A 65-year moratorium on the death penalty will be maintained by the new administration of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the foreign ministry announced Tuesday.
It also announced that the Maldives would vote yes on a draft resolution before the UN General Assembly entitled “Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty.”
The six-decade moratorium on capital punishment was lifted by former president Abdulla Yameen in 2014. However, despite religious campaign rhetoric and offering various dates, his previous administration did not resume executions.
A pledge to uphold the moratorium was also announced Tuesday by the Maldives delegation attending a review by the Committee Against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland.
The delegation led by president’s office minister Ahmed Naseem, a former foreign minister, also pledged to criminalise marital rape, end corporal punishment of children and to respect all obligations under the Convention Against Torture.
Three young men are presently on death row after the Supreme Court upheld their sentences.
During the previous administration, rumours of their imminent execution led to international condemnation, including from philanthropist Richard Branson, Indian politician Sashi Tharoor as well as the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan.
In July 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee asked the government to halt the execution of Hussain Humam Ahmed pending the outcome of a review of his case. The 22-year-old was found guilty of murdering parliamentarian Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.
According to Maldivian law, the death penalty can only be carried out should all of the murder victim’s immediate relatives (heirs) choose to take the life of a convicted killer under the Islamic shariah principle of Qisas (retaliation in kind).
Dr Afrasheem’s heirs requested Humam’s execution be delayed until the high-profile murder is solved. The inmate may prove to be key in identifying the financiers of the brutal killing, they said.
Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, had also urged the government to maintain the de facto moratorium on the death penalty, calling the resumption of executions “a great setback for the country and the entire region”.
International human rights groups Amnesty International and Reprieve, in a petition against the death penalty in the Maldives said Yameen was putting the country “on the wrong side of history” by this “reckless course of action”.