The MDP Condemns Government’s Delay of the New Penal Code

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemns the Government’s last minute amendments to delay the coming into force of the new penal code.

The new penal code, drafted in 2004 and first submitted for amendment in 2005, was passed by the Parliament and ratified by President Yameen on 13 April 2014, giving a grace period of 1 year for it to come into force. It would have entered into force on 13 April this year. The new penal code would have made obsolete the current penal code adopted in 1966, which is outdated and not in line with the new constitution and the international human rights conventions which the Maldives is signatory to.

Government MPs in the National Security Committee of the Parliament passed an amendment to delay the coming into force of the new penal code, claiming that more time was required for public awareness. An extraordinary session of the Parliament has been scheduled for Sunday 12 April to vote on this amendment, which was passed in contravention of the Parliament’s standing orders.

The MDP notes that a grace period of 1 year was given precisely for this reason. Familiarisation sessions for the new penal code have been held among all sectors of the Maldives’ criminal justice system over the last year. The MDP condemns the Government’s last minute amendment to delay the commencement of the new penal code as a politically motivated attempt to continue using the current penal code as a means to harass and intimidate the opposition.

Over 93 cases against opposition supporters have been forwarded by the Police for prosecution in the past month. Many of these cases, especially with respect to those holding leadership figures within the MDP have had charges officially levied by the Prosecutor General. The majority of these charges are based on Art. 88 (a) of the current penal code, which criminalises disobedience to a judicial or legal order. The MDP highlights that this offence has been very liberally used by authorities in order to suppress constitutionally stipulated rights to expression and assembly. During this time of increased political opposition to the Yameen Government, the MDP condemns the Government’s use of their political majority to cripple the criminal justice system and restrict the rights of all Maldivians.