“Judicial independence does not mean that judges are above the law”: Foreign Minister, as political tension erupts

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has received an order from the Supreme Court to release Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

However MNDF spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem told Minivan News this afternoon that the military has “not yet decided what do with that order.”

The MNDF refused to release the judge on a Supreme Court order last night, requesting that it be delivered during ‘official hours’. Minivan News understands that President Mohamed Nasheed met with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court this morning.

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested for corruption and for “allowing his judicial decisions to be determined by political and personal affiliations and interests”, Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said in a statement today.

The arrest of the judge caused a spike in political tensions across Male’, coming so soon after he opened the court late at night to order that the arrest of DQP politicians for “hate speech” was unlawful.

“[Judge Abdulla’s] repeated failure to comply with constitutional requirements regarding the individual integrity and competence of judges has been compounded by the failure of normal constitutional checks and balances to hold him accountable to the society he is supposed to serve,” read the Foreign Ministry’s statement.

“The Government of the Maldives fully supports and will always protect judicial independence,” Naseem said today. “However, judicial independence does not mean that judges are above the law and can behave as they see fit – contrary to the laws of the land. A judge is a citizen of the Maldives – no more or less important than any other citizen”.

Political tension erupts

The civil, criminal and high courts have cancelled hearings in protest against the arrest of the Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. The High Court, Supreme Court and Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muiz demanded the release of the judge.

Muiz told local media that police must consult the PG before taking a judge into custody.

The Criminal Court also issued a court order today ordering the PG to prosecute within the next three days the Chief of Defence Forces and others involved in “contempt of court”.
A group of lawyers filed a similar case at the High Court after the military ignored court orders from both the High Court and Supreme Court for Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s immediate release.
Upon receiving the police summons yesterday, Judge Abdulla had filed a case at the High Court requesting that the summons be cancelled or overturned. The court issued an order halting the summons pending a ruling on the case.
Following his arrest, the High Court issued a court order around 2:00am Tuesday morning for the immediate release of the judge. The High Court noted that as article 12 of the Judges Act specifies procedures for the arrest of a sitting judge.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz released a statement after midnight calling for the immediate release of Judge Abdulla, noting that a judge could only be arrested on criminal charges with a warrant from a higher court.

Only the PG is authorised by the Judges Act to seek such an arrest warrant, the Chief Justice noted.
“The day these principle are demolished is the darkest and gloomiest time in the life of a nation,” the statement reads.
The apex court also issued a court order around 5:00am for Judge Abdulla’s immediate release.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) also called for the release of the judge, claiming that the government had “completely destroyed the country’s hard earned democracy”.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) meanwhile called on authorities to respect article 24 of the constitution, which states, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his private communications.”

However the Foreign Ministry said that Abdulla Mohamed had violated the Bangalore Principles on judicial conduct and independence.

“All the time, Abdulla Mohamed’s actions are becoming more blatant – from asking children who have been sexually abused to act out the crime in court, to repeatedly releasing opposition figures brought before the courts for serious crimes including assault and incitement to hatred or violence,” Naseem said.

“As the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) made clear following their recent assessment of the state of the Maldives judiciary, judicial independence is a responsibility requiring accountability – a point clearly reflected in the Constitution of the Maldives. This accountability includes a requirement of individual competence and integrity by judges in their proceedings: including issues of actual or perceived bias, prejudice, or conflicts of interest and ethical behaviour outside of office, requiring continuous responsibility to demonstrate high moral character,”

“Unfortunately, it is clear, in contravention of the Bangalore Principles, that Abdulla Mohamed considers judicial independence to mean that he can do whatever he likes, and can act with total impunity”.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the watchdog body supposedly responsible for ensuring the good conduct of judges, “is itself dominated by judges and opposition politicians”, the Foreign Ministry stated.

An attempt by the JSC to take action against Abdulla Mohamed following allegations of political bias after he appeared on TV saying “this government is a dying government” were overturned by the judge’s allies in the lower courts, Naseem argued.

The Civil Court in November 2011 ordered the JSC to take no action against Abdulla Mohamed, until the court reached a verdict in the case filed against him.

Judge Maryam Nihayath said at the time that if the JSC took any further action against Abdulla Mohamed while the case was in court, “it might disrupt the case and Abdulla Mohamed would suffer irreparable damages”.

Former President’s member on the JSC and outspoken whistleblower, Aishath Velezinee, told Minivan News at the time that the JSC’s investigation of Abdulla Mohamed was “the first time the JSC had ever completed an investigation into a judge’s misconduct.”

“There are many allegations against Abdulla Mohamed, but one is enough,” she said. “If the JSC decides, all investigation reports, documents and oral statements will be submitted to parliament, which can then decide to remove him with a simple two-thirds majority.”

“Sadly, as we have seen time and again, the JSC has not been able to fulfil its constitutional task of holding judges like Abdulla Mohamed – who is representative of a small minority of judges who abuse their position to protect themselves and their political allies – to account”.

The  allegations against judge Abdulla Mohamed were originally forwarded to the President’s Office in 2005 by then Attorney General Hassan Saeed, current leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP). His party is presently attacking the government not only for its interference in the judiciary, but of harbouring “Christian priests”, “introducing other religions into the country”,  “encouraging vice”, and accepting “statues for praying” from other SAARC countries during the recent summit in Addu.

Those allegations, concerning Abdulla Mohamed’s request that an underage victim of sexual abuse reenact her abuse for the court, were dropped when the JSC decided not to proceed with the investigation on July 30, 2009.

“With the JSC unwilling or unable to act, responsibility to reign-in judges who break the law should fall to higher judicial authorities. However, senior judges have proved time and again that they are not willing to take action against one of their own – destroying, in the process, public confidence in the judiciary,” Naseem said today.

It had therefore fallen to the President, “as the ultimate guarantor of the Constitution”, to resolve the situation, Naseem stated.

“The President could no longer sit by and watch as a minority of judges destroy public trust in the judiciary and make a mockery of the laws of the country. Abdulla Mohamed has therefore been arrested.

“This is not a move against the judiciary of the Maldives – but rather against an individual who has repeatedly broken the law and who should be held accountable for his actions,” the Foreign Minister said.

Judges under scrutiny

In October 2011, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) appealed for assistance from the international community over the “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary – most of whom were appointed by Gayoom during his thirty years of power.”

The MDP statement also referred to the corruption trial of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim, charged with multiple counts of defrauding the former Atolls Ministry, which remains “indefinitely delayed.”

In an interview with Minivan News in September 2011, former chairman of the Special Majlis Drafting Committee responsible for the new Constitution claimed that the Supreme Court “and key elements within the judiciary are still controlled by Gayoom – directly or indirectly.”

“Face facts – they are issuing instructions to the trial courts, saying ‘Case X, stop proceedings, we’ll take that over,'” Ibra said.

“Who ever heard of an appellate court taking over a trial court’s jurisdiction? I don’t know of any instance in any democratic country, anywhere in the world, where an appellate court will take over a trial court.

“Even in cases of a mistrial, the instruction is to retry the case. Appellate courts don’t sit on trials. And they are systematically doing it – at least three cases so far. What they are effectively doing is influencing the independence of the trial court. The significance of that is that if trial court judges cannot be independent of the higher court, there is no room for appeals. Because the decision is going to be the Supreme Court decision.”


73 thoughts on ““Judicial independence does not mean that judges are above the law”: Foreign Minister, as political tension erupts”

  1. @ Freedom of Expression on Wed, 18th Jan 2012 6:34 AM

    If you care to read my posts your would see that I have condemned the use of religion by ALL political parties and have equally condemned Jameel's hate mongering.

    But what the people of the country will never accept is for the President to violate the Constitution by calling the Military to arrest a judge or arrest his political opponents in this manner.

    The way to deal with Jameel would have been to sue him for defamation. There was no need to arrest him as there is nothing to 'investigate' as such. What he said on TV is there for people to see and listen. That is enough to file a civil suit against him.

  2. So MDP believes that they can intervene anyplace if they feel it is not working properly. MDP believes that they always right and they know everything. They can arrest people, pass rulings, even send heavy drug gangs into peaceful demonstrations and they claim they are within the boundaries. Funny part is some people still believes them.
    People like Anni, Reeko and Maria will do whatever it takes to hold on to power. As it is very likely they will all end up in jail for all the corruption and crime they committed this past 3 years. This is a military dictatorship now.

  3. I am glad the government took the correct actions. We cannot sit and watch one individual black mailing the whole country. Enough is enough and keep this guy out of the judiciary.

  4. Jameel was never arrested. He was taken to the police to question about his statements. He refused to talk and they have the right to keep him for 24 hours and once they were refused to get an extension from these biased judges, they released him. Like a chicken he is running out of the country. Cancel his passport and keep him there for a while.

  5. So DRP and PPM believes that they can intervene anyplace if they feel it is not working properly. DRP and PPM believes that they always right and they know everything. They can arrest people, pass rulings, even send heavy drug gangs into peaceful demonstrations and they claim they are within the boundaries. Funny part is some people still believes them. People like Gasim, Maumoon and Thasmeen will do whatever it takes to get to power. As it is very likely they will all end up in jail before the 5 year term ends. 30 years administration was a military dictatorship now.

  6. @ Ilyas Ahmed
    I agree with you.

    However sad to see once again we are falling back to days where " you are guilty until proven innocent"

  7. This time it is Judge Abdulla Mohamed who was seized at night by the military (at the orders of the President) and 'disappeared'. It is said that he is held in an 'undisclosed' location.

    Now it is more than 24 hours since this happened. Even his family does not know his whereabouts. This is totally against international conventions to which Maldives is a signatory.

    Tomorrow who would be next? Is this the ' New Maldives ' ?

    Now any President in the future can and will do the same thing to anyone he pleases. And why not!

    Welcome to Aneh Dhivehi Raajje - where 'Rule of Law' is banned word and where 'The Constitution be damned'.

  8. Wake-up people! MDP does not stand for democracy. This is a dictatorship. Maldives Dictatorship Party!

  9. True, there is always a right way and a best way of doing something but sometimes its not a luxury that we can afford. I believe that a lot of the criminals in this country have gone scot free thanks to the Judge who has been arrested. These are criminals who killed, abused and raped other people. So where was our sense of right and wrong when the criminals where released because of certain political affiliations. Wasn't the Judge acting as a dictator of the justice system of this country? Why didn't any of the opposition parties question that? Well its simply because the Judge was releasing gang members and people who were affiliated with these opposition groups! To think that a Judge can ask a child to enact her sexual abuse experience in court?! That shows how truly pathetic and heartless that old loony is! I would like to ask all the opposition party leaders why these things weren't an issue enough for them to start protesting! Instead they are protesting to protect this hideous creature?! Sure, it would be ideal if this guy had been taken into custody with an arrest warrant etc but given the state of our justice system, how likely is that? When all the judges are looking out for each other and protecting each other from corruption, even with military inteference, its more than high time the justice system of our country is revamped for better!

  10. I am from DQP but I totally support President's decision to go against the mafia of judiciary even by abolishing the constitution. What we need is some features of dictatorship to stabilize this situation. I think this president has the courage to face the people who hijack the judiciary. Do you allow a monster which is camouflaged as a person to roam around your city & destroy the society.

  11. GOD save this country! this country is in a social (drugs, alchol, child prositution at senior government level) and economic (debt, financial) crisis!! We have a foreign minister who is a zionist agent! Big time corrupt guy!

  12. When Anni took office and when we voted for this change, We did not dream of a government constantly being harrassed and obstructed by opposition majority in the parliament and in public every power hungry lunatic using religion as a tool.
    We do not have a responsible, educated citizen in this country. a citizen that respects others, care for one another and loves justice. We are barely out of the jungle and democracy can not flourish with current socio -economic conditions in the Maldives.

    Yes Anni has failed in some policy making level and executive level in the short 3 and half year since he took office, but I guarantee you if we had a more educated public and a responsible oppossition this country would have achieved far better in his administration than the entire 30 years of Maumoon Rule.
    there are bad guys on both sides. that is why i stress on the citizens of this country as a whole and we have failed us. this is the best we can offer folks. we dont have true patriots who will save this nation. we don't have people passionate about the country and its people. everyone is out to get whatever possible for themselves. everyone is corrupt and everyone only asks "whats in it for me'.
    Its not getting any better here and it will probably become worse in coming days.. but things will change, its inevitable in Nature. be it for better or worse is on our hands.

    to all, just take heed of this beautiful principle:
    ' the well being and integrity of our personal life, DEPENDS on the wellbeing and integrity of everyone else around us '

  13. Obiously no body is above the law.the government of the maldives should be fair in acting out arresting or investigating people .when mr moosa manik alhaan or ali waheed talk waterver on thier mind in MDP meetings its not a problem.we are sick of thisYELLOW FEVER.som how we must find a cure to this terrible disease before we all get infected....

  14. This man Abdulla is most probably corrupt and has been releasing people left and right for sure.

    But there is no need for the government to do it this way. There is the right way and the wrong way.

    We say we are better than Gayoom and so we have to show that we are better than him.
    If the government has enough evidence to convict Abdulla put it in the public domain. I am confident that if that was the case, the government would have had the public arresting him instead of the Police or the MNDF.

    It is the method that was used that is the issue here. We say we are a democracy yet we are using dictatorial means to do things.

    As for the opposition, they are a bunch of thugs and imbeciles. yet why does the government have to fall that low?

    tsk, tsk, I understand what you are saying but look at the government now and the people in it.
    It is only the hardcore party members. There are members of MDP who are very qualified and able too yet because they do not scream and shout, they are sidelined. The man who shouts the loudest is the best one.

    I am absolutely fed up with this DQM disaster. They are failures and should accept it. They are also involved in sedition and actually should be prosecuted not under defamation but sedition. I say sedition because they are not accusing Nasheed, but the government. Maybe the reason they arrested Abdulla was that he is in their pocket.

    What is point in going to meet diplomats in Colombo? What are they going to tell them?
    Show them the picture of Rajapakse with an elephant? Show them the picture of President with Hardingham in UK and says that he is a Christian priest?

    I can assure you that these diplomats would probably die laughing and maybe get these DQM guys a slot on a comedy channel somewhere.

    It is time the whole lot is cleaned up before they destroy Maldives.

  15. 49 convicted criminals released today under the SECOND CHANCE, and you call it a failure of Judiciary?

  16. Sack the current judges and get UN assistance to bring in educated and qualified judges to oversee current cases and also train a new breed of judge. Young educated and uncorrupted.

  17. What are u saying? How can someone be charged without a trial? Unless the police arrest those concerned, they cannot conduct any investigation. And without an investigation, there is no case. It is basic logic.

    If what you're saying is the way you believe, then you believe in NEVER TO ARREST A JUDGE OR A LAWYER eventhough the biggest crime is committed by them. How can this be fair? As a citizen, it is very unfair. I want to be a .lawyer if thats the case.

  18. Who are we?

    We aren't sick of yellow fever. Yellow fever is spreading so fast that it is out of control for you and other like-minded brainless sick people to control. Yellow fever is the majority because its a people's party where state income is deposited to state bank accounts instead of individual bank accounts. Welfare programs are various in a people's government.
    Loan facilities are numerous. And many such others which would benefit the country and its people today is due to yellow fever.

    So you senseless maldivian tuna, stop humiliating yourself.

  19. @ Manik, Tue, 17 Jan 2011

    The case is not that the government is blocked in the manner it should be. If the judiciary is extrajudicial in carrying out its duties and if this means that the judiciary is not delivering justice, of course, hindering the government from carrying out its functions as far as such acts of the judiciary concern the government, then it's time the government must deal with the disturbing element rather than interfering with the entire system, and this is exactly what the government has done and is doing in the present situation.

  20. Rule of Law is being changed to Rule of Man by president Nasheed. If we allow this to continue, our entire system and the future of our Nation, our children and their children has to suffer.
    We need a true nationalistic Independant Leader. The party system has failed at its infant age.

  21. Asia's new emerging Dictator - Supreme Leader Nasheed! All hail 'The Dear Leader' - Savior of The Republic!

    A New "Iron Fist" has emerged to replace the loss of the title since Maumoon was kicked out. On your knees you pathetic rotten public!

    In Hitler's Germany it was the Nazi party and in Aneh Dhivehi Raajje it is MDP that dictates the laws. Listen properly.

    You shall have no rights unless you are a member of MDP. Housing too will be for MDP members and you will get any ONLY if there is any left after we (MDP) take them!

    Oh and by the way we might decided to close the diving schools next weekend.


Comments are closed.