Death Penalty: The Maldives turns its back on history and children’s rights

Press release

FIDH expresses its utmost concern over the recent decision of the government of the Maldives to overturn a six-decade-old moratorium on the death penalty.

Especially alarming is the possibility that children as young as 7 years old can receive death sentences, representing an egregious affront to fundamental human rights and the international legal obligations of the Maldives.

The decision to reinstate the death penalty in the Maldives, in particular against minors, is an outrage and gravely at odds with the growing international momentum towards abolition. The Maldives must rejoin the over two-thirds of the world’s countries that have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, said Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH [1].

The new regulation adopted by the government on 27 April, as well as similar provisions in the recently ratified Penal Code, institutes the penalty of lethal injection and strips the president of the authority to commute death sentences to life in prison under the Clemency Act. As noted by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, the fact that these crimes are considered Hadd offenses (which include theft, fornication, adultery, consumption of alcohol, and apostasy) for which the age of criminal responsibility is only 7 years old, means that children as young as 7 can be sentenced to be executed upon their turning 18. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Maldives has acceded to and ratified respectively, both impose an absolute ban on the death sentence against persons who were below the age of 18 at the time of the offense.

The Maldives Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer justified the decision to reinstate death penalty due a "lively criminal environment" and overcrowded prisons, explaining that the Maldives is "a 100% Islamic country and there are certain values that we all believe in."

No religious argument can justify the application of the death penalty. It is a cruel and inhumane treatment that may amount to torture, and this new regulation is a flagrant violation of the rights of children,” stated Florence Bellivier, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH.

FIDH raised concerns about the risk of the death penalty being reinstated in the Maldives in a report released in 2012. FIDH found that an increase in murders had sparked a national debate on implementing the death penalty and that certain politicians such as the then Home Minister (now Vice President) Mohamed Jameel were pushing for the death penalty in order to curb recent crimes.

FIDH reiterates its firm opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances, as it considers it inhumane treatment and a violation of the inalienable right to life. Furthermore, FIDH has documented that the death penalty is commonly pronounced after unfair trials, and its application is often discriminatory. FIDH insists that the so called preventive effect of the death penalty has never been proved . FIDH calls on the Maldivian authorities to immediately repeal the recent provisions and to respect its existing international legal obligations by disallowing death sentences and executions in cases involving juvenile offenders. FIDH further calls on the government of the Maldives to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and to formally abolish the practice of the death penalty altogether.

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