Attorney General (AG) Azima Shakoor stated on Thursday that the government’s bill on implementing death penalty would be made public early in the coming week.
Speaking at a press conference in Velaanaage, Shakoor confirmed that the AG’s office had completed drafting the bill, which was now in the final stages of discussion. She confirmed that the bill would be made public on the office’s website in the coming week, stating the matter “is very much connected to public sentiments and a large number of people feel this matter needs a fast solution”.
Saying that “it was a pity” that three weeks had passed in the drafting stage, Shakoor said that unlike most other bills, the death penalty implementation bill was going through processes of in-depth research and further discussions among a high-level group appointed by the government.
According to Shakoor, the research took much longer than the state had expected, adding that the AG office had included the legal systems of Medina, Egypt and America in its research.
“I would like to point out that the death penalty is still implemented in over 50 countries across the world even today. Not all of these are even Islamic states. Nor is murder the only crime for which the sentence is given. For example, some countries sentence people to death for being caught trying to bring in narcotics to the country. We are considering all of these points and have made a comparative legal assessment,” Shakoor explained.
Other crimes besides murder which are punishable by death according to Islamic Sharia include apostasy, adultery, sodomy, rape and high treason.
“We need to conduct an academic exercise since we are trying to do this through a rather weak penal code,” Shakoor said.
“If this can be done before the penal code pending in parliament is passed, it might be best to include this as part of that code. Right now, we have drafted this with the thought that if the penal code gets passed up front, then this can be passed as a separate act on death penalty.”
Shakoor said that the bill was important as the current practice was to charge murder convicts under Article 88 of the existing penal code.
Article 88 of the Penal Code states that disobedience to order is a crime, while Article 88(c) details that if the result of violating the article leads to a death, the case should be dealt with according to Islamic Sharia.
Shakoor provided details of the drafted bill, stating it would be looking at the investigation stages, prosecution stages, sentencing and the implementation of sentences.
“The act looks into deciding on the number of judges who will sit on the sentencing panel. Furthermore it considers the rights of the family, the rights of the murder victim, the rights of the victim’s family, the final rights of the convict during sentencing,” Shakoor stated.
Responding to a question regarding how those sentenced to death prior to the bill being ratified would be dealt with, Shakoor said “it is difficult to give a straightforward answer as the final discussions on the bill have not yet been completed.”
“We too believe that answers to that must come to light through how this bill is composed. However, I believe that a solution must be provided even for past cases. So the act will be drafted to reflect that. You can see for yourselves once the bill is made public,” Shakoor replied.
“When an act is passed which explicitly spells out implementation [of the death penalty], then I believe the benefits of it must be carried to even past cases.”
Among a number of other cases, a young couple charged with the murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb were sentenced to death by the Criminal Court in July, a few days after the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) asked the Maldivian state to enact legislation to officially abolish the death penalty. The statement said “the state itself has admitted that capital punishment does not deter crime.”