Judicial watchdog criticised over 12-member trip to Thinadhoo

A former member of the judicial watchdog has called a 12-member trip to the south for training purposes “unnecessary and for personal interests.”

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) team, which includes six commission members and a criminal court, Judge Abdulla Didi, left to Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo on Wednesday for a training session for magistrates and to investigate several cases, a JSC official said.

The total number of people in the delegation is nine, the JSC has said. But the Thinadhoo council confirmed that a total of 12 people with the JSC delegation met with the council yesterday.

A former JSC member, Shuaib Abdul Rahman, said the commission’s decision to leave Malé with a 12-member delegation despite hundreds of pending cases was “unacceptable.”

“A substantive number of people are saying the criminal court has handed out unfair verdicts [against ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim],” he said.

“The commission has the power to investigate issues on their own initiative. So ignoring what is important and leaving with a 12 member team to an atoll is unacceptable.”

The criminal court has been criticised for lack of due process in the sentencing of Nasheed to 13 years in jail and Nazim to 11 years in jail on terrorism and illegal weapons charges, respectively.

In 2014, the JSC conducted four trips to the atolls to present appointment letters to magistrates. Members also went on two international trips to Zambia and China.

Shuaib said only one or two members were sent to the atolls for investigation during his term at the JSC.

“It is totally unnecessary to put together a team that large. This probably includes personal interests,” he said.

JSC’s media officer Hassan Zaheen dismissed the criticism and said: “The commission is conducting training programs to magistrates about some criminal proceedings.”

He also defended Judge Didi’s presence on the training trip, saying “Judge Didi was a former member and a Criminal Court Judge. I see him to be fit for the purpose and there are no legal barriers.”

Didi was the presiding judge in Nasheed’s trial, and sat on the three-member panel in Nazim’s trial.

The judicial watchdog, formed in 2008, has 111 cases pending, a majority of which relates to the integrity of judges. Complaints over criminal court Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s misconduct and an alleged sex scandal of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed are still pending.

Hameed was recently appointed as the president of the JSC.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has accused the JSC of failing to fulfil its mandate of ensuring ethical conduct among judges.