Government on Wednesday amended capital punishment law to adopt hanging in addition to lethal injection as a method of execution as it ignored concerns by the opposition and international partners.
Maldives overturned a six-decade-old moratorium on capital punishment with the adoption of a new regulation in 2014 that allows for the death penalty to be used to punish certain crimes.
The government enacted the regulation, which makes provision for execution by lethal injection, for the crimes of premeditated murder or deliberate manslaughter.
But according to the new amendment authorities can adopt one of the two methods to execute convicts.
Execution facilities at the Maldives’ Maafushi Prison were being built to carry out sentences. Since reenacted, 20 people have been sentenced to death but all the cases are yet to complete the entire appeal process.
While the age of criminal responsibility is 10 in the Maldives, some crimes under the country’s Sharia laws — known as Hadd offenses — have an age of responsibility of 7. This means that juveniles could potentially face execution in the archipelago.
The government had included MVR4 million in the budget this year to build an execution chamber.
However, over mounting pressure from human rights bodies, companies have been refusing to supply the fatal dose to countries still carrying out capital punishment, the government had said earlier.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week upheld death sentence of a man convicted of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali's murder on Friday.
The verdict delivered in the wee hours of Friday morning could make Hussain Humam Ahmed the first person to be executed in the Maldives for more than 50 years.
The verdict came after a request made by Afrasheem’s family to hold off on the death penalty for Humam.
In a letter to the chief justice hours before the ruling, the father and brother of the late MP cited an incomplete murder investigation in retracting their earlier wish for the death penalty for his killer.
The family in the letter said Humam remains a key witness in identifying those who planned and funded the murder.
“The police had earlier said there are people who planned and funded [the murder of Dr Afrasheem]. Not knowing who they are, and what has been investigated about them, and because I believe Hussain Humam Ahmed’s word is needed to clear these doubts, we do not want qisas to be carried out against Humam until the investigation is complete,” said the letter, signed by Dr Afrasheem’s father Ali Zafir and brother Abdul Nasir Ali.
The unanimous ruling rejected defence’s claim of mental illness, and upheld the guilty verdict, noting the 22 year old had confessed to the murder at the lower court on two separate occasions.
The chief justice also highlighted the fact that Humam had not sought the final appeal on his own also proved that he had accepted the High Court ruling.
Humam had confessed to killing Afrasheem during a remand hearing. When the case reached the court, he retracted the confession, claiming his confession had been coerced.
Afrasheem’s body was discovered brutally stabbed to death in the stairwell of his home on October 2, 2012.
Maldives opposition has also expressed grave concern over the government rushing to impose the death penalty at a time when the public has lost trust in the justice system.