The legislative amendments proposed to the counter-terrorism act has stoked fears among legal experts and members of the general public.
The counter-terror legislation submitted by the government accommodates a broader definition of terrorism.
The legislature establishes acts of violence to promote a particular political, religious or extremist ideology as terrorism, and also grants law enforcement agencies the authority to arrest terror suspects without a court warrant, and hold them for up to 48 hours before they need to be presented before a judge for remand.
Voicing concern over the legislature, President of the Bar Council, Maumoon Hameed questioned the logic of granting the police additional powers when a recent investigation by Commission on Disappearances found several police officers to have been involved in fabricating evidence, and when several police officers have been caught on video torturing suspects and intimidating witnesses.
“And the answer is: give cops even MORE powers and remove what little controls there are on police abuse of power? Why?” questioned Maumoon Hameed.
He also questioned whether revising the current counter-terror act was the answer. He said the Maldives already has one of the strictest counter-terror acts currently in existence.
“It wasn’t the law that helped disappear a journalist, but some who were sworn to uphold it. Yet we still call to change the law?” said Maumoon Hameed.
He said that a political leader raising concern over the existence of a sinister extremist network within State institutions may himself be charged as a terrorist for voicing a radical view under the new legislature.
“What about a political leader claiming that a sinister network exists within State institutions? Under the new law, he could be charged as a terrorist for promoting such a radical view and thereby “endangering the safety of the public”. Seems unthinkable? The facts prove otherwise,” said Maumoon Hameed.
He also referred to when former Maldivian leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was detained for eight months and charged within terrorism in 2018.
“Under 2 years ago, a former president was arbitrarily detained for 8 months under terrorism laws simply because @PGO_MV [Prosecutor General’s Office] said his calls for police to obey an order of the Supreme Court were “undue influence on the State” = terrorism. What worse might happen under a harsher law?” questioned Maumoon Hameed.
He said that the new legislature, with its slacker controls, posed more danger to ordinary citizen given that a former Maldivian leader had been subject to abuse under the existing counter-terror act without anyone in an oversight position brave enough to stop the abuse.
“If a former president was subject to abuse of terrorism laws without anyone in oversight positions brave enough to stop it, how much more danger is there for an ordinary person, especially if controls over abuse are weakened even more? Far more dangerous than bears thinking about,” said Maumoon Hameed.
Maumoon Hameed’s sentiments have been echoed by several local legal experts.
Former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has also voiced concern over the infringements on civil and political rights the new legislature infringes on.
Members of the general public have also voiced alarm over the possibility of abuse of power which could result if law enforcement agencies were allowed to arrest terror suspects and search their persons and properties without a warrant – as is allowed under the new legislature.
ACTS ADDED AS OFFENSES UNDER THE NEW LEGISLATURE:
- Going to war, going to a war zone, being present in a war zone, attempting to engage in combat, being an accessory to an act of combat, or being an accomplice to an act of combat in any form.
- Producing, using or dealing in combat weapons, explosives or anything which contains a destructive component.
- Supporting a terrorist organization or advocating support for a terrorist organization.
- Encouraging activity in support of a terrorist organization or expressing such a sentiment, or taking part in an activity in support of a terrorist organization, or organizing or managing such an activity.
- Wearing clothing which implies a person is a member of a terrorist organization or supports a terrorist organization in public. Or possession of writing, drawing or photo which implies a person is a member of a terrorist organization or supports a terrorist organization in plain sight.
Criminal Procedure Code dictates that a suspect arrested for a criminal investigation must have the investigation against him/her completed and must be pressed charges within 30 days he/she is arrested and presented before a judge for remand.
However, the new counter-terror legislature offers law enforcement agencies a wider window in dealing with suspects. It establishes that the investigation against a terror suspect must be completed and forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office within 45 days and that the Prosecutor General’s Office much press charges within 15 days the investigation are forwarded to it.
It also establishes that a terror suspect may be arrested without a court warrant, and may be held for up to 48 hours without remand, and grants law enforcement agencies the authority to search the private property of terror suspects without a court warrant, and the authority to strip search terror suspects if there is valid reason to suspect he/she may be hiding evidence on his/her person.
Full details are available at the link below:
Source URL: Sun.mv