Maldives high court issues stay order on executions

Hussain Humam convicted of killing MP Dr Afrasheem Ali being led to the Supreme Court on June 20, 2016. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

Hussain Humam convicted of killing MP Dr Afrasheem Ali being led to the Supreme Court on June 20, 2016. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

High Court on Sunday ordered the authorities to hold off on implementing the death penalty over an ongoing case seeking to annul some clauses in the death penalty regulation.

Maldives Democracy Network (MDN) a local rights group had filed a case at the appellate court seeking to annul some clauses in the death penalty regulation.

The High Court bench ignored state arguments to issue the stay order on executions.

MDN had argued that the regulation was drafted by the government when the constitution clearly states that the right to life can only be infringed by a law passed by the parliament.

In response, the state attorney countered by pointing out that the death penalty regulation was drafted under the Law on Prohibiting Threatening and Possession of Dangerous Weapons and Sharp Objects

The High Court stay order came after the United Nations had also urged the government to hold of on the execution of the 22 year old man convicted of killing a prominent lawmaker.

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.

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 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”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.

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