UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday appealed to the Government of the Maldives to refrain from carrying out planned executions and to uphold the de facto moratorium that has been in place in the country since 1954.
“The Maldives has long provided important leadership on global efforts to bring an end to the use of the death penalty, so it is deeply regrettable that a series of steps have been taken to resume executions in the country,” High Commissioner Zeid said.
Since last November, there have been a number of worrying developments on the issue of capital punishment in the Maldives. Ending the long-standing practice of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment, the High Court on 30 November 2015 ruled that the President may no longer exercise this power for the offence of intentional murder if all the heirs of the victim demand the death penalty. In June this year, capital punishment regulations were further amended to allow for hanging in addition to lethal injections as methods of execution.
Following these developments, on 24 July, the High Court issued a stay order on any imminent executions pending the result of a case submitted by local civil society organisations that brings into question the constitutionality of death penalty regulations in the country. However, the Supreme Court swiftly issued an order cancelling the stay order issued by the High Court. The Supreme Court reiterated that its decisions on death sentences are final.
“The death penalty is not effective in deterring crime. Revenge must never be confused with justice, and the death penalty only serves to compound injustice,” Zeid said.
“A judiciary that is unable to consistently apply fair trial standards and is marred by politicisation must not be allowed to have the final say in matters of life and death.»
There are currently 17 individuals on death row in the Maldives, including some whose cases raise serious due process concerns. There are fears that three such individuals, Hussein Humam, Ahmed Murrath and Mohamed Nabeel, are at imminent risk of execution.
The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. In those countries that retain the death penalty, international human rights law requires that those sentenced to death have the right to seek amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentences.
“For more than 60 years, the Maldives has upheld the right to life, even of those convicted of serious crimes. The Maldives has recognised that the taking of life is too absolute and irreversible, even in situations backed by a legal process,” the High Commissioner said.
“I urge the leaders and the people of the Maldives to continue to uphold the moratorium on the death penalty and work towards prohibiting the practice altogether.”