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Maldives mulls another execution chamber as death penalty looms

Fathmath Shaahunaz
08 February 2017, MVT 13:33
Composite picture of (R-L) Hussain Humam Ahmed, Mohamed Nabeel and Ahmed Murrath, who are on death row. PHOTOS/MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
08 February 2017, MVT 13:33

The Maldives government on Wednesday announced that they are looking to construct another execution chamber in addition to the one in Kaafu atoll Maafushi island prison.

Development of the execution chamber in Maafushi Prison commenced last year. The state budget for 2016 had allocated MVR 4 million for this project.

Minister of Home Affairs Azleen Ahmed told Mihaaru that the government is contemplating a second execution chamber as the state deems it might be necessary to execute capital punishment in various regions.

He did not provide further details.

Despite the MVR 4 million allocated for Maafushi Prison’s execution chamber in the State Budget 2016, the budget for this year projects that the total expense will be only MVR 3 million. Hence, the government has decided to allocate the leftover MVR 1 million, plus an additional MVR 2 million from next year’s budget, for the development of a second chamber.

However, the state budgets for 2016 and 2017 both allocate funds for an execution chamber to be developed only in Maafushi Prison.

Maldives' main prison in Kaafu Atoll Maafushi island.

Currently, convicts are detained in Maafushi Prison and Himmafushi island’s Asseyri Prison. However, the parliament has allocated MVR 46 million in this year’s budget to develop a prison with a capacity of 300 in the island of Kaashidhoo in Kaafu atoll. The project is scheduled to commence this year with another MVR 11 million to be added from next year’s state budget.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International had stated last week Wednesday that it had received reports that capital punishment will be implemented very soon in the Maldives. However, the international human rights organisation did not disclose from where they had obtained the information.

While the Maldives’ government is yet to release an official response to these claims, Home Minister Azleen stated that all preparations leading up to implementing the death penalty are underway post-haste, including compilation of laws and regulations on capital punishment and establishment of execution chambers.

“The death penalty will be implemented under standard policy once preparations have been completed. But I cannot say whether it will be soon or not,” said the minister.

There have been several amendments brought to the regulations on capital punishment over the past couple of years. Since November 2015, the High Court decided that the president may no longer exercise the power of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment; in June last year, capital punishment regulations were further amended to allow for hanging in addition to lethal injections as methods of execution.

There are currently 18 individuals on death row in the Maldives, according to the statistics of Maldives Correctional Service. The three courts of judiciary have upheld capital punishment for three of them: Hussain Humam Ahmed convicted of MP Dr Afrasheem’s murder, Ahmed Murrath convicted of killing prominent lawyer Ahmed Najeeb, and Mohamed Nabeel convicted of killing Abdulla Farhad.

Meanwhile, international organisations and world powers have raised concerns over the Maldives’ return to capital punishment after nearly six decades of upholding de facto moratorium. The United Nations, European Union and Amnesty International, along with nations such as the United States, United Kingdom and Canada have called on the Maldives’ government to axe its decision to implement death penalty.

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