The Maldives must immediately commute the death sentence imposed on Hussain Humam Ahmed and reinstate the 60-year old moratorium on capital punishment with a view towards abolishing it in law, the ICJ said today.
The Maldives Supreme Court on 24 June 2016 upheld the death sentence of 22-year old Hussain Humam Ahmed, convicted in 2012 for the murder Afrasheem Ali, a Member of Parliament (MP).
The execution, which the Government has expressed its intention to carry out within thirty days of the ruling, would be the first in the country since 1953.
“The reintroduction of the death penalty after 60 years, even as an increasing majority of nations are moving towards its abolition, is a tremendous blow to the already weak human rights situation in the Maldives,” said Nikhil Narayan, the ICJ’s South Asia senior legal adviser.
“Maldivian authorities must immediately halt Humam’s and others’ imminent executions and reinstate the moratorium as a first step towards getting rid of it outright,” he added.
On 7 July 2016, just two weeks after upholding Humam’s death sentence, the Supreme Court upheld a second death sentence, this one against Ahmed Murrath, a 32-year old convicted for the 2012 murder of Ahmed Najeeb, a prominent lawyer.
Hussain Humam was first arrested in October 2012 for the stabbing death of Afrasheem Ali, an MP for the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).
The trial, conviction and Supreme Court decision come even as the prosecutor’s office has admitted that the investigation into the murder is still ongoing.
The Supreme Court ruling also ignored a last-minute request by the victim’s family to delay enforcement of the death sentence until the conclusion of the investigation.
Human rights groups and independent observers have highlighted a number of fair trial and due process irregularities in Humam’s investigation and trial.
Humam’s conviction was based solely on his “confession” at a May 2013 hearing, after initially pleading not guilty.
Humam later retracted the confession and claimed that the police had obtained it through coercion.
“Proceeding with Humam’s execution on the basis of a deeply flawed trial, particularly in a context in which the Maldivian Supreme Court and criminal justice system are already under considerable criticism for their lack of independence, impartiality and failure to adhere to international fair trial and due process standards, would amount to a further violation of his rights to life and human dignity,” said Narayan.
The ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception. The death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life.
“The death penalty is the ultimate form of cruel and inhuman punishment, which cannot be reversed once carried out, and neither serves the interests of justice for victims nor as a deterrent against future crimes,” Narayan added.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, on 30 June, the Maldivian Government amended regulations to enforce the death sentence by lethal injection.
The new regulations require the president to order Humam’s execution within three days of endorsement of the death sentence by a committee comprising of the chief prosecutor, the commissioner of prisons, and the chief justice.
The execution must then be carried out within seven days of the president’s order. The president may then only halt the execution on a direct plea from the victim’s family.
President Yameen’s administration has maintained its resolve to implement the death sentence within thirty days of the 24 June Supreme Court ruling.
The Maldives must immediately halt Humam’s and others’ imminent execution, reinstitute the moratorium on the use of the death penalty and take meaningful steps towards its eventual abolition in law and practice, the ICJ says.
The ICJ has previously detailed the human rights crisis in the Maldives, and the deep politicization of the Maldivian judiciary and criminal justice system, in its August 2015 fact-finding report.
The Maldives is party to most of the principal human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obliges the Maldives to respect the rights to life, human dignity, freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and to a fair trial.
In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, for the fifth time since 2007, emphasizing that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity and calling on those countries that maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use with a view to its abolition. A majority of 117 UN Member States voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.
Nikhil Narayan, ICJ South Asia Senior Legal Adviser, t: +977-981-3187821, e: nikhil.narayan(a)icj.org.NewsWeb stories