The Commission of National Inquiry (CNI)’s report into the circumstances surrounding the controversial transfer of power on February 7 mistakenly presumes that the Maldives has an independent and constitutionally-appointed judiciary, former President’s Member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee, has stated.
The report, focused on the events of February 6 to 8, claimed there was no evidence to support allegations by former President Mohamed Nasheed that he was ousted in a coup d’état, that his resignation was under duress, or that there was any mutiny by the police and military. It dwells heavily on “unlawful orders” given by Nasheed as justification for police disobedience and protests, in particular his ordering the detention of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed by the military.
“The report, by its failure to probe the events leading up to the removal of Abdulla Mohamed and the January 2012 protests, fails to recognise the systematic breach of the Constitution by the JSC and Majlis that forced President Nasheed to use the powers of Head of State to address the issue of Abdulla Mohamed,” said Velezinee, in a detailing statement responding to the report.
“The inquiry is based on a false premise, the assumption that Abdulla Mohamed is a constitutionally appointed judge, which is a political creation and ignores all evidence refuting this,” she stated.
Velezinee noted that Article 285 of the constitution – concerning the appointment and qualification of judges on conclusion of the interim period – was discarded by the JSC in 2010 as “symbolic”, “the CNI report indirectly legitimises a judiciary where at least 196 judges sworn in by the JSC/Interim Supreme Court between 4 August and 7 August 2012 are a nullity, having been appointed without due procedure, and without fulfilling the qualifications and qualities required of a Judge under the Constitution.”
She noted that many of the “prominent lawyers” and politicians who protested the arrest of Abdulla Mohamed’s removal “were MPs with criminal cases before Abdulla Mohamed and their lawyers.”
Furthermore, “the report does not mention that many of the ‘prominent lawyers’ who protested at the removal of Abdulla Mohamed now sit in office.”
“Suspicion is further raised when it is observed that the MPs who led the January 2012 [protests] were the same MPs who had obstructed attempts to get a parliamentary inquiry [into the JSC] by disrupting Committee [hearings], and included the current Chair of the Majlis Committee,”
The report further failed to note recent observations by the UN Human Rights Committee in July 2012 substantiating the JSC’s nullification of Article 285, she noted.
In its concluding observations, the UNHRC noted “concerned at the fact that the composition and the functioning of the JSC seriously compromises the realisation of measures to ensure the independence of the judiciary as well as its impartiality and integrity.”
The Committee is also concerned that such a situation undermines the judicial protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the State party (art. 2 (3), 14).
“The State party should take effective measures to reform the composition and the functioning of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). It should also guarantee its independence and facilitate the impartiality and integrity of the Judiciary, so as to effectively protect human rights through the judicial process.
The CNI report itself recognised the poor standard of the judiciary, Velezinee observed, citing from it:
Perhaps the most fundamental requirement for a vibrant democracy is the rule of law which appears weak in the Maldives. Notably, the Commission was confronted regularly by allegations of the breach of the rule of law and clear absence of confidence in the institutions which are entrusted with upholding it.
Indeed, this appeared central to the frustrations of government under President Nasheed and his own lack of recourse to the judiciary to redress grievances and settle disputes. He did not appear alone.
Despite this, Velezinee noted that the report failed to recognise “that judicial reform is a fundamental Constitutional requirement under Article 285, or comprehend the centrality of Article 285 to the establishment of de facto independence of the judiciary in a state where de jure Independence of the judiciary was first introduced with the ratification of the Constitution in 2008.”
Instead, Velezinee stated, the report “explicitly politicises judicial reform as the political agenda of President Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP); and fails to note that the political pledge in the MDP’s manifesto echoes Article 285 of the Constitution and its’ obligation upon the state of Maldives.”
By concluding that Judge Abdulla was just the “focus of their antipathy and antagonism”, the report “disregards major events that led to the events of January 2012, including but not limited to:
- Events of 2010 around Constitution Article 285 and re-appointment of Judges
- JSC’s unconstitutional nullification of Article 285 declaring it a “Symbolic Article” and re-appointing the sitting bench without due check
- Failure of the Majlis to hold an inquiry into the JSC’s alleged Constitution breach and loss of an independent judiciary despite a commitment to hold an inquiry given by the Independent Bodies Oversight Committee on 2 August 2010
- The fact that amongst those MPs and other political figures leading the January protests calling to “Free Judge Abdulla”, and seen celebrating President Nasheed’s “resignation” on 7 February 2012, were those same MPs who had obstructed all attempts to probe the said issues in Majlis Committees
- The fact that these MPs, instead of upholding their duty and establishing the truth of the matter by holding an Open Inquiry allowing me to present evidence, politicised the issue and resorted to publicly attack myself, engaging in defamation and character-assassination whilst denying an inquiry. Action that gives good reason to believe in a cover-up, and a wider conspiracy against Constitutional Democratic Government that link events of 2010 (and beyond) to the events of 7 February 2012.
- The fact that the matter of Abdulla Mohamed being a threat to national security was known to the Judicial Service Commission, the Maldives Police Services, the Maldives National Defence Forces and the Parliament in addition to the President; and that the system had failed to hold Abdulla Mohamed accountable, or the JSC accountable. Instead the JSC and Majlis were covering up for each other.”
The CNI report, Velezinee stated, “fails to consider how the collapse of Rule of Law could possibly have been engineered by those in positions of power, despite evidence of JSC’s Constitution breaches and Majlis cover-up provided to the CNI by myself.”
“The case of Abdulla Mohamed takes a completely different turn if it is established that Abdulla Mohamed is a political plant of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and is unconstitutionally retained by political influence, and placed as Chief Judge of Criminal Court by law, with the Majlis encroaching upon Constitutional powers given to the Judicial Service Commission alone,” Velezinee concluded. “Were it so, it is incumbent upon the Head of State to exercise his powers to prevent abuse of the Criminal Court by a political plant.”
“I am deeply concerned that the CNI report legitimises a dangerous precedent to permit de facto lowering of international standards despite the assurance of the highest standards of democracy as practiced in an open democratic society throughout the Constitution.”
CMAG to meet
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is due to meet and a consider the report in the next week.
The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, on Tuesday issued a statement acknowledging its release.
Senator Carr will chair next week’s meeting of the CMAG which suspended the Maldives from the organisation’s human rights and democracy arm and placed the Maldives on its formal agenda after the events of February.
“Australia urges all party leaders to take part in discussions which pave the way to free and fair elections and strengthen Maldives’ democratic institutions,” Senator Carr said.