The United Nations' human rights chief is urging the Maldives to stick to a decades-long moratorium on imposing the death penalty, citing fears that three men are at "imminent risk" of execution.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in a statement issued in Geneva on Tuesday that the Maldives long provided "important leadership" in efforts to end the use of the death penalty and it is "deeply regrettable that a series of steps have been taken to resume executions in the country."

In June, the Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty for a 22-year-old man convicted of killing a politician in 2012.

Shortly before that, the government had amended rules to allow execution by lethal injection or hanging, indicating that the country's unofficial six-decade moratorium on executions would soon end.

Amnesty International said it is concerned about the country's "judicial overreach" and its effect on human rights issues as well as its intention to execute those on death row. 

In a 2015 fact-finding mission to the Indian Ocean island, the UK-based rights group found political tension in the country had been exacerbated by what it called harassment, detention and the imprisonment of government opponents. 

"Safeguards against human rights violations are progressively eroding and the government is failing in its duty to stop this," the group said at the time.

Source: Agnecies