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'Politicised' judiciary mustn't have final say in death penalty cases, says UN rights chief

Mohamed Visham
10 August 2016, MVT 08:58
Hussain Humam convicted of killing MP Dr Afrasheem Ali being led to the Supreme Court on June 20, 2016. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN
Mohamed Visham
10 August 2016, MVT 08:58

As the Maldives government gears up to enforce the death penalty in the Maldives, the United Nations (UN) said Tuesday that a judiciary marred by politicisation must not be allowed to have the final say in matters of life and death.

Voicing concern over a number of worrying developments regarding capital punishment in the Maldives, the United Nations human rights chief called on the government to refrain from carrying out planned executions and to uphold the de facto moratorium that has been in place in the country for over six decades.

“The Maldives has long provided important leadership on global efforts to bring an end to the use of the death penalty, so it is deeply regrettable that a series of steps have been taken to resume executions in the country,” Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a press release.

The statement comes two weeks after Maldives top court upheld the third sentence since the government ended a de facto moratorium on executions last year.

Mohamed Nabeel was sentenced to death by Juvenile Court in 2010, for the murder of Abdulla Farhad on March 8, 2009.

The sentence came hours after the Supreme Court quashed a stay order on executions effectively blocking any future challenge to the implementation of the death penalty.

The top 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.

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.

Since last November, the High Court decided that the President may no longer exercise the power of commuting death sentences to life imprisonment; in June this year, capital punishment regulations were further amended to allow for hanging in addition to lethal injections as methods of execution.

“The death penalty is not effective in deterring crime,” said Mr. Zeid, adding that “a judiciary that is unable to consistently apply fair trial standards and is marred by politicisation must not be allowed to have the final say in matters of life and death.”

There are currently 17 individuals on death row in the Maldives. Some cases raise serious due process concerns, with three of them at imminent risk of execution.

“Maldives has upheld the right to life for more than 60 years,” said the High Commissioner, also urging “the leaders and the people of the Maldives to continue to uphold the moratorium on the death penalty and work towards prohibiting the practice altogether.”

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