The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has alleged there is evidence to support claims that parliament’s member to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Gasim Ibrahim, has influenced the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench.
The party’s comments follow a recently submitted motion by MDP Parliamentary Group Member Ibrahim ‘Bondey’ Rasheed to remove Gasim – who is also the leader and presidential candidate of Jumhoree Party – from the JSC.
Rasheed accused Gasim of influencing the legal processes in place to make judges accountable, adding that it “is not right” for a party president to sit on the JSC, local media reported.
Speaking to Minivan News today, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that Parliament’s Independent Commissions Oversight Committee had received documents from the JSC, showing that Gasim had been lobbying the Hulhumale’ Court bench.
The JSC was responsible for both creating the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court in which the former President of the Maldives and leader of the MDP, Mohamed Nasheed, is currently facing trial, and appointing the panel of judges hearing the case.
The MDP have maintained that the charges against Nasheed are a politically motivated attempt to bar him from the election in September – in which Gasim is also competing.
“The oversight committee received a total of 18 documents and a number of minutes from the JSC. The documents show that a magistrate [from Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court] had originally proposed a bench of judges for the court to the JSC on September 2, 2012,” Hamid claimed.
According to the MDP Spokesperson, the JSC had responded to the proposal by letter on September 4, calling for the aforementioned magistrate to “not do anything”.
“On the same day [September 4, 2012], The JSC then held a meeting at 12:30 whereby they proposed a new bench before ratifying it and sending it to the Supreme Court for approval.
“The JSC received the approval from the court on the same day and the bench proposed by the magistrate was never even discussed,” he added.
Responding to the MDP’s claims, JP Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz stated that Gasim had “every right” to sit on the JSC under the Maldivian constitution.
“Actually Mr Gasim is the JSC member not on behalf of the Jumhooree Party, but is there from the people’s majilis, so there are no more comments from the party on this matter,” Ramiz stated.
Gasim Ibrahim was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Local media reported on Tuesday (March 12) that Ramiz had claimed the MDP’s motion to remove Gasim from the JSC was an attempt to tarnish Gasim’s reputation and “good name”.
Furthermore, Ramiz was quoted as saying that the slanderous statements made by the MDP were done because they feared Gasim’s popularity as a presidential candidate.
The parliament secretary general confirmed to local newspaper Haveeru that the motion to remove Gasim from the 10 member JSC had been received.
Last month, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul raised concerns over the politicisation of the JSC.
“I have heard from numerous sources that the current composition of the JSC is inadequate and politicised.
Because of this politicisation, the commission has been subjected to all sorts of external influence and consequently has been unable to function properly,” Knaul stated last month.
Knaul said that she believed it best for such a body to be composed of retired or sitting judges, adding that it may be advisable for some representation of the legal profession or academics to be included.
However, she maintained that no political representation at all should be allowed in a commission such as the JSC.
In response to the Knaul’s findings, Gasim accused her of lying and joking about the state of the Maldivian judiciary.
“[Gabriela Knaul] claimed that the judges were not appointed transparently, I am sure that is an outright lie. She is lying, she did not even check any document at all nor did she listen to anybody.
“She is repeating something that was spoon-fed to her by someone else. I am someone who sits in JSC. She claimed there were no regulations or mechanism there. That is a big joke,” Gasim claimed.
Knaul is an independent expert appointed to deliver recommendations on potential areas of reform to the Maldives’ legal system at the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in May, 2013.