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Supreme court of Maldives quashes high court stay order halting executions

Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared earlier this month that his administration will not balk at enforcing the death penalty, claiming that it is necessary for public safety. Photograph:( Getty )

WION New Delhi,India Jul 25, 2016, 10.46 AM (IST)
The Supreme Court of Maldives has quashed a stay order issued on Sunday by the High Court halting executions by the state, the Maldives Independent has reported.

"An order issued around 1.30 am local time states that there are no 'judicial or legal grounds to challenge the constitutionality of the regulations' as the apex court has upheld two death sentences and ordered the state to carry out executions in accordance with the regulations," the report said. The Supreme Court of Maldives suggested that it has therefore deemed the regulations to be valid and constitutional.

The case was filed by a local human rights NGO Maldives Democratic Network (MDN) and the high court's decision to hear the case was considered by the Supreme Court as violating the constitution. It deemed the hearing 'void by its nature'. 

According to Maldives Independent, the Supreme Court has also declared that the appellate court shall not adjudicate on the matter and nullified the case.

Speaking to the website, Shahindha Ismail, executive director of the NGO questioned the “validity of the midnight order” by the apex court.

She said that she does not believe the apex court has issued a ruling because “there has not been a hearing of this case at the Supreme Court, as the most fundamental of rights in this issue, of being heard, was never afforded to MDN by the court.”

“Further, the document going around on social media does not even have a signature or initial of an authorised person of the Supreme Court and the case number quoted on last night’s order seems to be that of a previous case. We will go ahead with our petition,” she added.

The order was first put up on the Twitter account of the Department of Judicial Administration, which falls under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court.

It has now been published on the Supreme Court website, without a signature, the Maldives Independent said. 

In its public interest claim, the MDN had meanwhile argued that the death penalty regulations restricted a fundamental constitutional right, which could only be done by an act of parliament, the Maldives Independent report mentioned. 

The website reported that the panel who heard the case at the High Court comprised of Chief Judge Abdulla Didi along with Judges Ali Sameer and Abdul Rauf Ibrahim.

The Supreme Court’s intervention comes in the midst of mounting international pressure against the re-introduction of capital punishment in Maldives after a six-decade unofficial moratorium.

President Abdulla Yameen declared earlier this month that his administration will not baulk at enforcing the death penalty, claiming that it is necessary for public safety.

The Supreme Court upheld its first death sentences last month after Yameen urged the highest court of appeal to conclude death penalty cases.

The regulations approved by the cabinet in April 2014 require a final judgment by the apex court to carry out executions.

Two young men, Hussain Humam Ahmed and Ahmed Murrath, are now awaiting execution by lethal injection or hanging.

Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Committee requested the government to halt Humam’s execution pending the outcome of a review of his conviction on the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.

But the foreign ministry said the request does not constitute a legally binding order.

The UN Human Rights committee is investigating a complaint alleging violations of Humam’s right to a fair trial as set forth in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The European Union, four UN human rights experts, and Amnesty International have also called on the government to maintain the moratorium on the death penalty.