Judicial Service Commission (JSC) President Adam Mohamed has claimed the body is “impatient” to take action against the Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed, and claimed that the only thing preventing the move is the Civil Court injunction filed by Abdulla Mohamed ordering the judicial watchdog not to take any action, until the court decided otherwise.
Adam Mohamed made the statements in response to questions asked at the Saturday’s meeting of parliament’s independent institutions committee where the JSC members, including opposition MP Gasim Ibrahim and Speaker of Parliament Abullah Shahid, were summoned to clarify the reason for delay in taking action against the judge.
In the committee meeting, broadcasted live, Mohamed restated that it would be a “violation of law” to take any action against Chief Judge before the Civil Court injunction was overruled, stating that and the commission has to proceed within the legal bounds.
“If we take action against Judge Abdullah, we will be in violation of law. [Because] violating a ruling is violating the law. We are very cautious,” said Mohamed, the Supreme Court’s representative on the judicial watchdog.
“We are impatient to take action [against chief judge] within the legal bounds” he claimed, adding that the case had now been appealed in High court.
The civil court granted the injunction in November 2011 – on the judge’s request – during the 30 day period he was given to respond to the report completed by JSC in which was found guilty of violating the Judge’s Code of Conduct for making politically contentious statements on a local TV channel.
According to the JSC, a total of 11 complaints have been submitted against the judge.
While the JSC’s decision remains stalled due to the injunction, questions have been raised as to whether the civil court has the jurisdiction to rule against its own watchdog body.
Aishath Velezinee, former president’s member at the JSC, argues that “if the judicial watchdog can be overruled by a judge sitting in some court somewhere, then the JSC is dysfunctional. But that’s what has been happening,” she asserted.
While the injunction issued last November was appealed at the higher courts, JSC also cited that the commission does not consider that the civil court has authority to hear the case.
The JSC first appealed the case at Supreme Court, which instructed it to forward the matter to the high court.
The high court scheduled its first hearing on the case last Thursday, but was cancelled by the judge who decided the case cannot be heard in absence Judge Abdulla Mohamed, after the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) refused to produce him. He remains under MNDF custody on the training island of Girifushi.
The military arrested the judge on January 16 after he attempted to block his own police summons – subsequently all the courts , JSC, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz, and later Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed called for his immediate release citing the arrest as unlawful.
President Mohamed Nasheed met with some of the JSC members at a meeting held at the president’s office on Sunday to discuss his concerns related to the judiciary, local media reported.
UN calls for judge’s release
Associated Press (AP) has meanwhile reported that the United Nations (UN) has called for the Maldives to release the judge from custody or charge him with a crime, as the body considers a government request for help resolving a dispute with the country’s judiciary.
“While acknowledging the challenges Maldives faces in reforming and strengthening its judiciary, we believe that Judge Abdulla should either be treated with due process, meaning he should be properly charged moved from military detention, and brought before a court, or released,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman at the UN human rights office told AP on Saturday.
She also observed that the officials are still discussing how to respond to the request made by the Foreign Ministry last week, requesting international legal assistance.
The government has meanwhile listed 14 cases of obstruction of police duty by Judge Abdulla, including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.
Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, and barring media from corruption trials.
Afeef said the judge also ordered the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintained “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.
“We have been working to improve the judiciary since we came to power, but we have not succeeded,” said Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem last week, calling for a delegation from the United Nations Human Rights Commission (OHCHR) to help resolve “an issue of national security.”
The first complaints were meanwhile filed against Mohamed in July 2005 by the Attorney General at the time time Dr. Hassan Saeed, president of the minority opposition party, which is leading the call for judge’s release.
The allegations included, misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused.
Meanwhile, group of lawyers have sent a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), appealing that the judge’s detention is an “enforced disappearance” under the ICC’s Rome Statute – while opposition activists have taken the fight to free the judge to the streets, as protests continue for a second week.