Maldives: Halt “retrograde” move to resume executions

Maldives must immediately put a stop to any plans to resume executions for the first time in 60 years, said Amnesty International.

Home Minister Umar Naseer yesterday ordered the country’s prisons to start making “all necessary arrangements” for the implementation of all death sentences through lethal injection.

“Any move towards resuming executions in Maldives would be a retrograde step and a serious setback for human rights in the country,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.

“There is no such thing as a ‘humane’ way to put someone to death, and no evidence that the threat of execution works as a deterrent to crime. Maldives should put an immediate end to such plans now, and instead abolish the death penalty in law once and for all.”

While Maldives legally retains the death penalty, it has not carried out an execution since 1954. There are currently 19 prisoners on death row.

In 2006 Maldives became a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a key international treaty which sets the abolition of the death penalty as the goal for states that still retain it. Resuming executions clearly goes against that purpose.

“The government’s order is surprising and extremely disappointing. The death penalty violates the right to life, regardless of the circumstances of the crime or the execution method used”, said Abbas Faiz.

Even though the Home Minister has assured that the government will not seek to expedite judicial processes in death penalty cases, the mere fact that regulatory steps are taken to execute people might encourage a greater preference for use of death penalty rather than imprisonment. Even more worrying is that the Home Minister’s order condones people being sentenced to death and executed for crimes committed when they were below 18 years of age. The imposition of the death penalty against juvenile offenders violates international law and Maldives’ own international obligations.

Opposing the death penalty does not mean advocating impunity for crime. Instead of resorting to the death penalty, the government should devise effective measures that would prevent and tackle crime while respecting human rights.  The public interest would be best served by, for instance, strengthening the judicial system, so that offenders are brought to justice without their own human rights being violated.