There will be no criminal investigation into the events leading to the resignation of of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7, and the subsequent transfer of presidential power to then-Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, the Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) said on Thursday.
The commission is charged with looking into the legality and legitimacy of the transfer of presidential power following allegations from former ruling Maldivian Democratic (MDP) that Waheed came to power in an opposition-backed coup in which elements of police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were bribed to revolt against Nasheed and force him to step down at “gun point”.
Both security forces and then-opposition parties – which now largely represents key cabinet posts and ministerial positions at Dr Waheed’s administration – have steadily denied the allegations.
The commission members now including former minister of defence and national security during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration, Ismail Shafeeu, members Dr Ibrahim Yasir and Dr Ali Fawaz Shareef on Thursday held its first press conference and briefed the journalists on the commission’s responsibilities, assuring that the members will conduct a “strictly impartial and independent inquiry”.
However, according to commission head Shafeeu, the commission will not conduct any criminal investigation against anyone while assessing the events leading to Nasheed’s resignation – suggesting that the report which will be submitted to President, Vice President and Prosecutor General before May 31, is unlikely to hold any party or person accountable to the transfer of power.
The commission’s “terms of reference” released to the press read that the “mandate of the commission specifically indicates that the inquiry will not be a criminal investigation. Any criminal investigation pertaining to the subject of the inquiry will remain the responsibility of the relevant authorities”.
Meanwhile it states the commission’s mandate as “exploring the facts, circumstances and causes of the events on 7 February 2012, resulting in the transfer of powers”.
Shafeeu further explained that “the inquiry is not intended to allege anyone of any crime” and said the final report will include opinions from three commission members which will be solely based on the personal assessment of the events and information gathered from the state institutions and concerned individuals.
According to commission member Yasir, many believe that commission is investigating criminal charges because former presidents had formed commissions tasked with criminal investigations.
“As soon as the commission was formed by Presidential decree, people began to ask about what sort of investigations we will conduct. But, we have not been asked to conduct any investigation. What we are doing is conducting an inquiry to identify the circumstances leading to transfer of power on February 7,” Yasir observed.
He added that the commission welcomes information from the public and the work is underway to set up a website where people can send information and follow the commission’s works. He also said that all political parties have been requested to co-operate and meetings are ongoing with independent institutions.
The commission has already met with the Police Integrity Commission, Attorney General (AG), Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Civil Service Commission (CSC) Prosecutor General (PG) and several NGOs.
Member Favaz meanwhile noted that commission has decided to seek technical assistance from United Nations (UN) and foreign ministry will facilitate the process. When asked whether Commonwealth will join the investigation Fayaaz responded: “We decided to channel UN’s assistance because the body compromise of all the nations while Commonwealth represents a specific group of countries. But we do welcome assistance from all international bodies and countries”.
The Commonwealth and Transparency Maldives has previously concurred with the need for international involvement, stating that it “strongly felt that there should be international participation in any investigative mechanism, as may be mutually agreed by political parties in Maldives.
Though government had shown willingness, the inclusion of international experts in the inquiry process is still pending.
MDP’s spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor meanwhile dismissed the inquiry commissions remarks claiming that it has “absolutely no substance”.
“The terms of reference of the inquiry commission has nothing to do with what the CMAG has asked or what we are asking for. This [commission] is tailor-made to the wishes of an politician who is trying to consolidate the rule of Gayoom’s factions. And now they are saying there will be no criminal investigation,” Ghafoor alleged.
“How can there be an impartial investigation when the members are appointed by those who were involved in the coup and denying international involvement in the inquiry process?” Ghafoor asked.