The High Court today upheld a Civil Court injunction against the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)’s investigation of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.
Abdulla Mohamed was a central figure in the downfall of former President Mohamed Nasheed, following the military’s detention of the judge after the government accused him of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.
Abdulla Mohamed obtained the Civil Court injunction against his investigation by the judicial watchdog in September 2011, after it produced a report stating that he had violated the Judge’s Code of Conduct by making a politically biased statement in an interview he gave to private broadcaster DhiTV.
The JSC appealed the injunction on January 24, claiming that the Civil Court had disregarded the commission’s constitutional mandate which allowed it to take action against judges, and argued that the court did not have the jurisdiction to overrule a decision of its own watchdog body.
The commission further argued the Judge Mohamed did not have the authority to seek the injunction preemptively as the commission had not yet taken action against him.
The JSC had therefore requested the High Court to terminate the injunction, citing contradictions to legal and court procedures.
However presiding High Court Judge Dr Azmiralda Zahir contended that the commission had not provided the court “any reason to terminate the injunction”.
Zahir further observed that the High Court would be violating the court procedures if it decided on the injunction before the Civil Court had reached its own verdict in the case.
She also added that that JSC could not establish a connection between the Civil Court’s injunction and jurisdiction of the court, and concluded it is not a reasonable argument to terminate the injunction.
Therefore, she ruled that the judges who evaluated the case had found no grounds to change the civil court’s injunction.
Former President’s member on the JSC and whistleblower Aishath Velezinee for several years contended that Abdulla Mohamed was a central, controlling “father figure” in the lower courts, answerable to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a key figure responsible for scuttling the independence of the judiciary under the new constitution.
“When Abdulla Mohamed [was arrested by Nasheed’s government] I believe the opposition feared they were losing control over the judiciary, and that is why they came out on the streets. If you look at the so called public protests, it was opposition leaders and gang members. We did not see the so-called public joining them – they were a public nuisance really,” Velezinee observed, in a recent interview with Minivan News.
“For nearly three weeks they were going around destroying public property and creating disturbances. It wasn’t a people thing – we can say that. We locals – we know who was there on the streets. There is footage and evidence available of it. We’ve seen the destruction they were causing in Male’ every day.”
Following the arrest of the judge, Nasheed’s government appealed to the international community – in particular the Commonwealth, the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) and the UN – for assistance in resolving the spiralling judicial crisis. A Commonwealth team arrived in the Maldives the day before Nasheed’s government was overthrown after a group of police sided with opposition demonstrators, attacking the military headquarters and seizing control of the state broadcaster.
Velezinee bemoaned the local and international focus on the arrest of the judge rather than the decline of the institution that led Nasheed’s government to such desperate interference in the judiciary.
“To the international community [the protesters] were a crowd of people – and to them that’s the public. It’s a public protest to them. But it was not. We need to consider who was involved in the free Abdulla Mohamed campaign. These are the same people I have previously accused of covering up and being conspirators in the silent coup,” Velezinee told Minivan News in an interview in February.
The first complaints against Abdulla Mohamed were filed in July 2005 by then Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed – now Dr Waheed’s political advisor – and included allegations of misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused.
Asked in February this year whether he was satisfied with the investigation into the judge’s conduct and the action taken since his complaints in 2005, Dr Saeed replied that “under that constitution [President Gayoom] was the head of the judiciary. So it was my legal and moral obligation to raised that issue with him, which I did.
“I did not know if it was followed up. Obviously if there are issues it has to be resolved in accordance with the established laws and institutions.”
During the same interview, President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan said it was “for the judiciary to decide what to do with him, not for me.”
“I don’t want to interfere in the judiciary. I want our constitution to be respected, and work with everybody to make our constitution work. This is a new constitution, and it is the first time we are trying it out. And so there are difficulties in it. We need to find ways of solving it. It is time for us to work together, and if there are problems with the judiciary we need to work together to solve them – they are intelligent good people in the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).”
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) last week summoned former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Home Minister Hassan Afeef, and former Defence Minister Tholath Ibrahim for questioning over their detention of the judge. It had promised to conclude the investigation by April.