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Maldives to criminalise departing for war zones

Raif Amyl Jalyl
12 September 2019, MVT 17:30
A street blocked off by Maldives Police Service to preserve a crime scene for their investigations and to conduct their inquiries. Amendments to Prevention of Terrorism Act were submitted to the parliament proposing the government to criminalise unauthorised departures to go to war-zones. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED/MIHAARU
Raif Amyl Jalyl
12 September 2019, MVT 17:30

In a bill proposing amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Maldivian government is seeking to criminalise departing for war zones without authorisation by the administration.

Under the terms of the present Act, partaking in a foreign war is a crime. However, the terms of the law dictate that perpetrators would be breaking the law upon their partaking in the war or departing Maldives for combat.

According to the proposed amendments, the government further intends for the law to specify that any attempt unauthorised by the state for locals to go to any such war zones would be a crime.

The bill vests the authority to the President of Maldives to flag which regions are conflict zones, based upon the advice of the parliamentary Committee on National Security Services.

Lawbreakers that partake in foreign wars would face a prison sentence of 17- 20 years, whereas they would receive 10-15 years' imprisonment for unauthorised departures to such zones, and 9-12 years for any attempts to go to the regions or partake in wars, according to the bill amendments.

The bill makes exceptions for visitors to such regions if they are authorised by the government, for the purposes of providing aid to displaced individuals, implementing a court order, carrying out work tasked by other countries or the United Nations, and for journalistic or other limited purposes.

It further specifies that any endeavours in the war zones for journalism or to provide aid must be pre-approved by the government before departure.

Any attempt to visit war zones for purposes other than the outlined special exceptions, would be regarded as an attempt to partake in foreign wars and would carry the same sentence, according to the bill.

The bill mandates authorities to flag terrorist organisations and combat- zones and to review this list at least once annually.

Moreover, according to the bill, Maldives Police Service may arrest persons with sufficient reason to back allegations of criminal acts regarded as terrorism, disregarding any other laws that necessitate court orders prior to arrests.

The bill also states that such arrests must be ordained by an officer ranked Sub-Inspector of Police and above. Any persons arrested as such must be presented in front of a judge within 48 hours to determine whether their detention is in accordance with the law.

The allocated periods for charging suspects arrested over terrorism would be extended according to the proposed amendments.

Accordingly, suspects in custody must be charged within 60 days, whereas suspects released from custody must be charged within 90 days.

The proposed amendments further prohibit the bail of suspects placed under arrest on charges of terrorism, and bars leniency and pardoning perpetrators who are found guilty.

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