The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has appealed against “obstruction” of the commission’s legal and constitutional responsibilities in a press statement yesterday (May 26), following a protest march by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on Saturday (May 25).
The party marched on the streets of Male’ to protest against JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla’s alleged attempts to unduly influence the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The MDP contends that Adam Mohamed was abusing his power and authority as head of the judicial watchdog body to intimidate judges on the High Court bench.
On April 1, the High Court ordered the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to suspend Nasheed’s trial pending a ruling on the legitimacy of the panel of judges appointed by the JSC to preside over the case.
The MDP objected to the judicial oversight body summoning the Chief Judge of the High Court for questioning over a complaint filed more than a year ago.
The move amounted to intimidation of judges and undue influence on judicial processes, the party contended, calling on the JSC to cease its “dirty and cowardly” efforts as the commission was the adverse party or respondent in the High Court case.
In the first hearing of the case, the JSC contested the High Court’s jurisdiction to rule on the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench constituted by the commission.
“It is strange that the JSC’s legal counsel contested jurisdiction of the High Court to hear the case on the grounds that they had sought the advice of the Supreme Court in determining the bench,” MDP MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, spokeswoman of the former president said after the hearing.
Meanwhile, in its statement issued a day after the MDP protest march, the JSC noted that the constitution and Judicial Service Commission Act of 2008 mandated the commission to investigate complaints against judges and enforce disciplinary measures.
The commission was entrusted with powers to summon and question persons and take witness testimonies, the JSC stated.
There were “no legal or constitutional grounds” to interpret carrying out the commission’s legal responsibilities as intimidation or exerting undue influence on judges, the statement added.
The JSC statement concluded by calling on all parties to “not commit any act or participate in any activity that could obstruct the constitutional and legal responsibilities and duties of the commission.”
Responding to the statement yesterday, MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor tweeted,
— Hamid Abdul Ghafoor (@haaghee) May 26, 2013
UN Special Rapporteur report
In her report to the United Nations Human Rights Council following a visit to the Maldives in February 2013, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul expressed concern with “the significant backlog of complaints with the Judicial Service Commission that are not dealt with or at least are perceived as not being dealt with. Some judges that have several complaints and cases for misconduct against them are still sitting.”
Moreover, Knaul wrote that according to several judges, “disciplinary procedures before the Commission lead to public humiliation and damages to their reputation.”
“Some even said that, when summoned by the Commission, the principle of presumption of innocence is not respected and they do not have appropriate time and access to information to prepare for their cases. Judges are also often not told for what allegations they are being investigated. It is common that, after an appearance before the Commission, judges are not informed if their case was dropped, if a decision was taken, or if it is still pending,” Knaul wrote.
“The Special Rapporteur is worried that disciplinary proceedings before the Judicial Services Commission are not in line with international law and principles, and may sometimes be used to expose and question the integrity of judges and magistrates before the media and the general public before the conclusion of a proper investigation into the allegations. She wishes to underline that, according to the Basic Principles on the independence of the judiciary, judges are entitled to a fair hearing under an appropriate procedure, which should be subject to an independent review.”
Among a number of recommendations to reform the Maldivian justice system, Knaul suggested taking “appropriate measures to enforce the code of conduct of judges in a transparent and consistent manner, with full respect for the fundamental guarantees of fair hearing and bearing in mind the importance of the reputation of judges and magistrates.”