Maldives government on Monday vowed to enforce the death penalty but only after adequately reforming the country's judiciary.
The government, in a sudden change of stand voted against a United Nations (UN) general assembly resolution in support of a moratorium on the death penalty.
The U-turn comes after president’s office minister Ahmed Naseem told a UN committee last month that the new government would change the Maldives’ vote to yes and uphold a 65-year moratorium on capital punishment.
"The government of Maldives will uphold the 65 year moratorium on the death penalty," foreign ministry announced on Twitter adding that Maldives would back the draft resolution on moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the United Nations (UN) general assembly.
However, Maldives' permanent representative to the UN, Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed explained at the general assembly that while the Maldives was “proud” of the moratorium, the penal code enacted in 2014 prescribed the death penalty for premeditated murder in accordance with Islamic shariah.
“The reality is that the death penalty remains on the books. To favour its abolition without wider public consultation and referendum and without preceding domestic legislation to nullify its implementation would be both unconstitutional and undemocratic,” he said.
The constitution states that Islam shall be the basis of all laws in the Maldives, he explained.
But the new administration will uphold the moratorium and pursue criminal justice reform “without delay for the deliberate purpose of having an independent and impartial judiciary in the Maldives that commands the trust and confidence of the general public.”
The decision to shoot down the resolution was lauded by several religious scholars in the archipelago.
Former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom before his election defeat to the opposition alliance had 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 then government had also set-up an execution chamber in the country's main prison in Maafushi island and had announced plans for a second.
There are currently three convicts on death row who have been sentenced. They are Hussain Humam convicted of murdering Dr Afrasheem Ali, Ahmed Murrath convicted of murdering Ahmed Najeeb and Mohamed Nabeel convicted of murdering Abdulla Farhad.
Amnesty International had accused the then government of looking to enforce the death penalty to divert attention from the ongoing political turmoil in the archipelago.