Maldives government on Wednesday downplayed a United Nations (UN) stay order on the execution of the 22 year old man convicted of killing a prominent lawmaker insisting that it was just a "communication."
The Supreme Court had upheld the death sentence of Hussain Humam Ahmed convicted of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali’s murder which could make him the first person to be executed in the Maldives for more than 50 years.
Humam’s lawyer Abdulla Haseen had told Mihaaru that the stay order was issued after his clients father filed a case at the UN human rights committee arguing that the trial had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
“This is a convention Maldives is party to. And Maldives is obligated to honour it,” Haseen had said.
According to Haseen, the UN had asked for a government response within six months.
The Maldives government has been asked to postpone the execution until the UN rules on the case, he added.
However, hours after being appointed as the new foreign minister Dr Mohamed Asim told reporters that the UN had only sent a "note verbal" informing that it had received the case.
The note did not ask for a specific action from the government, he stressed.
"But we are reviewing the note," he added flanked by foreign secretary Dr Ali Naseer during his first press conference.
Dr Naseer backed the minister's statement by describing the UN order as a "communication."
When asked how the government intends to respond to the UN, the foreign secretary said the Attorney General's office would reveal the government's stand next week.
"UN doesn't issue orders for individual nations," Naseer added.
The Maldives acceded to the ICCPR and its First Optional Protocol on 19 September 2006 with a reservation on Article 18 and it came into force on 19 December 2006.
Although Article 6 of the ICCPR permits the use of the death penalty in limited circumstances, it also provides that “nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.”
The ruling on Humam’s case came two weeks before the top court upheld the death sentence handed to a 32-year-old man convicted of murdering a prominent lawyer.
Ahmed Murrath was convicted along with his girlfriend of killing a prominent lawyer, Ahmed Najeeb, whose mutilated body was found stuffed in a dustbin in July 2012.
Both Humam and Murrath had claimed coercion in their respective confessions which were ignored by the top court.
Humam’s case had sparked international concern after the court ignored a plea by Afrasheem’s family to hold off the death penalty citing an incomplete investigation.
The Supreme Court had also rejected defence’s claim of mental illness.
Renowned Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan had urged the Maldives government to halt Humam’s execution insisting that the question marks surrounding the sentence would make the execution contravene the fundamental principles of Islamic law.
Ramadan joins four UN rights experts, the EU and Amnesty International to urge the government continue to apply the de facto moratorium on executions.
The stay order on Humam’s execution comes a day after European Union (EU) jointly with eight nations have issued a diplomatic demarche urging the Maldives government to stop its efforts to implement the death penalty in the archipelago.
Top diplomats of the EU, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, France, Canada and Australia had delivered the demarche which is used to request for support of a policy or protest another government’s policy to the Maldivian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Zahiya Zareer.
The demarche had urged the government to continue to apply the de facto moratorium on executions as a first step towards its abolition.
“The death penalty fails to deter criminal behaviour and represents a grave denial of human dignity and integrity,” the demarche read.
“Any miscarriage of justice – which is inevitable in any legal system – is irreversible”