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The EU has expressed “concern” over the Supreme Court’s decision to prosecute the Elections Commission for contempt of court
“The EU Delegation notes with concern the current action of the Supreme Court on its own initiative to bring before it members of the Elections Commission who have expressed concern over its judgments,” read a press release from the EU delegation based in Sri Lanka.
The court’s decision to bring the charges of contempt of court refer to criticism of the decision to annul last September’s presidential election first round.
The EC has also been accused of disobeying a Supreme Court order by dissolving eight political parties earlier this month.
“The EU Delegation recalls the importance of legal proceedings being fair and transparent in accordance with international standards, and call on the Government of the Maldives to ensure the independence of the Elections Commission in the run up to and during the Majlis Elections so that they can proceed as scheduled on 22 March 2014. “
In addition to utilising new ‘Sumoto’ (or ‘Suo motu’) regulations that allow the apex court to initiate hearings and act as both plaintiff and judge in a trial, the Supreme Court’s contempt charges are based on privileged testimony given to the People’s Majlis by EC members.
Article 90 of the constitution says no person will be subject to any inquiry, arrest, detention, or prosecution with respect to anything said in the People’s Majlis or any of its committees if such a statement is not contrary to tenet of Islam.
However, claiming the establishment of justice to be a tenet of Islam, Supreme Court Judge Ahmed Abdulla Didi has said the EC’s testimony at the independent commissions oversight committee obstructed justice and could therefore be used in court.
EC President Thowfeek has denied the charges against the commission, noting that “testimony provided at the People’s Majlis committee was not given to hold the court in contempt, but to be held accountable to the EC’s actions.”
The Supreme Court has said that no party has the authority to question or criticise its decisions as per Article 145 (c) of the constitution which states that the Supreme Court shall be the final authority on the interpretation of the constitution, the law, or any other matter dealt with by a court of law.
In today’s statement, the EU has expressed concern that the current proceedings “risk undermining the vital independence of the Elections Commission, respect for the separation of powers and free expression in the Maldives.”
The issue of separation of powers has been a regular theme this week as politicians continued to campaign for the March 22 poll, with leaders from both the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives claiming that their parties can best ensure the three branches of government are kept apart.
Most recently, while campaigning in Malé for the governing coalition on Sunday (February 23), former President Dr Mohamed Waheed suggested that “we have separated the power so much that the country is suffering”.
“This country can’t go forward if we separate the powers any more,” said Waeheed.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday told representatives of the UN that he did not expect his MDP to take part in the elections should the EC members be arrested and replaced.