UNGA Resolution 2016 -24 of OIC’s 57 member states voted in favour, 13 abstained and 18 voted against

The resolution adopted on Dec 19, 2016 was backed by 117 states, while 40 voted against it and 31 abstained.
South Asia maintained its fondness for the death penalty as Pakistan joined Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Maldives in rejecting a universal moratorium, while Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka voted in favour.
24 of the OIC’s 57 member states voted in favour of the moratorium, while 13 abstained and only 18 voted against. The Muslim states that voted against were: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Those who abstained included: Bahrain, Came­roon, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, and the UAE.

The love of hanging

PAKISTAN chose to vote against the recent resolution in the United Nations General Assembly that had called for a global moratorium on the death penalty and was adopted by a majority of member-states.

The gist of this resolution has been adopted by the UN General Assembly every two years since 2007. The resolution adopted on Dec 19, 2016 was backed by 117 states, while 40 voted against it and 31 abstained. As against the voting pattern in 2014, the new supporters of the moratorium call were Guinea, Malawi, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka and Swaziland.

South Asia maintained its fondness for the death penalty as Pakistan joined Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Maldives in rejecting a universal moratorium, while Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka voted in favour.

Pakistani authorities have an aversion to any scrutiny of the rationale for retaining the death penalty.

Those who defend the death penalty as a principle enjoined by Islam may look at the division among the Muslim states (the category includes all members of the OIC).

Those voting in favour of a moratorium included: Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kazakh­stan, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Suriname, Togo, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Those who abstained included: Bahrain, Came­roon, Comoros, Djibouti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and the UAE.

The Muslim states that voted against were: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Guyana, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

We find that 24 of the OIC’s 57 member states voted in favour of the moratorium, while 13 abstained and only 18 voted against. In other words, Pakistan is in the minority group of 18 OIC member-countries that opposes the moratorium.

It is for Pakistan’s government and its Islamic scholars to ponder as to why a majority of the OIC members do not find any faith-based bar to the acceptance of a moratorium on capital punishment. They may also consider the possibility that, as in the case of some international treaties, reservations expressed in the name of religion are in fact dictated by the culture or custom of the countries concerned.

What is more distressing for human rights activists, abolitionist groups and promoters of humanitarian laws in Pakistan is the authorities’ aversion to any scrutiny of the rationale for their love of the death penalty regime.

What one hears of references to the death penalty during the Universal Periodic Review or at talks with the European Union on the GSP+ status is not the result of any serious deliberation. Indeed, one doubts if any discussion on the subject has ever taken place in Pakistan. That there is an urgent need for such a discussion can easily be established.

The recent cases in which the Supreme Court acquitted two individuals who had already been executed, or ordered the release of persons who had spent long years on death row, have strengthened the call for abolition of the death penalty on the ground of high risk of miscarriage of justice. A number of other issues that have surfaced over the past many years also need to be addressed. These are:

• The view that the death sentence is not a deterrent to crime has not been challenged nor has the view that hangings brutalise society.

• The Qisas law has prevented the president from pardoning death convicts or commuting their sentence although his power to do so under Article 45 of the Constitution remains intact. How does one explain the fact that the army chief can pardon a person awarded the death sentence by a military court while the president cannot do so?

• The scholars agree that Islam prescribes the death penalty in only two instances. How does the state defend the fact that capital punishment is prescribed for 27 offences in the name of religion?

• The judiciary has pointed out the problems it faces in cases in which capital punishment is mandatory if the evidence on record warrants a lesser penalty.

• The possibility of a minor or a mentally challenged person being executed keeps cropping up every now and then.

One ventures to suggest a look at the Indian response to the issue of the death penalty in view of the shared legal tradition.

The Law Commission of India recommended in August 2015, vide its Report No. 262, that “the death penalty be abolished for all crimes other than terrorism-related offences and waging war”. The commission agreed to retain capital punishment for certain offences in view of the parliamentarians’ plea that “abolition of death penalty for terrorism-related offences and waging war will affect national security”, although in the commission’s view “there is no valid penological justification for treating terrorism differently from other crimes.”

The commission noted the significant steps taken during India’s decades-long efforts to restrict the use of the death penalty: removal of the requirement of giving special reasons for awarding life imprisonment instead of death (1955); introduction of the requirement of imposing the death penalty (1973); and the Supreme Court’s decision that the death penalty should be restricted to the rarest of rare cases (1980). The conclusion reached by the commission was:

“Informed also by the expanded and deepened contents and horizons of the right to life and strengthened due process requirements in the interactions between the state and the individual, prevailing standards of constitutional morality and human dignity, the commission feels that time has come for India to move towards abolition of the death penalty.”

During the latest debate in the UN General Assembly, however, India again voted against the resolution calling for a moratorium although it could have shown some respect for the Law Commission’s recommendation by abstaining. Which only goes to show that, in developing countries, state policies are often determined by authorities that are too timid to disturb the status quo or too proud of their conservatism to heed the counsel of experts who are conscious of the call of the age.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2017

Maldives – ADPAN and Ors say, ‘ immediately halt plans to carry out the execution of Hussain… ‘


17 July 2016

Maldives: Resumption of executions after six decades would be a major setback for human rights

We, the undersigned organizations, are alarmed at recent statements by members of the Maldives government, including President Abdullah Yameen, indicating that the country will resume executions imminently. We urge the authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on all executions as a first step towards full abolition of the death penalty. The Maldives should maintain its commendable six-decade-long track record of not carrying out any executions.
Since 2012 Maldives has changed its position from voting against UN General Assembly resolutions calling on states to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty to abstaining. We hoped that this signalled the beginning of the country’s journey to rid itself of this punishment once and for all. This would have been consistent with the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty which continues unabated, despite a recent significant increase in the number of recorded executions in a handful of countries. In 2015, the majority of the world’s countries became abolitionist for all crimes following the repeal of the death penalty from national legislation in Congo (Republic of), Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname. Nauru abolished the death penalty this year and abolition processes are being finalized in Guinea and Mongolia.
In Maldives, however, authorities have since 2014 taken steps to resume executions, including by amending national legislation. New regulations, among other steps, have seen the following changes:
Introduction of lethal injection as the method of execution, which was subsequently changed again to hanging in June 2016;
Removal of the power from the executive to grant pardons or commutations of death sentences in murder cases, depriving those facing the death penalty of the right to apply for these as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Maldives is a state party; and
Shortened time frame for appeals in capital cases, which risks undermining the prisoners’ right to adequate time to prepare their appeal.
Government officials have also pledged that executions should happen within 30 days of the confirmation of guilty verdicts by the Supreme Court.
If Maldives resumes executions, it would not only go against the global trend towards abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, but it would also be in violation of Maldives’ obligations under international law. We are concerned that several international and national safeguards that must be observed in all capital cases were breached in the recent case of Hussein Humaam Ahmed, who was convicted for the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali, a sitting MP, in 2012.

Humaam on 24 June 2016 became the first person to have his conviction and death sentence upheld by the Maldives Supreme Court after the recent legal reforms. Our concerns include the fact that Humaam retracted a pre-trial confession, which he has insisted he made due to fear for the safety of his family members, but the trial court nevertheless took into account this “confession” in its guilty verdict.

Furthermore, claims by Humaam and his family that he has a mental disability which directly affected his capacity to support his legal representatives in the overall effectiveness of his defence were ignored during his trials. No independent psychiatric evaluation of Humaam has taken place as far as his family or legal representatives are aware. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence on 24 June 2016 despite the victim’s father and brother asking to delay the implementation of the death sentence of Humaam, citing an “incomplete investigation” into the circumstances of his murder. Humaam’s execution may be imminent.
There are at least a total of 17 prisoners on death row in Maldives, all of whose lives are at risk should the authorities resume executions. In early July 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another murder convict, Ahmed Murrath, meaning his execution could also be imminent.
It is also concerning that the Maldivian authorities are citing the resumption of executions as a necessary measure to prevent crime. Studies have consistently failed to show that the death penalty is more of a deterrent to crime than other forms of punishment.
We urge the Maldivian authorities to immediately halt plans to carry out the execution of Hussain Humaam Ahmed and to commute his, and all other, existing death sentences in Maldives. These, together with the establishment of a moratorium on all executions, must be the first, urgent steps towards full abolition of the death penalty.
Co-signed by:

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (Iran)
Amnesty International
Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, ADPAN
Association Justice and Mercy, AJEM (Lebanon)
Embrey Human Rights Program (Southern Methodist University-Dallas, Texas)
Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme, FIDH
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative
German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Greater Caribbean for Life
Hands Off Cain
Human Rights Law Service (Nigeria)
International Commission of Jurists (Kenyan section)
International CURE
Iran Human Rights
Italian Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Lawyers For Human Rights International (India)
Lutte pour la justice (France)
Lifespark (Switzerland)
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture, MADPET
Ordre des Barreaux francophones et germanophone de Belgique
Parliamentarians for Global Action
Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, TAEDP
Think Centre (Singapore)
World Organisation Against Torture, OMCT

Maldives to have first execution in 60 years in order to showcase ‘Islamic credentials’

Maldives to have first execution in 60 years in order to showcase ‘Islamic credentials’

Male (Maldives): Beleaguered Maldives President Abdulla Yameen is adamant that the first execution of a convict in sixty years will take place under his watch as a reiteration of Maldives’ Islamic credentials.

The politically isolated president, who is shunned by colleagues and family, is refusing to intervene despite several scholars calling the proposed execution un-Islamic.He has also ignored appeals of human rights groups and even the United Nations to stay the execution.

Twenty two-year-old Hussain Humaam Ahamed was condemned to death by the Maldives Supreme Court in 2014 for the murder of a Member of Parliament, Afrasheem Ali, in 2012.

The verdict was based on a confession that was obtained when he was in custody, which he retracted later. The Supreme Court, over which President Yameen has a stranglehold, disregarded the claim that Humaam has a mental disability and the request for an independent psychiatric evaluation.

If the death sentence is carried out, it will be the first execution in the Maldives since 1953.

The voices of protest have been crushed in the Maldives due to strict curbs, but renowned Islamic scholar at the University of Oxford, Tariq Ramadan, in a letter to President Yameen, has listed out reasons why the proposed execution is un-Islamic.

Citing extensively from the Hudud – the Islamic Penal Code, Ramadan has argued that 22-year-old Humaam’s death penalty contravened many basic prescriptions in the Shariah.

Stating that Humaam’s `confession’ was forcefully obtained, undermining fairness of his trial at a basic level, Ramadan has pointed out that pleas made by Humaam’s family that he was suffering from mental disability, has been totally disregarded by the court.

This, Ramadan argues, is also against Islamic law and jurisprudence as any doubt about the mental health of a murderer should play in his or her favour.

The heavy conditions found in the Islamic legislation have as a raison d’etre (`illah) to avoid any doubt; if there is the slightest doubt, then the punishment should be suspended.

Ramadan also emphasises that it was un-Islamic on the part of President Yameen to ignore requests of the victim’s father and brother, who have stated that they do not wish the death sentence to be implemented.

This call to spare Humaam’s life by two members of the victim’s family cannot be ignored under Sharia law. According to the principles of qisas, if the family of the victim asks for the sentence not to be implemented at any time before the execution (for the majority of the `ulama’), the latter should be suspended whatever the public authority might decide.

If Yameen were to respect Shariah conditions, it is imperative for him to listen to the family’s position, says the scholar. Ramadan adds that the above and beyond all of this, Rahmah (compassion) is an absolute necessity and an essential principle even if there is no element of doubt and conditions are met.

Tariq Ramadan has categorically stated in his letter to President Yameen that Humaam’s execution would contravene the fundamental principles of Islamic law and urged the latter to take all possible actions to prevent the execution.

Tariq Ramadan has got support from human rights groups around the world who have appealed to the Maldivian president that International law prohibits the use of death penalty against people with mental disabilities. But President Yameen, who has reintroduced capital punishment after a moratorium of 60 years, seems determined to not just stop the arbitrary deprivation of life but also break the tenets of Islamic law.

Ever since President Yameen reintroduced the death penalty in Maldives, execution facilities have been constructed at the Maldives’ Maafushi Prison.

The age of criminal responsibility is 10 in the Maldives which means that even juvelines could potentially face execution. (ANI) – The Siasat Daily, 10/7/2016

Maldivian Minister quits over death penalty implementation

Maldivian foreign min quits over death penalty implementation

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo  July 5, 2016

The Maldives’ foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has quit the government over its “hasty” decision to implement the death penalty which could mar the image of the country.

The resignation of Dunya, niece of the country’s President Yameen Abdul Gayoom and daughter of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the country for three decades from 1978 to 2008, comes amid reports of a power rift between the country’s powerful ruling family.

In a statement released today, Dunya, 45, said, “She had decided to resign from the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs because of irreconcilable disagreements on the government’s policy in implementing the death penalty in the Maldives.

“I have decided to resign from the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, effective from today. It was one of the most difficult decisions I had to take.

“Yet, the decision became inevitable because of the profound differences of opinion on the government’s policy in implementing the death penalty at a time when serious questions are being asked, and concerns being expressed, about the delivery of justice in the Maldives.”

“I remain convinced that the government’s policy on death penalty, decided on a hasty fashion, would be detrimental to the image and reputation of the Maldives and would be a significant obstacle in achieving the President Yameen’s foreign policy goals, and building a resilient Maldives,” she said.

Maldives, an island-nation in the Indian Ocean, became a multi-party democracy in 2008.- Business Standard, 5/7/2016

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