Two-day workshop underway on ‘National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans’

A two-day workshop on ‘National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAP) Revision and Development of Fifth National Report’ has started today (May 22) at Nasandura Palace Hotel.

The aim of the workshop – organised by the Ministry of Environment – is to prepare plans to comply with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which the Maldives ratified in 1993.

The workshop was inaugurated by Minister of state for Environment and Energy Hassan Shah who highlighted the economic benefits of conserving biodiversity, stressing that more work needs to be done to increase public awareness of conservation laws.

Shah also highlighted the importance of participants taking the opportunity to ensure that the national targets on biodiversity address the conservation as well as the benefit-sharing aspects of biodiversity, in addition to creating awareness and capacity building.

This workshop also aims to celebrate International Biodiversity Day, taking place today. The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity in order to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.


“Highly politicised and corrupt” judiciary unfit to decide life and death: Maldivian Democracy Network

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has condemned the Maldivian government’s decision to implement the death penalty in a press release issued on Wednesday.

The MDN expressed “great concern” over the move to break a sixty-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty in the country. New regulations allow for children as young as seven to be sentenced to death.

“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.

Adopted on April 27, 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. The age of criminal responsibility in the Maldives is ten, but for hadd offences, children as young as seven can be held responsible. Hadd offences include theft, fornication, adultery, consumption of alcohol, and apostasy.

The MDN’s statement closely follows a statement by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in which the organization called for the practice to be abolished.

“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 told reporters.

A step backwards

The regulation on the implementation of the death penalty and the penal code pushes the Maldives backwards in an age when several countries in the world, including Muslim nations, are moving away from it, the MDN said.

The lack of legislation on evidence, witness protection and criminal procedures lead to a systematic failure to do justice and as a result innocent lives may be lost, the organization noted.

“The Maldivian criminal justice system lacks crucial legislation on evidence, witness protection and criminal procedures, leading to structural gaps and systematic failures to do justice as independent observers have noted in the past.

“A catastrophic result of this may be the loss of an innocent life, which is neither replaceable nor correctable.”

The MDN also highlights the possibility for minors to be sentenced to death as a major concern, and violation of the minor’s rights.

“We are also deeply concerned the regulation violates the rights of the child. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a death penalty may not be imposed for a crime committed by a person under 18 regardless of his/her age at the time of the trial or sentencing or of the execution of the sanction.

“In addition to this, research shows that capital punishment does not deter murder any greater than the threat and application of lesser punishments. Maldivian Democracy Network implores the government to reconsider the decision to implement the death penalty in the Maldives, and make meaningful efforts towards prevention of crime and the protection of human life,” the statement concluded.


Foreign Minister calls on international community not to undermine Maldives’ judiciary

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon has called on the international community to refrain from undermining the Maldives’ judicial system.

“We request our international partners to support us. We request you to contribute constructively in overcoming our challenges. We urge you not to undermine our judicial system,” said Dunya during the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council yesterday.

“We call on all to respect our institutions, young though they may be. And we urge you to base your partnership with us on dialogue and cooperation, not on judgment and retribution,” she added.

She pledged the government’s commitment to “uphold universal human rights norms and values” without compromising the country’s “religious and cultural identity and heritage in the process of change”.

The Maldives Judiciary have been the subject of criticism from a number of UN and other international bodies in recent months.

The UN Human Rights Committee on civil and political rights has said it is “deeply concerned about the state of the judiciary in the Maldives”, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last year accused the Supreme Court of “subverting the democratic process”.

UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul expressed concern over the judiciary in a 2013 report, with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had in 2011 stated that the Maldivian courts were failing to serve the public impartially.

As recently as last week the US state department described the Maldives’ judiciary as “not independent and impartial” and “subject to influence and corruption”.

The Supreme Court is currently pursuing contempt of court charges against the Elections Commission over comments made  in a privileged parliamentary committee regarding the annulment of last year’s presidential election first round.

European Union and civil society groups have expressed concern over the courts current proceedings.

Democratic transition and human rights

Dunya said the country’s “long walk towards consolidating human rights” began with her father, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s reform agenda in 2004 and it was this agenda that brought a democratic constitution and “full separation of powers” to the Maldives.

Acknowledging that some “setbacks” were faced in the journey, she said that the Maldives has today reached further maturity in its democratic evolution with the “peaceful conclusion” of a “fully transparent” presidential elections.

Stating that president Abdulla Yameen, her uncle, had brought stability to the Maldives, Dunya highlighted the ratification of anti-human trafficking and anti-torture acts.

“The government of president Yameen has proven to be resilient and committed to ensuring a free and fair environment for the people in exceeding their political rights as citizen”. She said.

Referring to the controversial transfer of power in February 2012, Dunya suggested that the people of Maldives had since shown their commitment towards “actualizing democracy through due process” even when faced with international criticism and political upheaval.

HRC membership

Addressing the council for the first time since Maldives’ re-election for a second term as a member of the council, the minister said that being a member had helped Maldives to take ‘some unprecedented and bold measures’ to bring national human rights mechanisms up to international standards.

Dunya said the Maldives had been vocal against terrorism, religious extremism, and Islamophobia throughout its first term, while also speaking for the people of Palestine, Libya , Syria, and all those affected by climate change – with a special focus on the rights of women, children, and persons with disabilities.

She reiterated the Maldives’ call to cease all acts violence against innocent civilians of all communities in the Central African Republic. She said Maldives will continue to stand by “brothers and sisters” in Palestine and called for it to be recognised as an independent and sovereign state with full membership of the United Nations.

The foreign ministry has stated that Dunya will meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Mr Iyad Ameen Madani, and other bilateral and multilateral partners, during her stay in Geneva.

The Maldives council delegation will discuss issues such as human rights and the environment, and freedom of expression and opinion, and will also discuss freedom of religion or belief with the OIC.

The foreign minister’s statement at the council can be viewed here.


“Supreme Court is subverting the democratic process”: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has released a statement on Wednesday expressing concern about “the dangerous drift in the democratic process in the Maldives largely as a result of the Supreme Court’s repeated interventions in the presidential election process”.

“I am alarmed that the Supreme Court of the Maldives is interfering excessively in the Presidential elections, and in so doing is subverting the democratic process and violating the right of Maldivians to freely elect their representatives,” the statement read.

The Supreme Court immediately hit back today, with Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz describing Pillay’s comments as “poorly researched” and  “irresponsible”.

“The Supreme Court nullified the first round of the Presidential Election of 7 September 2013 on the basis of irregularities in the process, despite the general conclusions by national and international observers that the election was free and fair,” read Pillay’s statement.

Pillay also described the court’s election guidelines as “onerous” and “difficult to satisfy”.

“There have been longstanding concerns about the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in the Maldives, which both the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, addressed during official visits to the country in 2011 and 2013,” added Pillay

“I am normally the first to defend the independence of the judiciary, but this also carries responsibilities. Judges should act in accordance with the principles of impartiality, propriety, equality and due diligence, as reflected in the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of Judiciary, the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, and Maldives’ own code of conduct,” Pillay stated.

The statement further also expressed concern regarding the court’s threats to charge lawyers, media and civil society groups for challenging its decisions, as well as “the reactivation of old cases to arrest opposition MPs or bar them from Parliament.”

“The Supreme Court appears set on undermining other independent institutions, stifling criticism and public debate, and depriving litigants of the legal representation of their choice,” Pillay stated.

Chief Justice’s response

“I harshly condemn UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s  false allegations regarding the Maldives Supreme Court’s work to uphold its constitutional duties and responsibilities. I do not believe she has any authority to speak in such terms,” responded Chief Justice Faiz today.

Defending the court’s neutrality, Faiz argued that Pillay’s statement was unacceptable for an official operating under the UN’s mandate to protect the rights of large and small states alike.

“False allegations by any party on the Supreme Court’s work does not aid strengthening democracy, administration of justice in the Maldives or uphold the rule of law. It does not encourage the promotion of democracy, rule of law or protection of human rights,” read Faiz’s statement.

The first round of the Maldives presidential election – held on September 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court earlier this month, with a fresh round of elections arranged to be held on October 19.

The re-scheduled vote, however, was also cancelled after police obstructed the Elections Commission, citing the Supreme Court’s issued 16 regulation as justification.

As well as condemning the police for the delay, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has also condemned the police for “acting beyond its mandate”, while a leaked report by the commission questions the credibility of the evidence used by the apex court in its annulment of the first round of elections.

A joint statement by the International Federation for Human Rights and local NGO Maldives Democracy Network has described the court’s verdict as being founded on “materially baseless arguments”, after the first round was “applauded as a success by the international community.”

A new first round is now scheduled for November 9, with the EC President Fuwad Thowfeek maintaining it will not be changed despite requests to expedite the polling date from both the current government and the contesting presidential candidates.

Government-aligned parties go to SC for political solutions

Progressive Party of Maldives lawyer Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed submitted a case to the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking a ruling on the motion passed by the parliament to appoint Speaker Abdulla Shahid as interim head of state in the instance that an elected president cannot be installed by the constitutionally mandated date, November 11.

Waheed is quoted in local media as saying the parliamentary motion has been passed against the constitution and the verdicts of the Supreme Court.

On the same day, Wadde has also submitted another case to the court asking it to rule that the MDP MP Ahmed Hamza’s appointment to the judicial watchdog – the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – was conducted in breach of the constitution.

In this case, Wadde argued that Hamza is a person who works “against the judiciary” and so he finds it “unacceptable that such a man can serve in the JSC”.

Earlier this month Wadde, alongside Jumhooree Coalition member ‘Madhanee Ihthihaadh’ (Civil Alliance) President Sheikh Mohamed Didi, filed a case in the apex court challenging opposition Maldivian Democratic Party candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s candidacy.

The petition gave as grounds Nasheed’s criticism of the judiciary, as well as his “outright criticism towards Islam and iposing Islamic Sharia’ in the Maldives”.

Jumhooree Coalition’s Presidential Candidate Gasim Ibrahim has also this week called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed to seek advice from the apex court on the course of action he should take should there not be an elected leader by November 11.

Speaking at a party rally, Gasim stated that as Waheed has previously written to the parliament for advice, he believes the president should also seek the opinion of the Supreme Court.


Week in review: September 27- October 4

This week began with the Elections Commission meeting to decide if it was to go ahead with the scheduled run-off on Saturday (September 28). After police demonstrated their intention to stop the vote by force, the EC declared that it could not hold polls under such circumstances.

The decision to delay, however, did not prevent the EC’s members receiving multiple death threats, prompting requests for police assistance.

Whilst EC advisor Judge Johann Kriegler held a public lecture regarding the importance of collective belief in a successful election, legal experts in the country explained to Minivan News that the Supreme Court’s rulings had left the country in a legal void.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) began what they hoped would be a pre-election rally from the south side of Male’, which turned into a stand-off with police in the streets surrounding the Supreme Court. Following news of the delay, Mohamed Nasheed’s supporters have demonstrated in the same area for seven consecutive nights.

After some reflection, the MDP’s leadership announced its determination to establish a “people’s government” should a new president not be sworn in by the end of incumbent Dr Mohamed Waheed’s term on November 11.

Waheed, after calling for national calm whilst the Supreme Court deliberates, hosted his former boss Nasheed at Muleeage – the pair’s first meeting since the February 2012 transfer of power.

The remainder of Waheed’s address to the nation was largely concerned with warning the state’s warring institutions about foreign actors who may take advantage of such disharmony. His fears were no doubt stoked by the remarks made on social media by former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, who had suggested that resolution of the Maldives’ current crisis may require some form of foreign assistance.

Whilst Waheed stayed away from the UN General Assembly this week, Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela was in attendance, warning the group’s members against attempts to interfere in “the emergence of an indigenous democratic system of governance in the Maldives”. Shakeela’s comments came just days after the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) expressed concern at recent developments during its biannual meeting.

Unrest within the security forces became apparent this week, as a number of leaked letters from current and former military personnel revealed concerns over the potential politicisation of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). Authorities have responded with stricter internal regulations and a number of suspensions, as well as blasting media outlets for reporting the leaked letters.

The Maldives Media Council announced its intention to file a no-confidence motion in parliament against the country’s broadcast regulator, as well as accusing the EC of favouring certain outlets.

The Indian High Commission this week revealed its own lack of confidence in multiple Maldivian state institutions, whom it accused of being complicit in the mistreatment of hundreds of its workers.

The country’s political deadlock has threatened to spread to the economy as port workers flexed their collective muscles in order to send a message to the government regarding the delayed vote. Reports of strikes by air traffic controllers and ground handling staff at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) were played down by management.

Customs workers also held strikes on Thursday – citing long term workplace grievances – and have given management one week to address their demands .

Calls for tourism workers striking last week failed to result in significant incident, though Minivan News was informed of the partisan political atmosphere in Irufushi which has resulted in numerous dismissals at the resort.

Travel advisories in a number of significant markets, including China and the UK, were updated this week to warn of growing instability.

The MDP’s supposed run-off opponents, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took advantage of the lack of activity in the Supreme Court to call for the removal from parliament of MDP MPs who had criticised the court’s recent rulings. The Home Ministry has announced it is investigating both Transparency Maldives and the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) for similar offences.

The PPM also called for the resumption of Nasheed’s stalled trial regarding the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, and the quick resolution of the Dr Afrasheem Ali murder case. Police this week forwarded a further four names to the Prosecutor General for their alleged involvement of the late PPM MP’s killing.


Don’t interfere in Maldives’ internal affairs, acting Foreign Minister tells UN General Assembly

The Maldivian government has called on the UN to ensure “non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states.”

In her address to the UN General Assembly on October 1, Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela referred to “concerted efforts by external forces to prevent the emergence of an indigenous democratic system of governance in the Maldives [by] attempting to shape the outcome of, what is, an internal issue”.

Dr Shakeela’s comments follow global concern over the Supreme Court’s indefinite suspension of a constitutionally-mandated run-off election scheduled for September 28. Police enforced the order on Saturday by surrounding the Elections Commission with orders to storm the building and seize the ballot papers unless the commission capitulated.

“Democracy consolidation is not just about holding elections. Nor is it about having a democratically sound Constitution. In the Maldives too, we quickly found that changing the Constitution, or having a multi-party election, did not instill democratic values within our society,” Dr Shakeela told the UN.

“For democracy to be cultivated and consolidated, the supremacy of the constitution must be upheld above all. The institutional deficiencies we face, must be addressed within constitutional provisions. And the political leadership must sustain an unshakable commitment to the principles and values of states.”

Presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third in the first round with 24.07 percent of the vote, went to the Supreme Court seeking to annul the vote alleging widespread electoral fraud and declaring “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11”.

He was swiftly joined in court by second-placed Abdulla Yameen, who received 25.35 percent of the vote, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, Yameen’s former lawyer. Siding against the Elections Commission, the three alleged electoral irregularities despite the unanimous positive assessments of local and international election observers, including the UN itself.

In a statement, UN Secretary General Bai Ki-moon said he was concerned about the Supreme Court’s postponement of the second round, given that the first round was “widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers.”

“It is of the utmost importance that the will of the people be respected in deciding the future of the country. These are pivotal elections for reaffirming the democratic process in the Maldives,” stated the UN Secretary General.

Dr Shakeela meanwhile told the UN that “Some of the parties that competed in the election have identified serious issues with the conduct of the elections, and have asked the Supreme Court of the Maldives for a ruling. We are expecting the Court to come out with a ruling in the coming days. The integrity of the second round of our Presidential election cannot be maintained without ensuring the integrity of the first round through Constitutional means. We await the Supreme Court’s verdict to continue the electoral process.”

Dr Shakeela went on to accuse “some external forces” of “attempting to shape the outcome of, what in effect is, an internal issue. The Maldives is small. Our democracy is at an infant stage. Our institutions are young. That does not, however, mean that larger countries have a right to intervene and attempt to dictate outcomes in domestic affairs of the Maldives.”

Protests resulting from the suspension of the election have meanwhile led to other countries including the UK, China, Canada and Australia to upgrade their travel advisories.


Maldives crisis requires international assistance: former Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed

“I do not believe that the constitutional and political crisis in the Maldives will be resolved without international assistance,” former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has told Minivan News today.

Dr Shaheed – currently UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Iran – said he wished to correct local media reports claiming he had called for neighbouring India to intervene militarily to restore democracy in the Maldives.

“It does not have to be force – it can even be good offices,” he said, accusing media of distorting his comments.

Progressive Party of Maldives vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed meanwhile told local media that the comments were evidence of the “hunger for power” within the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“Calling for the Indian military to come to Maldives, I believe it is proof that they want power even by sidelining the country’s independence and sovereignty, through whatever means possible,” Dr Jameel told Sun Online.

Tension is growing in Male’ after the Supreme Court ordered the security forces to forcibly prevent any state institutions proceeding with the constitutionally mandated presidential run-off.

The poll was required under Article 111 of the constitution to take place on Saturday (September 28).

Controversy has nonetheless arisen over Shaheed’s remarks on twitter over the past few days, in particular a post from last Thursday (September 26)

CMAG must suspend the Maldives from CW n request India to invoke R2P!

— ahmed shaheed (@ahmedshaheed) September 26, 2013

Initial misinterpretation, argued Shaheed, was a result of Adhaalath Party Vice President Dr Mauroof Hussain distorting a previous message in which he had stated that an Indian takeover would be preferable to one led by local ‘takfiris’ (Muslims who label other Muslims apostates).

Shaheed – noting that local media had run a second article in which he said corrected some of the mistakes made in the first – called on the Commonwealth to take a more proactive stance on the Maldives.

“My tweet on R2P was aimed at the Commonwealth, asking it to suspend Maldives from the Commonwealth and further asking it to invite India to play a more proactive role in restoring Constitutional authority in the Maldives.

“When the Supreme Court has been hijacked by thugs and bandits, the time has come for the Platonic question – who shall guard the guardians? The answer is CMAG, R2P and UN resolution 44/51,” said Dr Shaheed.

He called for a Commonwealth process, and noted that the R2P doctrine itself mandates a UN process, thereby ruling out any unilateral intervention.

Initiatives and resolutions

The R2P initiative is intended to address the international community’s failure to stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It views sovereignty as a responsibility rather than a right.

Former Foreign Minister Shaheed also suggested that UN resolution 44/51 could be invoked to invite Indian assistance to restore constitutional authority in the Maldives.

Resolution 44/51, which was introduced by the former Foreign Secretary Ibrahim Hussain Zaki in 1989, is titled ‘Protection and security of small island states’.

The Maldivian initiative was brought before the General Assembly after the attempted coup by Tamil mercenaries in Male’ the year before.

The resolution stated the General Assembly’s appeals to “relevant regional and international organisations to provide assistance when requested by small states for the strengthening of their security in accordance with the purposes and principles of the [UN] Charter.”

The subsequent paragraph also calls on the Secretary General to pay special attention to the security situation of small states.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had stated his concern about the Supreme Court’s decision ordering the postponement of the second round, given that the first round was “widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers.”

“The people of the Maldives have exhibited great patience and should have the opportunity, without undue delay, to exercise their vote,” he stated.

International processes

Expressing concern at recent events in the Maldives, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) last week “urged all those concerned to ensure that the second round of the election is held at the earliest possible date so that this constitutional requirement is met.”

Following last week’s CMAG meeting, Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela urged the group to “take matters in proper context, and not to over-react on delicate situations in member countries”.


UN Secretary General calls upon Maldivians for peaceful election

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the people of the Maldives to ensure that Saturday’s elections are “conducted in a credible and peaceful manner.”

In a statement posted on the Secretary-General’s official website, he encouraged all candidates to respect the results and to overcome past differences, no matter the winner.

“He urges all Maldivians to work together in a constructive manner toward national harmony and democratic consolidation and he highlights, in particular, the need for a renewed commitment to the institutional reform process,” read the statement.

The UN has announced that it will be sending an observer group to the country for this weekend’s poll.


“Murder has to be punished with murder”: Yameen calls for death penalty to be put into practice

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen has called for the death penalty to be put into practice in the Maldives, a day after vowing to reform the judiciary.

The MP, half brother of former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, made the comments while speaking on the program Voice of Maldives on Monday night (July 22).

Yameen explained that although he was not previously an advocate of the death penalty, he now believed it must be implemented to save Maldivian society from murders that have become too commonplace, according to local media reports.

Yameen noted that as a result of the “recent spate of killings” in the Maldives he has had a “change of heart” and now believes “murder has to be punished with murder.”

“It is something that has to be done. We cannot move forward without making our streets safe,” Yameen said.

Yameen explained that a death penalty sentence should only be implemented if upheld by the Supreme Court.

“I now believe, if it can be proven in trial so that the country accepts, if it is proven to a degree accepted by judicial principles, if all the steps are followed, and if the Maldivian people believe, I believe that the death penalty is necessary to save society,” he said.

He also noted that because detailed legislation is necessary to implement the death penalty, the current government recently proposed a death penalty bill in parliament.

Regarding whether he would implement Islamic Sharia law, Yameen’s response to a caller was that “justice is currently delivered in the Maldives through Islamic principles” and that he would act “in accordance with what is laid out by the constitution.”

He pledged that under a PPM government he would “do whatever has to be done” to make the Maldives a peaceful place.

Yameen also denied financing or having links with gangs, claiming these allegations “do not have any basis” and politicians perpetuating such rumors “lack sincerity”.

Such rumors that Yameen has gang ties have “been around a long time”, according to CNM.

During the PPM presidential primary, former candidate and PPM Vice President Umar Naseer publicly accused Yameen of involvement with gangs and the illegal drug trade. However, Yameen denied the “defamatory accusations” calling them “baseless and untrue”.

Yameen further noted during the Voice of Maldives program that a “major part” of the government budget would be spent on youth, including a special rehabilitation program for drug addicts, with more than 900 placements available, if he is elected president.

Last month, Yameen also announced that PPM intended to transform Hulhumale’ into a “Youth City” where enough apartments to accommodate young people would be constructed.

Judicial reform pledge

Meanwhile, a day prior to Yameen’s comments in favor of implementing the death penalty to quell violent crime in the Maldives, the PPM presidential candidate pledged to reform the judiciary, even if it required amending the constitution.

To gain investors’ confidence and bring foreign investments to the Maldives, reforming the judiciary to ensure swift justice and confidence in the institution is necessary, Yameen explained.

“We see the many challenges ahead from every direction. So we are not only competing with other candidates. We are competing against the flailing economy and fading culture and values,” he said.

Yameen told local media that Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain had also noted the judiciary has “problems”.

Faiz has meanwhile urged the public and media to refrain from making statements that would give a negative image of the judiciary, and called for constitutional amendments.

His comment’s follow the Maldives Bar Association (MBA) calling for the suspension of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed pending an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct. Hameed is under investigation by both the police and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over the circulation of at least three sex videos apparently depicting him fornicating with unidentified foreign women.

Earlier this year, Faiz said that the current seven-member bench of the Supreme Court cannot be abolished and will continue to remain as the highest court of the country as long as the Maldives remains a democracy. In July 2012, the Chief Justice also said the death penalty can be executed within the existing justice system of the Maldives.

Death penalty controversy

While the Maldives still issues death sentences, these have traditionally been commuted to life sentences by presidential decree since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954, for the crime of practicing black magic.

Death penalty legislation was presented to parliament in June by government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed to implement the death penalty by hanging if the Supreme Court upheld a death sentence passed by a lower court. The legislation was put to a vote to decide whether or not to proceed with the bill at committee stage and was ultimately rejected 26-18 with no abstentions.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP said at the time that the party’s parliamentary group had opted to throw out the bill on the grounds that it would be “irresponsible” to approve such measures with ongoing concerns held by itself and international experts over the functioning of the country’s judiciary.

The party additionally criticised the proposed bill as being irrelevant, arguing that the country’s draft penal code – a recent issue of contention between MPs and certain political parties – already included provisions for the death sentence as outlined under Islamic Sharia.

Recent calls for presidential clemency to be blocked led Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor to draft a bill favouring the implementation of the penalty via lethal injection. It was met with opposition by several religious groups such as the NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, which called for the draft to be amended in favour of beheadings or firing squads.

Minivan News understands that the bill submitted by the AG remains open for comments on potential amendments.

More recently, the state called for a High Court verdict on whether the practice of presidential clemency can be annulled.

Eariler this year, the UN country team in the Maldives issued a statement calling for the abolition of both corporal punishment and the death penalty in the Maldives.

Additionally, the state’s stance to review implementation of death sentences has led to strong criticism from certain human rights-focused NGOs this year.

Speaking to Minivan News immediately following a visit to the Maldives in April 2013, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director Polly Truscott raised concerns about the recent drafting of new bills outlining implementation for executions.

She argued that even in practice, such bills would be deemed as a human rights violation, with the NGO maintaining that there remained no research to support the assertion that executing criminals served as an effective deterrent for serious crimes.

She noted this was a particular concern considering the recent findings of various international experts such as UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, regarding the politicised nature of the country’s judicial system.

“To leave Sharia law to the discretion of individual judges is something we believe would be a bad idea,” she said at the time.

In May this year, Amnesty International 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.

Meanwhile, a survey of the leading criminologists in the United States conducted in 2009 found that 88 percent of the country’s top criminologists “did not believe” that the death penalty is a “proven deterrent to homicide”.

The study, Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, also found that 87 percent of the expert criminologists believe that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates.