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Maldives govt using executions to divert focus, Amnesty alleges

Amnesty International on Monday accused the Maldives government of looking to enforce the death penalty to divert attention from the ongoing political turmoil in the archipelago.

Government since taking office in 2013, has been pushing to enforce the death penalty after ending the de facto moratorium that has been in place in the country for over six decades.

In June last year, capital punishment regulations were amended to allow for hanging in addition to lethal injections as methods of execution.

The government has already set-up an execution chamber in the country's main prison in Maafushi island and had announced plans for a second.

Home minister Azleen Ahmed had recently announced that executions will resume “in the next few days”, leaving three men on death row who have exhausted their legal processes at imminent risk.

“For more than sixty years, the Maldives led the way in the region by shunning this cruel and irreversible punishment. Now, when most of the world has rid itself of the death penalty, the country risks being on the wrong side of history and earning global notoriety for reviving its use,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.

Although the home minister claims the move is motivated by two recent murders through stabbings, the announcement of the executions comes as the Maldives is roiled by political tensions. Last week, the military stormed parliament to stop proceedings as the political opposition was poised to bring forward a vote of no-confidence.

“The executions are a transparent ploy by the government to distract attention from its own woes. It is alarming that they would think of depriving people of their right to life just to ensure their own political survival,” said Biraj Patnaik.

Amnesty also expressed serious concerns about the fairness of the proceedings that lead to the imposition of the death penalty in the country, including the use of an apparently coerced “confession” that was later retracted by one of the death row prisoners, Hussain Humam Ahmed.

Humam was sentenced to death over the brutal murder of prominent lawmaker Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Last year, the UN Human Rights Committee requested the government to stay the execution of Humam, pending the consideration of an appeal filed on the prisoner’s behalf. The same requests were issued by the UN body last month in the cases of the two other men, Ahmed Murrath and Mohammed Nabeel.

"When lives are at stake, it is all the more critical that safeguards of due process are strictly observed. People’s lives are too precious to be ended with cruel haste. The Maldives still has time to turn back, consolidate its positive record on the death penalty, and impose a full moratorium on its implementation as first step,” said Biraj Patnaik.

"When lives are at stake, it is all the more critical that safeguards of due process are strictly observed. People’s lives are too precious to be ended with cruel haste. The Maldives still has time to turn back, consolidate its positive record on the death penalty, and impose a full moratorium on its implementation as first step,” said Biraj Patnaik.

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