government: presidential republic
state of civil and political rights: Partly free
constitution: new constitution ratified 7 August 2008
legal system: based on Islamic law with elements of common law
legislative system: unicameral People's Council or Majlis
judicial system: Supreme Court; High Court
religion: Sunni Muslim
death row: +17, as of June 2016
year of last executions: 0-0-0
death sentences: 0
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
1st Optional Protocol to the Covenant
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
On 27 April 2014, detailed regulations on the implementation of the death sentence, including for juveniles offenders, came into force following their publication in the Government gazette.
The regulation only allows implementation of death penalty for intentional homicide or premeditated murder and only when the sentence is delivered by the Supreme Court.
The regulation requires Ministry of Islamic Affairs to mediate between the victim’s family and the convict. Through this process, which reflects the Sharia principle of Qisas (retaliation), family members who are ‘warith’ (heirs) will be given an opportunity to pardon the convict with or without receiving blood money. The execution will not be carried out even if a single member of the family chooses to pardon the convict. The family is given a 10-day period following the mediation to come to a decision.
Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer said the chances of killing an innocent person after completing all the procedures in the regulation were “far-fetched” and “almost impossible.” In January 2014, Minister Naseer had issued an order on the Correctional Services mandating the implementation of the death penalty by lethal injection. The executions would be carried out at a building under construction in Maafushi Prison.
During the campaign for the November 2013 presidential election, incumbent President Abdulla Yameen took a strong position on law and order, campaigning in favour of implementing the death penalty and calling for harsher prison sentences. “Murder has to be punished with murder,” he stated. Maldives is a State Party to two UN treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbid capital punishment for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age.
As of May 2016, the juvenile court had sentenced a total of six young men to death for murders committed when they were minors. In 2015, three new death sentences were handed down, all against juvenile offenders. In 2014, two new death sentences were handed down, compared to thirteen in 2013. In 2012, two death sentences were imposed, while in 2011, for the first time in recent years, no new death sentences were handed down in the country. In the previous decade, 14 death sentences were passed. However, these sentences were never enforced and were commuted to life imprisonment under the power vested to the President in Clemency Act.
The last person to be executed in the Maldives after receiving a death sentence was in 1953 during the first republic of President Mohamed Ameen. Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic. As of June 2016, there were around 17 people on death row, but none of whom had exhausted the appeal process.
The death penalty for juveniles
The age of criminal responsibility in the Maldives is 10. While the new penal code does include the “immaturity excuse” – removing criminal responsibility from those under 15, Article 15c still allows for children as young as seven to be held accountable for so-called “hadd” offences under Islamic law. They include: theft, fornication, adultery, consumption of alcohol or other intoxicants and apostasy, for which punishment – including death – is prescribed in the Holy Koran itself. “Similar provisions in the recently ratified Penal Code, allowing for the application of the death penalty for crimes committed when below the age of 18, are also deeply regrettable,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on 30 April 2014.
The "humane" lethal injection
In April 2014, detailed regulations on the implementation of the death sentence by lethal injection came into force, and in November 2015 the government included funds in the proposed state budget for 2016 to build a lethal injection chamber at the country’s main prison. However, on 17 June 2016, Home Minister Umar Naseer announced that the Maldives will implement the death penalty by hanging. “We had first considered implementing the death penalty by using lethal injections. But on speaking with countries with the experience, we found out that hanging was better,” he said.
Since the current administration lifted a six-decade moratorium on capital punishment in 2014, the Supreme Court upheld four death sentence, all in 2016.
On 9 August 2016, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein urged the Maldives to stick to a decades-long moratorium on imposing the death penalty. Zeid added that it is “deeply regrettable that a series of steps have been taken to resume executions in the country.”
On 6 May 2015, the Maldives were reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. In its national report, the Government underlined that “the Maldives, since 1952, maintained one of the world’s longest standing de-facto moratoriums on death penalty,” but it noted that “Islam constitutes the basis of all laws made in the Maldives; hence it is unconstitutional to remove Hadd punishments such as the death penalty and flogging from the Penal Code.” The recommendations to maintain the moratorium on the death penalty in all circumstances, in particular for juvenile offenders, and work towards the de jure abolition of capital punishment were not accepted by the Maldives.
On 19 December 2016, for the third time, the Maldives abstained on the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly. In 2010, for the first time, the Maldives had voted in favour of the Resolution. The Maldives had voted against such UN resolutions previously in 2007 and 2008. Premeditated murder, attempted assassination of the President, conspiracy against the sovereignty of the State, and acts of terrorism, are capital crimes in the Maldives.