The government led by the newly elected President Mohamed Muizzu has announced plans to reinstate the death penalty, ending a de facto moratorium that has been in place since 1954. Homeland Security Minister Ali Ihusaan, during a press conference at Iskandhar Koshi, stated that the government is reviewing necessary procedures and regulations for its implementation.

This announcement follows a history of fluctuating stances on capital punishment in the Maldives. Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had previously expressed intentions to enforce the death penalty during his tenure but faced substantial legal and international pushback. Yameen later acknowledged public concerns over the fairness of the country’s investigative and judicial processes.

The current administration’s move contrasts sharply with the policy under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who maintained the moratorium and showed reluctance towards capital punishment. The Maldivian criminal justice system, in recent times, has faced criticism for police corruption, politicisation of judicial appointments, and failure to protect vulnerable communities and human rights defenders​​​​​​​​.

The policy to implement the death penalty stipulates that it can only be carried out after all legal procedures, including appeals at the Supreme Court are completed. A committee consisting of the Prosecutor General, the Chief Justice or their designate, and the Commissioner of Prisons must sign off on the execution, which is then ordered by the President.

This decision raises significant human rights concerns, especially considering several convicts on death row were sentenced by a Supreme Court bench that included justices later disbarred by the parliament for integrity violations. The disbarment of these justices, led by the majority of the current government, brings the impartiality of their judgments into question.

Globally, there is a trend among Muslim-majority countries towards abolishing or not practicing the death penalty, with examples like Albania, Azerbaijan, and Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrating a move away from capital punishment in line with broader human rights reforms and international commitments.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for three decades and maintained the moratorium on the death penalty, offered a critical perspective on the recent decision. He wryly commented on X, “I did not know imposing the death penalty was a milestone of national development. Apologies.”

The Maldivian government’s decision to reinstate the death penalty, especially under a cloud of judicial scrutiny, places it at odds with this global trend and has sparked concerns among human rights activists and international observers. The move emphasises the need for comprehensive reform in the Maldivian criminal justice system to ensure fairness, impartiality, and adherence to international human rights standards.