International human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Maldivian government to reverse its decision to reinstate the death penalty, citing concerns over the Maldivian judiciary’s track record of corruption, politicisation, and a failure to provide justice and accountability.

HRW’s appeal follows the government’s decision on 20 December 2023 to reintroduce the death penalty, overturning a longstanding moratorium in place since the 1950s. This decision has sparked criticism from international and domestic human rights organisations.

In a statement, Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu should immediately reverse his government’s plans to reinstate the death penalty. The Maldivian criminal justice system should align with the global trend toward abolishing this cruel and inhumane practice.”

“International and domestic human rights organisations have raised serious concerns over the enforcement of the death penalty in the Maldives, which are heightened by the Maldivian judiciary’s history of corruption, politicisation, and failure to provide justice and accountability for past crimes,” the HRW statement said.

The enforcement of the death penalty in the Maldives is particularly contentious due to the judiciary’s troubled history. Reports from Human Rights Watch and other organisations have highlighted issues of corruption, susceptibility to political pressure, and concerns over the fairness and impartiality of the judicial process​​​​​​​​.

The Maldivian government’s decision also contrasts starkly with global trends, especially among Muslim-majority countries. Many such countries are moving away from capital punishment, aligning themselves with broader human rights reforms and international norms. Examples include Albania, Azerbaijan, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the death penalty has been abolished or is no longer practiced.

The reinstatement of the death penalty in the Maldives raises critical questions about the country’s commitment to human rights and judicial reform. The decision is seen as a step back from the progress made in recent years, especially considering the former government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s commitments to uphold freedom of expression and deliver justice for past crimes.