South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

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.

Updated On: July 10, 2016