Comment: Is the President serious about reforming the judiciary?

Has Anni given up the fight for an independent judiciary?

“We will reform the JSC”, President Nasheed said in May.

“When the powers were separated and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) became the executive we came into a situation where the previous regime had a majority in the parliament.

“But in many minds the situation with the judiciary was far more worrying. Nothing had changed – we had exactly the same people, the same judges, the same manner of thinking and of dispensing justice.”

On Wednesday he appointed as his member at the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Kurendhoo Hussein Ibrahim, a man who first came to public attention during the drafting of the 2008 Constitution as someone vigorously apposed to gender equality.

As a member of the Special Majlis, Hussein Ibrahim was vociferously opposed to the appointment of women as judges, and was particularly vitriolic in his comments against changing the Constitution to allow women to run for office of the President.

“He was very clear about where women should be in society – in a place where they have no say in the running of public affairs,” a senior member of the law community, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Minivan News.

“To be honest, I am very surprised that the President would appoint such an individual as Velezinee’s replacement,” he said.

Aishath Velezinee was the President’s Member at the JSC until 19 May this year, when she was unceremoniously removed from the position. Although there were unconfirmed reports, including in this newspaper, about a backroom deal that made her removal politically advantageous for MDP, neither President Nasheed nor Velezinee have so far spoken publicly about the reasons for her removal.

Hussein Ibrahim’s views are diametrically opposed not just to Velezinee’s, but also that of a President who frequently espouses his commitment to the democratic ideal of equality and non-discrimination.

The President’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said Hussein Ibrahim might have distanced himself from such hard-line views since he sat on the Special Majlis for redrafting the Constitution.

“It is quite possible that he has changed,” Zuhair said. Pressed on the question of whether he knew this for a fact, Zuhair said, “We believe that in accepting the position as the President’s Member, he is entering into a ‘social pact’.”

“It is our hope”, Zuhair said, “that he will work towards the realisation of the President’s goals and to further his views in his new job.”

Even if Hussein Ibrahim, seemingly appointed on a wing and prayer, does show himself capable of leaving behind his misogyny, there is still the question of his professional ability to push a reform agenda.

A misogynist with a sentencing certificate

Hussein Ibrahim has no formal qualifications and is one of the many ‘lawyers’ allowed to sit on the bench on the basis of a Sentencing Certificate – a legacy of the Gayoom era. Having served as a magistrate in two different lower courts, he later did a stint as an ‘Islam Soa’ at Aminiya School.

In other words, he is a member of the very same brigade of “exactly the same people, the same judges, the same manner of thinking and of dispensing justice” President Nasheed said he wanted removed from the judiciary.

Removing unqualified judges was a Constitutional requirement, stipulated by Article 285. Put in charge of carrying out the task, however, the JSC dismissed Article 285 as “symbolic” and allowed all but a handful of the unqualified judges to remain in the judiciary. The President has now appointed just such a man to represent him at the JSC.

Hussein Ibrahim’s presence at the JSC means that female members of the judiciary, few in number but who as a group represent the most qualified judges in the country, now have another man overseeing them who not only thinks they are biologically and intellectually inferior to him, but also knows less about the law than they do.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which in February this year published a highly critical report on the JSC, pointed to members’ lack of technical ability and knowledge as one reason for its inability to do its job of ensuring the judiciary’s ethical and professional standards.

Citing ‘administrative efficiency’, as the reason, the JSC abolished the Complaints Committee in May this year. It was the mechanism by which the JSC was to have investigated complaints against the judiciary.

The JSC’s 2010 annual report shows there are over 200 complaints – some involving judges at the country’s highest courts – that are yet to be investigated. Any attempts to force the JSC to investigate complaints using the courts system have so far been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, any criticism of the judiciary is becoming increasingly difficult as the courts gag the media, or issue threats against those who speak against its actions – even when they are clearly unconstitutional.

Recent examples include the Criminal Court’s decision to ban the media from Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim’s alleged corruption hearings and the Supreme Court’s reprimanding of President’s Advisor Ibrahim Ismail (Ibra) for urging the public to fight for their right to an independent judiciary.

What is even more shocking is that the JSC convened an emergency meeting to discuss Ibra’s remarks where members agreed to ask ‘relevant authorities’ to investigate Ibra.

The JSC is constitutionally mandated to investigate complaints against the judiciary made by members of the public. It has no authority to investigate complaints against members of the public made by the judiciary.

Clearly the JSC needs someone who, at the very least, knows what its own role is.

As seen in the case of Velezinee, who was stabbed in the back in January this year, fighting for judicial reform is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

Hussein Ibrahim is a religious conservative who thinks women should be covered up and chained to the kitchen sink when they are not occupied with the holy task of breeding. He has no record of pushing a democratic agenda, and has no formal qualifications in any profession. It is hard to imagine him taking on the JSC let alone the judiciary.

Which begs the question: is President Nasheed serious about reforming the judiciary?

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


12 thoughts on “Comment: Is the President serious about reforming the judiciary?”

  1. I believe our beloved president have gone bonkers.
    Hussein Ibrahim, have a weakness, even when he is sneezing he will be quoting from the Quran and Hadheeth.

  2. Nasheed is not a reformist. He is a dictator just like Maumoon. He is using his liberal talk as a fascade. He is clever enough to fool people like the author of this article into believing that he is a genuine in his effort to reform the country.

  3. I am the daughter of the said Hussain Ibrahim, and if he was a misogynist I believe I would know better than some biased and angry reporter who thinks that he knows so much. The reason for every article on the news doesn't have to be to spread hatred towards politicians or leaders. Bring news. Not Political Opinions.

  4. Why not?

    He gave misogynist, backwards-looking, medieval minded religious conservatives an all powerful, and seemingly independent Ministry as well.

  5. Guys, when r u going to wakeup. Anni is no longer the Anni we knew before 2008. With the ultimate taste of power with its all glory now we have a man who is focussed on only one thing - remaining in POWER! thats the only thing that matters to this man now. Hell with gender eqality. hell with judiciary reform. hell with rooting out corruption.

  6. Oh, don't worry. Corrupt judges have this funny way of ending up in life-threatening scandals all the time. He'll end up with a ton of skag up his nose, posting nude pics of himself to a professional trapper's whims.

  7. Some of us think a person cannot be considered educated unless she/he completes 10+2 schooling and atleast complete a first degree.Little do they know that the World is one big university educating people through informal interactions,TV,internet,radio etc.I don't know this fellow appointed by the President. Maybe he has built on the sentencing certificate level and non-formal university of the world has made him an equal to Velezine in terms of education level.But I doubt he will be an equal to annoying the likes of Mujthaaz Fahmy.

  8. Is this what president told u about accountable media and journalism? I just wonder how u knw so much about him when we are here. Be a little responsible when you post such articles. This is really sad when you try to giv such bad image about him.
    Can I tell you.. I grew up with him I was never asked to veil and get chained to the kitchen but we were always advised to study well to go for higher studies and be very responsible and use full citizens to the country. He never told we cannot fill any higher posts coz we are girls. And his only daughter is not veiled and chained to the kitchen.

  9. 'Somehow we need to get back the president we thought we elected in 2008' (BILL MCKIBBEN referring to Obama)

  10. I am asking the exact same question. What happened to all the problems of democratic restructuring stemming from the criminal justice system? The same judges sit everywhere, lower and higher courts.

    I wonder if its okay to be a misogynist if you've signed to the ruling party. Why are important bills such as Evidence Bill, Penal Code, Drugs Act still not passed and if and when they do these Acts will have legal concepts which NONE of the judges at Criminal Court would understand, and not even this guy would understand it.

  11. No reform or progress is possible unless, the political leadership take bold action to eradicate old belief that corrupts people mind. Remove all Islamism ideologies form politics and reform education system removing Islamic religious but rather to introduce a comparative religion, . Let be the rule of law only to protect human rights and laws to protect business and economy. If you mix Sharia Law with modern governance and put Qazis to uphold human rights and business rights with a mandate to apply middles age systems of governance nothing will work and no reform is possible. This is as clear as water.

  12. If you all knowing gurus think that modern law is the fundamental basics for protecting the rights of the society than show me even one country that had success in implementing. there is none brothers and sisters. if you don't trust in the shariah and quran then you could all be termed unbelievers. please think before you post. you might be fooled by the devil himself. I know hussain ibrahim inside and out. he is not like that. he is calm and considerate. very talented and has the thirst for reform just like nasheed does or more in some extents. you posting all this garbage has no effect on him or the religion cuz in the end god is the one he should be answerable to. his positive actions will be louder than your squeaky voice


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