Capital punishment comes to Maldives


"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

The Maldives will be ready to carry out the first executions in more than 60 years next month, President Abdulla Yameen declared Sunday amid growing international concern over the reintroduction of the death penalty.

“By God’s will, when the time comes in September, when the Supreme Court concludes [cases] to the point where the death penalty can be enforced, our mechanisms and arrangements will be complete enough to do it with the advice of the Islamic council and the word of the heirs,” Yameen said at an event held to welcome new members to the ruling party.

The president also reiterated his vow to reinstate capital punishment in a speech on Thursday night.

Three young men are presently on death row after the Supreme Court upheld their sentences last year. Rumours of their imminent executions in late July prompted Sir Richard Branson, a British billionaire and philanthropist, to warn that the move would send the Maldives “back to the Dark Ages of human rights.”

Branson and UN warn Maldives

Branson wrote: “As a responsible global citizen, I care about where my money is spent and how I conduct my business. President Yameen can still back away from the damaging path he has chosen for his country. If not, I hope the international community – governments and business alike – will react accordingly. The wonderful people of the Maldives deserve better than this.”

More recently, Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions urged the government to maintain the de facto moratorium on the death penalty.

“The resumption of executions in the Maldives after more than 60 years would be a great setback for the country and entire region, and would run counter to international trends towards abolition,” she said.

“The Maldives should instead take a leading role in human rights promotion and protection, and move towards officially abolishing the death penalty.”

Citing concerns over the fairness of the murder trials, the Special Rapporteur called on the government to halt the planned executions.

“The death penalty is the most severe and irreversible form of punishment. States have an obligation to avoid miscarriages of justice,” she said.

“To implement the death penalty after flawed trials would constitute arbitrary executions in clear violation of international law.”

International human rights groups Amnesty International and Reprieve have meanwhile been collecting signatures for petitions against the death penalty.

“President Yameen must be told that unless he pulls back from this reckless course of action, putting the Maldives on the wrong side of history when it comes to the death penalty, this island nation may become known less for its natural beauty and more for his cruelty,” Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, wrote in a widely-read commentary in The Independent.

Dr Shashi Tharoor, a globally renowned public intellectual and prominent Indian politician, echoed Patnaik’s concerns on social media.

“To break a moratorium on executions that has held for half a century would be a wanton, destructive and futile act by a President seeking to distract from the turmoil in his own government,” said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve.

“Resuming executions now will do nothing to make the Maldives safer – and amid serious fears over the fairness of trials and the independence of the courts, it could lead to grave miscarriages of justice. President Yameen must urgently heed the warnings from Maldivian experts and the country’s international friends, and halt these ill-advised executions.”

In July last year, the UN Human Rights Committee asked the government to halt the execution of Hussain Humam Ahmed pending the outcome of a review of his case. The 22-year-old was found guilty of murdering Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.

According to Amnesty, the UN body issued the same requests last month in the cases of the two other men, Ahmed Murrath and Mohamed Nabeel, who are also facing execution.

In late July, Tariq Ramadan, a renowned Islamic scholar, renewed his appeal for the president to reconsider moving ahead with the executions.

“In recent years, Maldivian civil society organisations have reported a serious erosion of human rights in the Maldives,” he wrote.

“Nowhere is this declining standard more glaring than in capital trials; where there is a systematic failure to uphold constitutional safeguards and the fundamental guarantees of Islamic law such as protection from coerced confessions, the right to appoint legal counsel, and the right to have a case proved beyond reasonable doubt.”

America is another centre of capital punishment

Capital punishment (right next to abortion) is one of the most controversial subjects in politics. There are people who believe it is justified and some who believe it is out-right wrong. But the real question we should be asking ourselves is whether it is unconstitutional or not.

The eighth amendment makes it illegal for the government to give out cruel and/or unusual punishments and high fines. As we all know, the government could care less about the Bill of Rights, let alone the Constitution itself. If the government actually cared about capital punishment or its founding documents the only method we would use is the firing squad.

Firing Squad for some states in the US

Now why the firing squad you ask? Simply put, it is the only method of execution the United States has that does NOT violate the eighth amendment.

How are the other methods unconstitutional? Why would you not use lethal injection or even hanging? We are lead to believe all methods that are used are quick and painless. The sad truth is firing squad is the only method that is, truly, not torturous, but it is only used in three states: Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Utah. Lethal injection can take up to two hours to declare someone dead. There have been so many botched lethal injections that it should logically be considered torture.

Clayton Lockett was given lethal injection in 2014. The executioners could not find a vein in his arm to take the needle so they put the I.V. in his groin and administered the drugs that way. Come to find out he had a collapsed vein and the chemicals leaked or absorbed in to his tissue. The director called off the execution when he realized not enough drugs were in Lockett to actually kill him. He died of a massive heart attack. Lockett’s case is not alone, there have been many cases where the convicted documentedly shows signs of pain during the execution. There is not any proof suggesting lethal injection is painless, whereas many cases have proven it is not.

Hanging is often considered quick and painless too but according to studies it takes the heart 20 minutes to stop beating after a person in hung via long rope. As for electrocution, it is essentially the process of cooking a human brain and internal organs inside an inmate’s body- a bit inhumane. It has even been ruled unconstitutional by the Nebraska and Georgia Supreme courts.

Gassing is also a problem. Inmates tend to hold their breath when the gas is administered. Signs of vomiting and hyperventilation has been reported while inmates are in the gas chamber. It also goes without saying, most Americans are tentative to be “gas chamber proponents.”

The firing squad consists of five marksmen equipped with 30 caliber Winchester rifles. One of the rifles is given a blank so none of the riflemen will know who actually fired the lethal rounds. For accuracy a target is placed on the heart. Once given the signal the marksmen all aim for the target and pierce the heart and lungs cutting off blood circulation to the brain. You will die within 10 seconds or immediately. You are only kept alive by the remainder of oxygen that is in your blood. 10 seconds for firing squad and a possible 2 hours for lethal injection? I think I know where to take my chances.

I think we need a huge reform in capital punishment. I, personally, believe that it should be abolished all together. All European countries minus Russia and Belarus have abolished it, but if the United States is going to continue with it then I believe it is time to make firing squad the only method of execution. Instead of having a judge decide the convicted’s fate it should be the families of the victims that decide whether or not they get the death penalty. It costs an average of 1.8 million dollars of tax payer money to execute just one prisoner due to a robust and necessary appeals process.

We are in trillions of dollars in debt and we are wasting money on killing people. It’s time to reform the death penalty and make it legal again. If citizens have to follow the rules then our government should as well.

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