Drafting a Criminal Code for the Maldives

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Recently some controversy has been brewing with regard to a decision by the University of Pennsylvania�s Law School�s Professor Paul Robinson to cancel his �Criminal Law Theory Seminar� and replace it with the three-credit Maldive project:

�The seminar will revolve around a single project: drafting a new criminal code for the Maldives. The work has been requested by the Maldivian government and is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program. Because the Maldives is by constitutional mandate an Islamic nation and, as a matter of law, all citizens are Muslim, the code will be the world�s first criminal code of modern format that is based upon the principles of Shari�a.

After studying the existing Maldivian criminal law statutes and the criminal law principles contained in Shari�a, student teams will propose criminal code provisions and critique the proposals of others�.

Daniel Pipes and the blogger at LittleGreenFootballs (both of them are noted for their hatred of Islam) have been critical of Professor Paul Robinson�s consulting work. He defends his work saying:

I do criminal code consulting for many countries. A few days ago, one client, China, beheaded a person for embezzlement. (Worse than anything the Maldivians have done.) Should I now refuse to advise them further on what I think a criminal code should look like? Your strategy of willful disengagement seems an odd way of bringing greater justice to the world.

The Maldivians are in the midst great social change. A special parliament called to draft a new constitution met for the first time two days ago; disagreements among the members spilled into demonstrations in the streets

I do not know how the Maldivian criminal code project will turn out. Like many criminal code projects, it may go nowhere. I have no power other than the persuasiveness of my advice, which, experience tells, is often limited. But is it an enterprise worth undertaking? I would think it shameful to decline.

Here is a Maldivian opposition group alleging the UNDP�s support in assisting human rights abuses in the country and a recent case illustrating the state of the criminal justice system in the country:

Criminal court says case against parliament speaker cannot be looked into
Referring to the Justice Ministry�s Circular 98/3, a criminal case has to be investigated, and has to be forwarded to the Criminal Court by the Attorney General�s Office, the court said in a press release. The court said that a criminal case filed by an individual cannot be looked into by the court�
For an overview of the current system see the article. It will be interesting to hear from other heavy weight lawyer bloggers on the web: I mean those at the Volokh Conspiracy, Crescat Sententia, Legal Theory Blog, and Punishment Theory amongst others.

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Dilemmas from Crescat Sententia on August 4, 2004 12:04 PM

What do you do when a nation wishes to enact a code of law based on Shari�a, but also wishes to consult with you-- an American criminal law professor or student with (presumably) more enlightened sensibilities-- about what that code... Read More


I don't read LGF, and I only occasionally read Daniel Pipes. In the latter case, I do not see "hatred" of Islam, only valid criticism. In any event, I'm not especially impressed by your "argument" that "they are racists, and therefore anything they say is invalid".

I too think it is over the top to say that either hates Islam, although they're both quite clear that they hate ruthless terrorists inspired by a fundamentalist strain of Islam.

Thanks for the comments. I think the issue needs to be clarified; what I meant was people like Daniel Pipes tend to equate Islam with terrorism and see it as a monolith religion. That is why a lot of people in the Muslim world see them as those who hate Islam. Daniel Pipes not only targets terrorists but even fellow colleagues get attacked as the following from The Economist ( Nov 28th 2002) suggests:

��Many scholars of Islamic or Middle Eastern affairs have been listed on a website called Campus Watch, established by Daniel Pipes, an academic, and the Middle East Forum, a pro-Israel think-tank. In September, Campus Watch posted the names of eight academics whom it accused of downplaying the dangers of militant Islam or exaggerating Israel's faults. About 100 other academics, in a gesture of solidarity, asked it to add their names to its list. Campus Watch obliged, calling them all �apologists for suicide bombings and militant Islam�.

John Esposito of Georgetown University, one of the website's original eight, says he was picked out because he has argued that extremist Islamists are a tiny minority of the Muslim world. After the website posted his name, Mr Esposito began to get hundreds and sometimes thousands of e-mails every day. Some of them contain death threats. Others accuse him of being anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli or un-American��
May be Edward Said was right after all when he said:
�The hardest thing to get most academic experts on Islam to admit is that what they say and do as scholars is set in a profoundly and in some ways an offensively political context�

As regards Professor Robinson�s remarks I myself don�t find it convincing especially when the person�s CV runs to some 15 pages. Daniel Pipes is probably justified to say that �Here is an opportunity for a leading criminal law practitioner to do something completely different...�

Comments on more substantive things are appreciated; of course it will be difficult in an age where the �trivial has triumphed�

paul asad

Again, Paul, I do not think either of them equate Islam (which, like Christianity and Judaism, is a complex, sometimes inconsistent, belief system founded upon sacred texts and oral histories) with militant Islam (the glorification of the militant aspects of the belief system, used either as a political weapon or as a destructive force in itself).

Frankly, you need to present me with solid evidence that Pipes and LGF hate Muslims for being Muslim, which I don't think you can do--even though it's clear that both dislike aspects of Islam that do not conform to their own beliefs about morality.

In his critique of Robinson, Pipes' wants Robinson to stop reform of Shari`a only because he knows that Robinson can't and won't remodel Shari`a into a fully-Western doctrine, which Pipes believes is right and proper.

With regards to the more substantive portions of your post, given the small snippet of law you linked to, I think Robinson's help is badly needed, and should be praised by those who want to reform Shari�a (which is not going away unless a great majoirity of Muslims drop their faith entirely).

However, a focus on rehabilitation of all criminals may not actually lower recidivism or add to the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. But since basically the Maldives has found that it is losing its own "Drug War", and since decriminalization is not on the table, requiring rehab instead of incarceration seems to be a good second best alternative.

Adding a bail system seems to be a cost effective alternative to incarceration in certian circumstances.

Also, I really don't know what to think of banishment as a punishment... it is very outside my experience. Another post on banishment would be very welcome...

Personally, I would fight like hell any attempt to enforce a religious law on me, not because of the law's origin, but because I disagree with most major religions regarding the morality of using drugs and homosexuality.

There is no justice system in Maldives. It is the will of the Dictator that ultimately matters. Gayyoom, famously known as Golhaabo amongst Maldivians is a full fledged tyrant. Search the internet for Maldives Torture Reports and you will know the truth. Golhaaboa, his family and associates are above the law. The only way to bring change is to bring down this murderous regime.

Even of it would be a totally different thing we should still consider some helpful things that could help us cope up with life. - Lindsay Rosenwald


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on July 30, 2004 12:00 PM.

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