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UN expert urges Maldives to step back from “imminent” death penalty return

GENEVA (3 August 2017) – The Government of the Maldives must not backtrack on the de facto moratorium on the death penalty that has been in place for more than 60 years, a United Nations human rights expert has urged.

Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard intervened after a senior government minister warned on 28 July that executions could take place within days.

“The resumption of executions in the Maldives after more than 60 years would be a great setback for the country and entire region, and would run counter to international trends towards abolition,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“The Maldives should instead take a leading role in human rights promotion and protection, and move towards officially abolishing the death penalty.”

Twenty prisoners - including at least five juvenile offenders – have been sentenced to death in the Maldives.

Three men convicted of murder are believed to be at imminent risk of execution: Mr. Hussain Humaam Ahmed, Mr. Ahmed Murrath and Mr. Mohamed Nabeel. All three have had their convictions upheld by the Supreme Court, despite concerns over whether they received fair trials.

“The Government must halt the executions of these three men. The death penalty is the most severe and irreversible form of punishment. States have an obligation to avoid miscarriages of justice. To implement the death penalty after flawed trials would constitute arbitrary executions in clear violation of international law.” said Ms. Callamard. 

The three men have exhausted all judicial appeals and cannot seek a pardon or commutation of their sentences owing to a recent change in the law.

“The Maldives must abide by international law,” the human rights expert stressed. “It must not only ensure fair trials but also uphold the right of every person sentenced to death to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence, and refrain from imposing capital punishment on anyone aged under 18 when the crime was committed, pregnant women, or on new mothers or those who have developed mental disability.”

Home Affairs Minister Azleen Ahmed said on 28 July that executions would take place within the next few days. His comments came five months after he announced that the country was building two execution chambers. President Abdulla Yameen also announced on 23 April that executions would be carried out within the next few months.

The Special Rapporteur has sought clarifications from the Maldives authorities on the issues in question.

Ms. Agnes Callamard (France) is the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She has a distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms. Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has advised multilateral organizations and governments around the world, has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published extensively on human rights and related fields.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page: The Maldives
 
For more information and media requests please contact Ms. Laura Kruger (+41 22 917 9361 / lkruger@ohchr.org) or write to eje@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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