National Security and Foreign Relations Committee has revised the Counter-Terrorism Bill to establish promotion of militancy as a criminal offense and accommodate a prison sentence of at least 10 years as a penalty for the crime.
Counter-Terrorism Bill was accepted into the Parliament and sent to the National Security and Foreign Relations Committee for evaluation on Sunday, September 22.
The parliamentary committee, following week-long evaluations under closed doors, completed its work and passed its report on Thursday, September 26.
The committee did not make any drastic revisions, but has made several minor ones.
One of the revisions was to establish facilitation and/or promotion of militancy as a criminal offense – punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison.
The penalty makes facilitation and/or promotion of militancy the crime which holds the strictest punishment under the Counter-Terrorism Bill.
The original Counter-Terrorism Bill submitted on behalf of the government on September 12 had accommodate the biggest penalty to engaging in militant activity. The crime – which was originally proposed to be penalized with 17 to 20 years in prison – has now been lightened to 5 to 9 years in prison.
The committee has also lightened the penalty for additional crimes under the Counter-Terrorism Bill.
Travelling to a war zone or being present at a war zone – which was previously proposed to be penalized with 10 to 15 years in prison – now carries a prison sentence of 5 to 7 years in prison.
The parliamentary committee has also revised the clause on the original bill which empowered law enforcement agencies with the authority to arrest terror suspects without a court warrant and hold them for up to 48 hours before being presented before court for remand.
Though law enforcement agencies will still be empowered to arrest terror suspects without a court warrant, they will now need to be presented before court for their remand within 24 hours – as is the current standard practice.
Meanwhile, a clause has been added to stipulate that law enforcement agencies must share a secret document detailing action taken by law enforcement agencies under the legislature to the President and the Parliament’s National Security Services Committee every six months.
Lawmakers have been invited to submit their thoughts over the committee’s revisions by noon on Sunday.
And according to the Chairperson of National Security and Foreign Relations Committee Ibrahim Shareef (Mavota Shareef), the Parliament will convene for the final debate and vote on the legislature on Monday.
The establishment of promotion of militancy as a criminal offense comes amid allegations of coordinated efforts by local groups affiliated with international terrorist organizations to radicalize and recruit Maldivian citizens for militant activities abroad.
National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) says at least 60 Maldivian citizens have engaged in militant activities abroad – some of whom have died, and some of whom remain at detention camps set up in countries such as Syria.