With additional reporting by Ahmed Nazeer
Members of the Maldives Human Rights Commission (HRCM) refused to attend a Juvenile Court meeting yesterday (April 1), after having asked the Supreme Court to rule on the legitimacy of the court’s actions.
The commission has contended that the Juvenile Court is in violation of “the legal principles and procedures followed in contempt of court cases.”
A press statement from HRCM released yesterday evening noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office had not charged the commission with contempt of court because only the Supreme Court could initiate such cases of its own accord.
Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem has told Haveeru that the court does not have the authority to summon HRCM members over contempt of court charges.
The court has been requesting the meetings in order to question HRCM members about a confidential report concerning the sentencing of a 15 year old rape victim to flogging and house arrest in 2012.
”We are trying to summon the HRCM members regarding a report they sent to the Juvenile Court on 5 December 2013, in which the HRCM has included false information about the Juvenile Court and it also contained things that could be considered as an attempt to influence the court’s work,” Juvenile Court Spokesperson Zaima Nasheed told Minivan News today.
Zaima has argued previously that the constitution states no public officials can “interfere with and influence the functions of the courts”, instead they must “assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, eminence, dignity, impartiality, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.”
The HRCM press release added that the report referred to in the media was a confidential document, which had only been shared with relevant authorities or state institutions.
“We assure that the report does not include any false statements that hold the Juvenile Court in contempt,” the press release stated.
After refusing to attend the meeting yesterday, the Juvenile Court sent an official court summons for today (April 2) to each individual commission member, according to local media.
Following the official court summons, the HRCM members appeared before the court this morning at 10am and were told to respond in writing before 3pm.
The HRCM was first summoned to the Juvenile Court on March 12, with a further request to meet made on March 17 after members failed to accede to the previous requests – all five members of the HRCM subsequently attended on March 17.
The HRCM is reported to have agreed to cooperate at this meeting, on the condition that it was given a period of ten days after the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22 before the first questioning session.
The 15-year-old rape victim from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll was convicted of premarital sex at the Juvenile Court and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest.
In June 2012, the girl gave birth to a baby that was discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of her home. Her stepfather was later charged with child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder.
An official from the Prosecutor General’s Office told Minivan News in January last year that the fornication charges against the minor were related to a separate offence of premarital sex that emerged during the police investigation. The charges were filed on November 25, 2012.
In its verdict, the Juvenile Court ordered the state to transfer the girl to the Children’s Home in Villingili to enforce the sentence of eight months house arrest, according to local media reports.
Following the 15 year-old’s conviction, local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) called on the Maldivian government to pass legislation concerning the treatment of sexual abuse victims.
ARC also previously called for reforms of the juvenile justice system and reform of the current protection mechanisms provided to minors who are kept in state run institutions, such as homes and foster programs.