Crime boosted by lack of witness protection, claims judge

A senior judge at the criminal court has claimed that a lack of witness protection is the main reason the justice system has failed to check rising crime rates.

At a press conference last week, Senior Judge Abdulla Mohamed said many witnesses are bribed or threatened and many fail to testify in court for fear that they or their families will be in some way hurt.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu agreed the issue was “very serious.”

“Because [the islands of] the Maldives are so small, it makes our job [of protecting witnesses] more difficult,” he said. “In some cases, witnesses are being threatened or intimidated. In other cases they might be bribed or offered rewards.”

Another major concern raised regarding witness protection was the lack of space to hold witnesses and criminals separately, with witnesses and the accused made to sit next to each other in the court houses. Muizzu says that this is something that the courts are trying to address.

He agreed with the judge that witnesses should be allowed to testify anonymously, and said improvements were being made such as allowing witnesses “to testify via video or audio link.”

Muizzu also noted that “there are some issues of witness protection that are pending in parliament.”

The police are also trying to formulate laws to improve witness protection. Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said police brought up the issue of witness protection long ago, without response.

“Police get threats as well,” he said. “It’s a major concern for us; we need to give better protection to witnesses.”

Without a witness’ testimony before the prosecution, a case can be dismissed due to lack of evidence. Muizzu explained that “in most cases, confessions made to the police will not have any weight, so it is very important that the witnesses testify for the prosecution in court in order to prove the case.”

Judge Mohamed criticised the lack of cooperation between government institutions, claiming that this was causing delay and even the collapse of many important criminal cases.

The prosecutor general admitted “there have been some instances when there has been delay on our part”, but said he believes that all branches of government are doing their best.

“Our prosecutors do appear in approximately 40-45 cases in criminal court every day, and we do cooperate to the best of our availability of human resources.”

He said there are areas that could be improved, especially witness protection.

“The court will definitely need the cooperation of the police and the prosecution to effectively discharge their duties. And we are prepared for that.”

Shiyam said, “If there is anything police need to be mindful of, judges should tell us what needs to be corrected. They should at least phone senior officers.”

He insisted police are working “hand-in-hand” with other government institutions. “All authorities must come together to provide better security,” he said.

Spokesman for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, said the government is “strengthening and improving facilities for all institutions and courts.”

He said issues of space for institutions such as the criminal court would resolved when the ministries move to the new Wellaanage complex, soon to be completed.

He also criticised judge Abdulla Mohamed for failing to take his concerns to the “proper channels.

“I don’t believe people in the judiciary should access media to give political messages,” Zuhair said.


7 thoughts on “Crime boosted by lack of witness protection, claims judge”

  1. While the Judiciary should have the sense to work in tandem with sitting governments instead of against them, Judge Abdullah does have a point. Witnesses are not kept safe from intimidation - and the sense of lawlessness is progressing throughout the capital.

    It makes sense that he would want to divert some of the blame towards facilities and the Police Service, especially when it is the courts who have been responsible for the release of countless criminals to date.

    But tell me, is having a witness sit next to an accused defendant really an issue concerning the lack of facilities?! Or just is it just incompetence? Can judges really not move around these court rooms a little so that justice has a chance to function?

    While we do have many competent judges in Male' - and even some in the outer islands - the Judiciary is in desperate need of reform. Both in standards of practice as well as training in functioning as an autonomous unit. They also need to take responsibility for their domain - and work together with other institutions.

    Nonetheless, bribes and threats are of very serious concern. We need to protect our people.

  2. They've only figured this out now?

    A few years ago I was unfortunate to be the victim of some street violence. The first thing my family did after taking me to the hospital was call the police.

    The only question the two officers that came asked was this:

    "So, do you know their names?"

    Ofcourse I didn't know their names. After this, they said that if they didn't know any names, they couldn't help us and simply left. THAT was the extent of their initial investigation. They didn't ask how many people were there, what was used to attack, what they looked like, NOTHING. Wouldn't the best time to collect statements and information be immediately after the incident?

    I refused to go to the police station so they could question me later.

    A month passed in silence, and then I recieved a summons to go to Police HQ.

    Disobeying a summons is a crime, so I had no choice but to go.

    The officer interviewing me smiled and said that he was a bit busy with stuff and that was the delay. "I hope you don't mind me using the summons!".

    I was asked if I wanted to testify. I said that I would only testify if they could guarantee my anonymity.

    He said that this was impossible, and that they'd be right across the room. But surely, these are some dangerous criminals I retorted, it's guaranteed that they or their buddies will take revenge on me. Ofcourse ofcourse he said, they're really notorious, some of the worst.

    And then without missing a beat, he asked me again. "So, you said you'll be testifying, right?".

    With that being the extent of professionalism in the police force, is it really a surprise my case ended up getting no where?

    I would never trust my life to a "audio link" when I can't trust the people operating it.

    Difficulties with evidence and witness protection my ass. They'd be difficulties if they actually tried to do anything in the first place.

  3. This is a serious issue which needs to be addressed urgently and headon rather than through the media.While our criminal rate is extremely high for a society like ours it's a shame on our judicial system that most of those criminals walk free,even those caught red handed get away without a conviction leaving their accomplices to operate with impunity.I understand the government is doing it's best within its capacity to deal with this issue but still it needs to do more.In my opinion there are multiple reasons for this,most prominent of which are embodied in the article.Given how bold and vicious criminals have operated in recent times I won't be suprised to see impatience overpowering the people, taking law into their own hands if authorities fail to find a solution to this.One last thing.....I don't understand the mission of Human Rights Commision(HRC),sincerity in implementation of their original mandate is so dubious to me,but they always sound more like that of an advocacy group fighting for the rights of criminals rather than that of ordinary people.To me it's a paradox hard to understand,being lenient and rigorous simultaneously when dealing with these criminals.Hope we'll find a solution in between.

  4. I dont understand what this Judge Abdulla is doing speaking to the media like this. What did he think he is? a politician? and he said if there was corporation among govt depts cases can be finished "within 24 hours". Is this due process? Surely he is talking about summary justice here, the form of procedure he is accustomed to in maumoon's regime.

  5. We can cry our hearts out!
    A year of parliament, administration has passed with nothing happening!
    What need to be stopped and protected is stopped and protected!
    The government is weakened by parliament and judiciary!
    The parliament or justice or lawyers do not want this to happen!
    The elements of Gayyoom regime is still embedded deep in all these institutions!
    Some are dissolving, whereas some are rearing up for an opportunity to strike!
    This is the state of affairs to be true to this happening!
    It is pathetic when a victim of crime is asked "So, do you know their names" as Hani says (which in fact is true)!
    I have known cases during Gayyomm period when violent attacks have been carried out inside Vili Police posts and in the presence of Police Officers in Charge and violators walk out free after committing the crime!

  6. it is not only politicians who can speak in the media.

    people belonging to NON Governmental Organizations (NGO's), Politicians, Members of Independent Commissions, such as Human Rights Commission (HRC), Prosecutor Generals Office (PGO), Auditor Generals Office (AGO) and every citizen or resident or a person in the Maldives should have the "Right to Speak", the "Right to Express" and the "Right to Improve and Contribute to the field he/she works"

    Mr Justice Thomas in his book, Judicial Ethics in Australia. However, I draw comfort from the announcement of Lord Mackay of Clashfern (yet another Scot) in 1987 that the Kilmuir Rules should be abolished in the United Kingdom. His Lordship said:

    "I believe that [judges] should be allowed to decide for themselves what they should do …. Judges should be free to speak to the press, or television, subject to being able to do so without in any way prejudicing their performing of their judicial work. …It is not the business of the Government to tell the judges what to do"

    "Judges speak out against Nguyen execution"

    Australian judges have added their voice to calls for the Singapore Government to grant clemency to Melbourne man Van Nguyen, who faces execution on Friday for trafficking heroin.


    In a democratic society judges are able to speak out, they are citizens too and are afforded basic rights aswell, there are only few countries where judges are discouraged to speak, those are Burma, Maldives, Zimbabwe, China and North Korea.

  7. Its evident that, the gov is running in a hurry, abandoning the promises made. They used to criticize the Judiciary, They ask publicly to protest around Justice Building. The Constitution states Judiciary is a Separate power, So i wanna them to learn it, wanna let them know the norms of a democratic society, with all moral values.


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