HRCM attends Juvenile Court after summons, agrees to cooperate with enquiry

The Juvenile Court has stated today that all five members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) have complied with the court’s order and attended a meeting at the court this morning (March 17).

The order was sent after HRCM members had failed to attend two meetings requested by the court in recent weeks.

Juvenile Court Spokesperson Zaima Nasheed stated that the court was requesting the meetings in order to question the HRCM members about a confidential report that they shared with the court concerning the sentencing of a 15 year old rape victim to flogging and house arrest.

The court maintains that, although the HRCM has included in its report that the case was one of sexual assault and harassment, the court was in fact presiding over a case concerning the crime of consensual fornication.

Alleging that the HRCM included fabricated information in the report, the Juvenile Court spokesperson stated that the members had been summoned to a meeting, and not a court hearing.

“They [HRCM members] attended Monday’s meeting as though they were coming to a court hearing, complete with being accompanied by legal representation. It was not a hearing though, just a meeting held to clarify some issues,” Zaima stated.

Zaima said that the court requires all members of the HRCM to explain to the court’s panel of judges why “fabricated information was included in the report”, as well as “the reasoning behind the need to compile such a report”.

Zaima further revealed that HRCM President Mariyam Azra had requested that the commission be allowed to submit their answers to the court’s queries in writing.

The court refused this request, however, and insisted that the members attend meetings at the court in order to verbally respond to questions put to them by an assigned panel.

According to the Juvenile Court, the HRCM had initially objected to this, quoting Article 27(a) and 27 (b) of the Human Rights Commission Act.

Article 27 (a) states that “no criminal or civil suit shall be filed against the President or Vice President or a member of the Commission in relation to committing or omitting an act in good faith whilst undertaking responsibilities of the commission or exercising the powers of the Commission or the powers conferred to the Commission by a law”.

Additionally Article 27 (b) states “the Commission can only be questioned or a suit can be filed against the Commission in court regarding a component in a report published by the Commission following an inquiry, should sufficient evidence be available to prove the component is false”.

The court responded by quoting the same article, as well as Article 141(d) of the Maldives constitution, arguing that this made it obligatory for the HRCM to oblige with the questioning.

Article 141(d) of the constitution states that “persons or bodies performing public functions, through legislative and other measures, must assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, eminence, dignity, impartiality, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts”.

The HRCM is then said to have agreed to cooperate, on account that it is given a period of ten days after the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22 before the first questioning session.

Zaima then said that the court has agreed to grant the HRCM the requested period of time.

“We did this with consideration towards the work of the HRCM and the nature of this matter that we are looking into,” the Juvenile Court’s Spokesperson said.

HRCM member Jeehan Mahmoud stated that the HRCM was not prepared to comment on the matter at present.