Law to be revised to allow arrest of extremists without a warrant

File photo of the police arresting a suspect. (File Photo/Maldives Police Service)

The legislative amendments submitted to the Anti-Terrorism Act by ruling MDP includes granting law enforcement agencies the authority to arrest terror suspects - including religious extremist – without a court warrant.

The Parliament is scheduled to hold the first reading of the bill, which establishes a broader definition of terrorism, when it convenes for a special parliamentary sitting on Thursday.

The bill establishes acts of violence to promote a particular political, religious or extremist ideology as terrorism. It includes:

  • Serious bodily harm.
  • Putting the life of another under threat.
  • Enforced disappearance or abduction.
  • Serious damage to property.
  • Hijacking of a passenger vehicle or vessel.
  • Posing a threat to the health or safety of the general public or members of the general public.
  • Causing damage to critical infrastructure or preventing the facilitation of public services.

Maldivian law currently dictates that a suspect must be presented before a judge for his/her remand hearing within 24 hours of his/her arrest. However, the Anti-Terrorism Bill establishes that a terror suspect may be arrested without a court warrant, and may be held for up to 48 hours without remand.

It also 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.

Additional acts defined as offenses under the bill:

  • 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 an 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, or possession of a writing, drawing or photo which implies a person is a member of a terrorist organization or supports a terrorist organization which is seen by others.

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 Anti-Terrorism Bill 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 is forwarded to it.