Children could get death penalty as Maldives brings back executions

The Maldives overturned a six-decade-old moratorium on capital punishment with the adoption of a new regulation this week that allows for the death penalty to be used to punish certain crimes.

The Maldivian government enacted the regulation, which makes provision for execution by lethal injection, for the crimes of premeditated murder or deliberate manslaughter.

While the age of criminal responsibility is 10 in the Maldives, some crimes under the country's Sharia laws -- known as Hadd offenses -- have an age of responsibility of 7. This means that juveniles could potentially face execution in the archipelago.

Execution facilities at the Maldives' Maafushi Prison were being built to carry out sentences. Since reenacted, 20 people have been sentenced to death, although one of these sentences was overturned by the High Court, a report in the country's Haveeru newspaper said.

Local Maldives media reported that Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer defended the decision to reinstate the penalty, saying that the Maldives was suffering from overcrowded prisons and a "lively criminal environment."

He was also quoted as saying that the Maldives was "a hundred percent Islamic country and there are certain values that we all believe in."

The U.N. and EU have expressed their concerns about the move, which could potentially see minors killed by the state.

"According to the new regulation, minors convicted of intentional murder shall be executed once they turn 18. Similar provisions in the recently ratified Penal Code, allowing for the application of the death penalty for crimes committed when below the age of 18, are also deeply regrettable," Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

"We urge the Government to retain its moratorium on the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, particularly in cases that involve juvenile offenders and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether."

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton was also "deeply concerned" about the adoption of the regulations and urged the Maldives to retain the moratorium on the death penalty.

"The High Representative holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty," a statement issued by her office said.

"The death penalty is cruel and inhumane, and has not been shown in any way to act as a deterrent to crime."

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