospital claimed to have seen wounds on left hand and left side of his chest, and a wound on his head one and a half inches deep.

Shafiu’s family members later told local newspaper Haveeru that they had seen wounds on different parts of the body, however police would not confirm the injuries claiming the investigation was ongoing.

“That day early in the morning my colleagues came and shook me awake saying thieves had invaded the resort,’’ the staff member told Minivan News, on condition of anonymity.

‘’I ran to the jetty and saw staff throwing stones at a person waiting at the end of the jetty. I saw him falling into the water, I think he was knocked unconscious and fell,’’ the staff member said.

“His body was in the water – it had no movement at all, I was worried and told them to pick him up.”

Staff did not retrieve the body and the body was left in the water for more than 30 minutes, the source said.

‘’His body was floating on the water like a log. Someone who had not seen the body falling would think that it was a log. There was no movement at all.’’

The staff member said that police arrived on the island and took the body from the water.

“His body was as hard as rock when he was taken out of the water, and suddenly white foam came out from his mouth,’’ the staff member said. “The police then took the body for examinations.’’

The staff member said that later that day, before staff realised that they might be subjected to revenge attacks, many staff were claiming to have attacked Shafiu.

“They were not intending to kill him, but after they knew he was dead they rejoiced,’’ the staff member alleged. “But later the three staff who led the attack on Shafiu started receiving phone calls and threats that they would be sorry.’’

After they received these calls, those who claimed have hit Shafiu suddenly claimed to have not even touched him, the source alleged.

“Later I asked my colleagues who had found the intruders first. They said it was the security officers who saw the four of them, and they went and called the Maldivian staff members,’’ the staff member said.

At a press conference this afternoon, police that they were now investigating the cause of three wounds to Shafiu’s head.

Inspector Abdulla Nawaz also said that police have discovered the boat which was allegedly used by seven men – only four of whom landed on the island.

Weapons were also discovered inside the boat, Nawaz said, including swords and a harpoon gun.

”Police have now arrested the other three men, who include the captain of the boat,” he said.

Police said the four persons found in the resort had allegedly damaged the resort’s accounts department in a bid to to steal the safe inside.

”The safe contained US$50,000 at that time,” said Nawaz. ”We are investigating whether the seven men had any connections with a persons working in the resort.”

He also said that the body of Shafiu was ”apparently dead” when police took him out of the water.

”Police officers who attended the scene observed that there was no movement and the body was very hard,” Nawaz said.

General Manager of Baros Island Resort and Spa, Jonathan Blitz, was on his day off when Minivan News called the resort, however a senior staff member said the resort was unwilling to comment as the police investigation was ongoing.

“It was early in the morning and we are still not clear what happened,” he said, expressing concern that the original Minivan News article on the incident had been posted on the TripAdvisor website “and guests were commenting.”

Baros was the second Maldivian resort this year to suffer an attempted robbery by people from outside the island.

In Janurary, staff at Kihaadhuffaru in Baa Atoll were threatened by a group of masked men brandishing machetes and swords, who escaped in a dingy with the resort’s safe.

A receptionist was reportedly gagged with tape and restrained with a cable tie during the incident.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said at the time that he did not believe resorts would need to review existing security measures in light of the Kihaadhuffaru theft.