The European Union (EU) has declared that it would be “difficult” to consider the Maldives’ upcoming presidential elections credible unless former President Mohamed Nasheed is allowed to contest.
Nasheed is currently being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court over his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.
His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent Nasheed from contesting elections in September, and have condemned the former President’s repeated arrest on the court’s order by squads of masked special operations police.
A number of international institutions including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, and the UK’s Bar Human Rights Commission, have recently expressed concern about the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court it created, and its appointment of the three member panel of judges overhearing the Nasheed trial.
The JSC’s members include several of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including rival presidential candidate, resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim.
Last week, several members of the JSC also testified to parliament’s independent commissions oversight committee that the creation of the court and appointment of the judges were politically suspect.
JSC Member appointed by the public, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, last week revealed that the JSC had openly discussed their intent to eliminate Nasheed from the upcoming elections.
Chair of the Commission, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed, had abused his post and powers as the chair to try and eliminate Nasheed from contesting the elections, said Shuaib, alleging that Adam Mohamed had “used the commission as a political tool”.
“The politics of the majority control the commission, hence the rule of law, due process and due diligence do not exist in the JSC,” Sheikh Rahman stated. “The commission has no amount of respect for constitutional principles.”
“It is common now to hear a lot of MDP and Nasheed bashing in commission meetings. This was not how things usually were before. I believe politically biased comments like this have increased since Gasim joined the JSC as a representative of the parliament,” Sheikh Rahman said.
In a statement on Thursday, the European Union said it “reiterates its view that the participation of the preferred candidates from all political formations in the Maldives is essential to ensuring the success of the forthcoming elections; it would be difficult to consider them credible and inclusive if Mr Nasheed and his party were to be prevented from standing or campaigning.”
“The EU takes note of the acceptance by the prosecution of a defence request to defer the trial until after the upcoming presidential elections in September and hopes that this would offer the means to ensure that ex-President Nasheed is able to participate in the electoral campaign, under the same conditions as other candidates,” stated EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.
In the statement, the EU also reminded Maldivian authorities of their “commitment to ensuring [Nasheed’s] personal safety and security.”
“The EU encourages all parties to exercise restraint, to act responsibly, and to work together to ensure that the outcome of these elections fully reflects the wishes of the Maldivian people, so safeguarding the Maldives’ democratic institutions and enabling its next government to confront the serious economic, social and environmental challenges which the country faces,” the statement concluded.
Following the EU’s comments, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad tweeted on Saturday (March 16) that “it’s not proper for governments to discredit the independence and integrity of our judiciary. Doing so is undermining Democracy in Maldives.”
Masood added that the 2013 elections would be free, fair and exclusive, but would be “exclusive” of individuals who did not meet the legal criteria.
Nasheed’s trial is meanwhile due to resume on April 4 following a four week recess granted by the court. The hearing has been scheduled despite the state prosecution stating it had no objection to delaying the trial until after the September 7 elections.