Section: Judiciary

Maldives state ready to kill Humam, and a way of life

HumamDeath

by Azra Naseem

In the early hours of the morning on the 19th day of Ramadan, as most of the country slept, the Maldives Supreme Court upheld the verdict by lower courts to kill Hussein Humam Ahmed. The 22-year-old man was convicted of killing MP Dr Afrasheem Ali on 2 October 2012 in a trial laden with irregularities.

Regulations introduced recently say the sentence must be carried out within 30 days. Umar Naseer, Home Minister until a sudden resignation on Tuesday this week, has said the State is now ready to kill by hanging - the only thing missing was someone’s neck to put the noose around and squeeze the life out of. The Supreme Court delivered that last night in the shape of Humam.

Humam’s killing will be the first in the Maldives since 1953, even then a rare thing. Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta wrote of the Maldives in the 14th Century:

The inhabitants of the Maldive islands are honest and pious people, sincere in good faith and of a strong will…In body they are weak and have no aptitude for combat or for war, and their arms their prayers. One day in this country, I ordered the right hand of a robber to be cut off; upon which many of the natives in the hall of audience fainted away.

Today’s Maldives could not be more different. Crime is rife. Murders are commonplace. Stabbings are almost a daily occurrence. Robbery is regular. Corruption is widespread. Deception is natural. Violence is culture.

Something has gone seriously awry with the society’s moral compass.

Dr Afrasheem’s murder was one of the most brutal and violent the country had ever seen. Afrasheem left behind young children, a wife, parents, siblings. They all deserve justice, like everyone else. But there’s too much doubt about whether or not Humam is his killer. Afrasheem’s murder was a contract killing, that much everyone agrees on. Did Humam do it? If he did, who gave the orders? His conviction is based on confessions, retracted as many times as they were given. The legal apparatus will not let a psychiatrist judge his state of mind despite an insanity plea.

And, too many people—Umar Naseer, former Commissioner of Police and current JP MP Abdulla Riyaz, former police and military intelligence officers to indicate just a few—have pointed fingers at people other than Humam, ranging from the very top of government and various political parties to religious extremists, for this verdict to sit well with any right thinking member of society. Today all of them are holding their tongues as Humam is readied for the noose.

The Supreme Court’s decision is political. And so is Afrasheem’s murder said to be.

Many offer informed speculation that the MP could have been murdered for his seat in parliament or for his intentions to contest in then forthcoming presidential elections. He would have given other members of his party a run for their money. He was a popular man. Some reports say there was involvement of radicalised religious elements in Afrasheem’s murder – but, even if so, not without a political connection.

The Supreme Court is controlled by the very same people interested in hiding who really killed Afrasheem, if the informed speculation is based on truth. The court has long since placed itself above the law, ensconced inside the pockets of political leaders. As those awake waited tensely for the ruling on Humam last night–which came over three hours later than billed–the court issued a press release warning potential critics of serious repercussions if they openly disagreed with the court’s rulings.

The Supreme Court’s decision is political in another way. It panders to the strict Salafi clerics and their philosophy of ‘progression through regression’ that now dominate Maldives society. It caters to their demands for a legal system in the Maldives based on Sharia alone. This is a demand expressed by the whole spectrum of Salafis in the Maldives from the apolitical to the radicals and the violent ‘Jihadists’ who have emigrated to SyriaThe Supreme Court decision will appease them.

It also panders to the overlords who facilitate, finance and continue to groom Maldivian Muslims to become Salafis: Saudi Arabia.

The noose around Humam’s neck will put an end to not just his life but to two problems the government encounters: rumours of President Yameen’s involvement in Afrasheem’s murder that just won’t die; and accusations that it is not following the path of ‘true Islam’, i.e, Saudi-led Salafi Islam.

There is still a significant part of Maldivian society today, like me, horrified by the Supreme Court decision which ignored even the last-minute pleas by the murdered victim’s family for a temporary reprieve. Without the Sharia concept of Qisas, which is what the entire case is based on, was lost. Yet the Supreme Court went ahead, making a mockery even of Sharia.

We should understand this verdict is a harbinger of things to come: a society characterised by injustice, faux piety, and appeasement of the radical. There was a time when none of us could have imagined life in Maldives dominated by strict Salafi ideology. Today it is a lived truth. Tomorrow seems likely to be totally ruled by it.

At death’s door is not just Humam, but what is left of the long-lived Maldivian identity as a peace-loving non-violent society of Muslims who practise their religion without committing violence and human rights abuses in its name.


Correction: This article previously said “When the Sharia concept of Qisas became unavailable, the court opted for Ta’zir.” This was not the case. The bench simply chose to ignore plea by Dr Afrasheem’s family for a temporary reprieve, and went ahead with the ruling, flouting the concept of Qisas.

Photo: Humam being brought to court, Raajje.mv

Are we all going to kill Humaam?

by Shahindha Ismail

Mamma, how can you kill a man to show the world that killing is unacceptable?

This is what my 14 year old daughter asked me today. I am so grateful that there is still so much innocence and, so, hope for new generations to come. It is as simple as she put it.

Although the penalty existed, a 62 year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in the Maldives was lifted in 2014 with the enforcement of the Regulation on the Implementation of the Death Penalty. We now have a list of 17 people on death row since 2008, and a few of them sentenced as minors. The government of Maldives has in the past year justified MVR 4 million (US$ 261,547) to build a death chamber at the prison island. After having tried and failed to procure the serum for lethal injection, the government has quickly fixed this problem, choosing instead to implement the sentence by hanging until dead.

Out of the death row inmates, 23 year old Hussain Humaam has his case at the Supreme Court at present. Although not the first to be sentenced to death, he would be the first to be confirmed, if not acquitted by the Supreme Court. While all the death sentences were passed based primarily on confessions rather than evidence, what is most interesting in Humaam’s case is that his sentence is based on a statement given out of trial, during a remand hearing. It is also one of three different statements, contradicting each other, that he gave at the Criminal Court of Maldives. Let us not even go into the legitimacy of these statements when Islamic Shari’a and the law both require proof beyond any doubt as opposed to reasonable doubt, in the case of an accusation of murder. Article 52 of the Constitution states that a statement given in police custody, if contradicted at trial, cannot be used to convict the defendant.

Humaam is a notorious delinquent since childhood; a boy who was involved in all types of crimes from theft to street fights to stabbing, and now murder. Is this why many of us have turned a blind eye to what is going on with this young man who the State will very likely put to death, despite the many flaws in the judicial process? Penalties should absolutely apply to offenders, and it is also in the interest of the society. However it is not in the interest of anyone when the law is twisted far enough to take the life of an individual without due process. Neither the process nor the interpretations used conform to best practice or our international obligations.

An individual is part of the society. It is all these individuals, including the businessmen and women, the lawyers, the judges, mothers, fathers, our children and yes, the criminals and delinquents who make up a society. The Criminal Court deemed it necessary that a death sentence be passed on Humaam “in the interest of the harmony of the society” despite that fact that Islamic Shari’a requires ALL of the victim’s heirs to ask for it. The victim in this case left behind two children who are still minors, unable to state their wish until they turn eighteen. The Criminal Court deemed it necessary to not wait for these children to turn eighteen, as the Maalikee sect in Islam prescribes in such cases.

I wonder why there is such an urgency to take this young man’s life. Furthermore, why would the court use Maalikee sect when the general principle in criminal law is that in a situation of conflict of law or principle, whichever law that is most lenient to the defendant should be used. This has also been the practice in the Maldives in many cases – yet we do not see this principle followed in the case of Humaam, and upholding this death sentence by the Criminal Court seem to have become crucial at many levels.

I also wonder how many of us think about the gravity of this problem, with the State killing a man through a process that has breached the principles of Islamic Shari’a, common law, international obligations and even common sense. All of us who righteously speak of injustices, of a flawed justice system, inequalities, protection, prevention and so forth. Why do we not raise our voices against this atrocity? I cannot believe that we have failed the morality and values that our ancestors, and Islam itself, have left in us. It does not matter whether Humaam was ‘a good boy’. What matters is whether justice has been served, whether due process has been observed. Whether we treated Humaam fairly enough, such that if someone of our own (family) was accused of the same crime, we would have treated that person the same way.

Humaam’s lawyer, Usthaz Haseen, raised the question of Humaam’s mental condition at the Criminal Court, citing family statements that Humaam has had episodes where he was not mentally fit.   What was the court’s response? That a claim for insanity could not be accepted since Humaam had previously faced many charges and never once claimed insanity till now. Dear court, there is no time set in stone as to when a man can lose his mind.

The court also said that Humaam’s lawyer could not prove to the court that Humaam had a psychiatric problem. That is right. Humaam’s lawyer could not because he is a lawyer. Not a psychiatrist. The court then decided that Humaam was of sound mind. The court itself, not a psychiatrist. The next question is whether Humaam’s defense attempted to ascertain his frame of mind. Humaam was arrested on the night of October 20, 2012 and was in police custody until he was sentenced. Any medical or psychiatric evaluation that was conducted on him, was conducted by the police, by a medical professional of their choice. None of the medical records are shared with family. As with every person who is under police custody in the Maldives, no one will believe what those documents say, and insist on an evaluation by an independent medical professional or one of their choosing. Then again, it would be far-fetched to expect the judiciary or the state to provide an evaluation of Humaam by a psychiatrist that the family is happy with, and also for it to allow the family to have access to the medical reports.

In the case of Ford vs Wainwright in Florida (1974), the United States Supreme Court allowed for a review to clarify, among other issues, whether the district court should have held a hearing on Ford’s claim of insanity. The court “found that three problems with the procedures followed in Ford’s case: he had no chance to provide evidence relevant to his sanity, he was denied the opportunity to ‘challenge or impeach the state-appointed psychiatrists’ opinions,’ and the procedure placed the ultimate decision wholly within the executive branch. The Court found that Florida’s inadequate procedure denied Ford his constitutional right to due process. Accordingly, Ford was entitled to a new evidentiary hearing in federal district court on the question of his competence to be executed” writes Capital Punishment in Context, a resource platform for cases involving capital punishment.

The report of the Criminal Court repeatedly refers to the fact that Humaam was not consistent in what he said at the hearings. The court could not rely on his statements alone, so they rely on statements made by others. In legal jargon, hearsay. It also refers to Humaam’s self-proclamation that he had previously been involved in several heinous crimes. Again, it is a general principle in criminal law that, an assumption cannot be made for culpability based on the fact that one had previously committed a crime. Begging once again the question why the court could have declared him of sound mind then. Is it not natural for one to think the young man must be quite mad to be admitting to all these crimes when at the same time he is denying similar charges? Humaam has since attempted to end his own life and to harm himself in prison several times, at times requiring minor surgery. He speaks of a man in white entering the solitary confinement cell he has lived in for the past three years, of voices he hears deep into the night and of nightmares. The case screams for a psychiatric evaluation, yet none of the authorities or courts have had the decency to speak of it. Does the law allow for an insane man to be executed? Does Islam allow for it? I believe not.

Will the Supreme Court allow for an independent evaluation of Humaam’s mental condition? In the case of Abdul Awkal in Ohio (2012), the Supreme Court indefinitely stayed his execution based on the county court’s ruling that Awkal was mentally incompetent for execution following a mental competency hearing. In the case of Robert James Acremant in Oregon (2011), a death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole with the exception of new evidence showing Acrament feigned mental illness. In the case of Isaac Jackson Stroud in California (2011), his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without parole based on an incurable mental disorder. The list goes on. It depends on whether the Supreme Court will consider the reality of mental illness in the case of violent offenders. It also makes me cringe at the state of rehabilitation and care available for the mentally ill in the Maldives.

A bigger question for me is, will our society allow for an independent evaluation of Humaam’s mental condition? Are we, as a society, not satisfied enough to try and rehabilitate the outcasts within us? Or are we as a society too, hungry to take this man’s life, any life, believing that it will right the wrongs? Will we kill and do away with a chunk of our society to call it clean?

Killing a man will not bring back the dead. It will not prevent anyone else from killing again – for if it were a deterrent, then the world will have stopped murdering people for hundreds of years now. More cases of death sentences have been scheduled at the High Court as we read this. The rush at which a State will go for an individual’s life is no worse than hearing of a gang of thugs planning to kill a man.

One simple question. Prophet Mohamed SAW says, our Eeman will not be complete until we want that which we want for ourselves, for our brothers too. If Humaam was your own brother, would you believe that the court system is fair enough to warrant the taking of his life? Would we believe that the process he has gone through was fair enough?

******

Related link: Dhivehi translation of Tariq Ramadan’s International Call for Moratorium on Corporal Punishment In the Islamic World


About the author: Shahindha Ismail is the Executive Director at Maldivian Democracy Network. Shahindha has been working in fields related to human rights for ten years, and is the co-author of the MDN publication: Asaasee Haqquthakaai Minivankan [Fundamental Rights and Freedoms]. She has also contributed several articles and reports to human rights journals. She is a keen runner, and is married with one daughter. 

Photo: Humaam’s family hugs him as he is brought to court, VMedia

The Rule of Fear in the Republic

 

by Mushfique Mohamed

The newly ratified Maldivian anti-terror law is designed to systematically derogate and restrict most crucial civil and political rights in a highly repressed country. The Act renders the Maldives’ first democratic Constitution to what it has been deduced to – a fig leaf to historicise continued authoritarianism. Anyone in the country could have his or her enjoyment of human rights set back to dictatorship-era standards, to an extent that will make you question whether Maldives ever transitioned from it. The 1990 anti-terror law, repealed through this Act, was enacted to prosecute Abdullah Luthufi and armed mercenaries from the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), alleged to have perpetrated a coup d’état against the dictatorship*.

The manufactured political drama revolving around the boat blast on 28 September may be shocking, with its plot twists and emotive monologues. But because of dramatic irony, the storyline is very clear to us: this is your average tyrant purging his enemies. The explosive speedboat saga is a page turning ‘story within a story’, however, the ‘play’ has a more universal tone that stems from the human need to be free from unequal and undignified treatment. In that regard, the Maldivian antagonists have changed very little from its feudal, coup-mongering, violent predecessors.

The new anti-terror law is anything but that, it is an instrument with which the public could be terrorised. It revives the ability for political actors to legitimise abuse of power, a cause for concern given the frequency of political unrest and repression in Maldives’ past and present. The law contains vague terms, such as “undue influence against the government” and “unlawful promotion of a particular political, religious or other ideology”, unfound in the law’s interpretation provisions, however defined as terrorism, in addition to “creation of fear among the public or within a specific group.” It is no coincidence that the definition of terrorism does not explicitly include violent extremism, or religious extremism – the most prevalent type of terrorism today. It makes it clear that the regime’s efforts to counter violent extremism are insincere.

When the bill was sent to parliament, opposition parliamentarians highlighted the lack of provisions regarding terrorism financing and Maldivian citizens joining foreign terrorist organisations. The former head of intelligence Mohamed Hameed criticised the Act in an op-ed on Maldives Independent before the Act was ratified, arguing that it fails to focus on terrorism-related concerns that are endemic to the Maldives such as terrorist recruitment and violent jihad. Hameed claimed that “comprehensive reforms and measures such as public awareness, early intervention and rehabilitation programmes to combat extremism must be put in place, along with or before the passage of this bill.” He went on to say that the government must look at the “comprehensive picture on the problem of religious extremism” and introduce a “cross-government strategy to tackle it,” while acknowledging increasing religious extremism “as a very first step.”

Former Deputy Prosecutor General and UNDP’s expert on the 2014 penal code, Hussein Shameem claimed in his commentary that all the offences mentioned in this Act – some 19 offences – have already been mentioned in the new Penal Code. Shameem pointed out that the Act does not criminalise certain “inchoate offences,” which are addressed under the Penal Code 2014. “As it is written in this Act, attempting or planning to initiate training to commit an act of terrorism, or planning to leave to fight in a foreign war are not considered criminal offences,” he said.

In order to limit executive influence on how terrorist groups are defined, modern anti-terrorism laws contain a parliamentary approved list of proscribed organisations. While the Act heavily mentions “terrorist groups”, it does not include an annex of groups that the government considers to be tied to terrorism. Instead the president has the power to proscribe organisations.[1] Apart from the president, the judiciary – an institution in which 51% of the public does not have confidence – is given discretionary powers to decide whether literature promotes terrorism.[2]

For instance, a statement given during investigation could be used as documentary evidence in court.[3] It is a practice thought to have ended with the new Constitution, which requires judges to rule based on witness testimonies rather than investigative statements. The Act inscribes anti-democratic actions that have been taking place in spite of democratisation efforts. In violation of international human rights law and constitutional protections against pre-trial detention, the Act enables offenders to be held in remand until completion of the trial.[4] The presumption of innocence before proven guilty is watered-down to the regime’s official line – guilty as charged, even prior to prosecution.[5] A person who was acquitted could be discriminated against, simply for being previously accused of any crime. The concern here is not absconding trial, but the existence of unproven guilt, which should not be up for consideration at a forum that claims to administer justice.

Constitutional protections such as the right to remain silent, the entitlement to be released from pre-trial detention and the right to legal assistance of one’s own choosing are derogated. The use of these narrowed down rights can be used against the accused, but its probative value during trial is unstipulated.[6] The evidentiary standards are lowered for the purposes of this law in the following manner.[7] A confession made during investigation can be considered as evidence in a court of law. The right to a lawyer can be withheld if one is not appointed within six hours of detention, and client-attorney privileged correspondence can also be adduced to prove guilt of terrorism offences. In most circumstances, dying declarations would be considered hearsay, however this law considers it as evidence if such a declaration indicates guilt of an individual.

The Maldivian judiciary, known to suspend lawyers and sentence people in absentia can now issue monitoring and controlling orders in the same manner if the Home Minister requests.[8] The procedure known as “monicon,” found in Chapter Four of the Act can be initiated pursuant to a High Court order authorising monitoring of terror suspects. Electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptops can be monitored, intercepted and recorded using the monicon order.[9] Additionally, police can enter an address unspecified in a court order if a suspect is known to be in it,[10] they can take photos inside private property,[11] restrict movement[12], and acquire information about your home and who you share it with.[13] All of this might not be alarming to many Maldivians because these opaque actions are realities that wax and wane depending on the regime’s whims. But now, if you are a suspect – using the controversial order – the Home Minister can electronically tag[14] and “rehabilitate” you,[15] even if you are below 18 years of age.[16]

The assumption of powers by the executive is inconsistent with terrorism-related concerns of the country, and the timing of the enactment is ominous. In March this year, the regime imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Ministers Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu and Mohamed Nazim using the anti-terror law enacted during the 30-year dictatorship. Although this anti-terror has new legal language and powers, it is resonant of a newer version of the old anti-terrorism law. Similar to the old law, little importance is given to the definition of violent extremism, making the Act’s objectives uncertain. The draconian legislation allows executive to usurp the counter-terrorism mandate, introducing reinvented Orwellian methods to strengthen grip on power. If seen through the lens of the 47-year old republic’s history, the anti-terror law is an authoritarian intervention to the rule of law, rather than a genuine effort to counter terrorism.


[1] Article 18 (a) of the Anti-Terror Act 2015

[2] Article 9(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015

[3] Article 29(a), number 3 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015

[4] Article 26 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015

[5] Article 26 (b) of the Anti Terrorism Act 2015

[6] Articles 21 to 24 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015

[7] Article 27 of the Act lists types of evidence that can be adduced.

[8] Article 35(b)

[9] Article 50

[10] Article 54(c)

[11] Article 59(b)

[12] Article 47

[13] Article 46(a)2

[14] Article 53(a)

[15] Article 52

[16] Article 45

Author’s Clarification (Added on 16 November 2015)

*The anti-terror law enacted in December 1990 during the dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – brother of Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom – was drafted in response to Sangu, a newspaper critical of the regime that was banned in June 1990. The regime retrospectively prosecuted Nasheed under the Anti Terrorism Act 1990 for an article he wrote about corruption, published earlier that year, by “Sangu” and “The Island;” a Sri Lankan newspaper. Nasheed was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on 8 April 1992, but released in June 1993. The alleged coup-makers Abdullah Luthfee and the Tamil mercenaries were prosecuted under the old penal code prior to the 1990 anti-terror law.

About the author: Mushfique Mohamed is a practising lawyer at Hisaan, Riffath & Co., and also works as a consultant for Maldivian Democracy Network.