UNDP Maldives and the Attorney General’s Office hold first high level stakeholder meeting on the roll-out of the Maldives’ new Penal Code
The first high-level stakeholder meeting on the roll-out of the Maldives’ new Penal Code organized by UNDP Maldives and the Attorney General’s Office was held yesterday. The meeting was well attended by senior officials including the Chief Justice, justices of the Supreme Court of Maldives, Judges from the High Court of Maldives, the Attorney General, the Minister of Home Affairs, senior officials from the Maldives Police Service and members of Independent Institutions including the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Anti-Corruption Commission of the Maldives.
The new Maldives Penal Code that was ratified on 13 April 2014 replaced the country’s existing Penal Code which dates back to 1968. A period of one year has been given prior to the enactment of the legislation primarily to bring necessary changes to other existing legislations to ensure that there are no conflicts during the transition from the old Penal Code to the new penal law.
The Penal Code reform was announced by the government of Maldives in 2004. Since then, UNDP has provided technical support to the Penal Code reform throughout the decade, including the original drafting of the Penal Code. The primary drafting of the original text was led by a UNDP facilitated consultancy team of international legal experts led by Professor Paul H. Robinson of University of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile an advisory group and a core group comprising of local legal experts on Islamic Sharia’ and Maldivian legal background provided the context and background of the Maldivian and Islamic criminal justice system. The draft Penal Code was further deliberated and amended to meet the national requirements through a national consultative process.
“This is the first and most comprehensive efforts ever made in codifying Islamic Sharia. It was an immense task,” said the Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem during a presentation given at the meeting. In his presentation, he gave short overview of the Penal Code emphasizing key changes that have now been brought in the new penal law, specifically highlighting on the major transformations that the new Penal Code would bring to Criminal trials.
Speaking in the meeting, Attorney General Mohamed Anil highlighted and thanked the support provided by the UNDP in the developing stage of the new Penal Code. He noted that while the new Penal Code would strengthen the country, there still exist significant challenges towards enforcing the Penal Code.
“This is a very different legislation compared to existing laws of the country, including the way how it had been drafted and even the size of it. Therefore, in order to prepare ourselves to enforce such a major legislation, a lot of hard work and effort need to be put by all key institutions of the state. All of us need to begin our work as quickly as possible,” Attorney General Mohamed Anil stated.
“One of the key purposes of this important meeting is to create awareness on the Penal Code, especially to inform the public that a new penal law has now been passed [by the parliament] and ratified. All state institutions need to give their maximum support to ensure that is process is a success,” he noted.
Speaking during the meeting, Ms. Azusa Kubota, the UNDP’s Resident Representative a.i. assured that the UNDP would continue to support the government of Maldives in strengthening the justice sector of the country, in particular the difficult task of rolling out the Penal Code.
“I want to assure all of you that UNDP will continue to stand by you in your implementation challenge, as it has stood by you since early days in the work of rule of law reform,” Ms. Azusa Kubota noted.
Ms. Kubota also emphasized on the importance of having a good implementation plan for the new Penal Code that would ensure every person standing before the Court after next April in getting full access to justice, without confusion or delay.
“As is the case in many efforts that requires significant preparations and adjustments at all levels, it is important to have a good implementation plan. Ideally, such a plan would address comprehensively, everything that needs to be done with a clear time frame, roles and responsibilities,” she said.
She also spoke on the importance of having a clear and operational governance mechanism such as a task force, to oversee both the design of an implementation plan and of the actions to be taken within the year before the Penal Code comes into force.
“Legal sector taskforces around the world only work if they are set up with the agreement of all the relevant parties and only if they respect the constitutional mandate of each party. Such a taskforce could provide the coordinated approach needed to obtain a smooth transition of the Penal Code,” Ms. Kubota said.
During the meeting, all stakeholders discussed a roll-out plan and agreed on a approach to conducting the needed training and familiarizing staff from key institutions, raising awareness among the public and putting in place a pilot testing phase.