Maldivian courts failing to serve the public impartially: ICJ report

The Maldives legal system is failing to serve its citizens despite many “positive developments” that have been made in an effort to depoliticise the courts; with many of judges found lacking in qualifications and independent attitude, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

“How often do ordinary Maldivians look to the courts for justice? Is there a sense that ‘We [Maldivians] have an independent judiciary that is capable of resolving problems?’ I think the answer is no,” surmised Roger Normand, Director of the ICJ’s Asia Pacific operations.

“Historically, [independent resolution] has not been the role of judges. Judges were an outcome or a product of the executive power. This is not a controversial statement, this is an outline of what their legal role was in the previous [government],” Normand stated.

Normand’s claims were made as the ICJ published a report on the Maldives legal system that outlining a huge number of challenges to ensure the country’s courts are in the long-term transparent in their decision making. It is hoped that the developments can remove the opportunities for abuse from government and opposition politicians alike, the ICJ stated.

The report itself is highly critical of both the role of some members of government in calling for protests and gatherings outside judges’ homes, as well as the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) that it said was “unable to carry out its functions” to impartially vet and reappoint judges on the basis of qualification and background.

“To date, JSC decision-making has been perceived as being inappropriately influenced by a polarised political environment,” the report stated. “Also troubling is that members of the judiciary have been subject to threats and intimidation as well as improper inducements by both governing and opposition party members.”

The ICJ said the report, entitled ‘Securing an Independent Judiciary in a Time of Transition’, had raised particular concerns over the “constitutional crisis” that occurred last year concerning the legitimacy of the courts and judges and the conduct of the government of President Mohamed Nasheed in addressing this.

Despite these concerns, Normand claimed that while there were “significant” problems with judiciary in the Maldives, and that the structure of a watchdog body such as the JSC needed much work needed to resolve, he was encouraged that there appeared to be a political mandate to bring changes to the legal system. However, the ICJ Asia Pacific director stressed that a non-independent judiciary could not simply change directly to an independent body.

“To have a sudden change, where suddenly judges are independent – this can’t just be signed on a piece of paper or constitution, it’s an attitude and a practice,” he said. “I think it’s safe to say we don’t have those attitudes and practices in the Maldives, but I also think the size of the developments are very positive.”

According to Normand and the ICJ, part of the challenge in trying to provide an independent judiciary is to ensure public support and acceptance of the country’s legal institutions and their verdicts, which in itself was linked to transparency within the decisions of bodies like the JSC.

“Judicial accountability is key to cultivating such public confidence and is an integral aspect of judicial independence,” the report stated. “Accountability must be manifest both at institutional level, in terms of court administration and access to justice, and at the individual level. This enables judges to decide cases without fear or favour and that they strictly apply the law to the facts before them.”


The report recommends a number of areas, such as education and training programmes for court appointees, bringing foreign experts to assist long-term, and advise on developments that it believes the Supreme Court could adopt to boost its own accountability.

In areas such as education, the ICJ said that seven-year periods outlined under the national Judges Act was used more effectively to enhance the qualifications of judges as well as ensure that a code of ethics was introduced in line with international agreements such as the Bangalore Principles on Judicial Conduct.

In addition, the ICJ claimed that steps could also be taken to ensure the Department of Judicial Administration was used to try to provide smoother administration of justice,such as requiring all levels of court to issue written reasons for its actions and establishing a judicial database so the court and public could refer to similar case law and precedents.

Normand stressed that the Maldives was relatively unique in that its courts would turn to Sharia law where Maldivian legislation didn’t apply, but that it was not alone in such experiences.

“We would recommend [collaboration with] countries that have experience of working both with common law – using previous legal cases to set precedent – and Sharia law, Pakistan is one example, Malaysia is another,” said Normand. “There are other countries where the issues the Maldives faces have been looked at before. It’s not the first time so you need to take advantage of this.”

The ICJ also recommended steps it hoped the JSC would take to act with greater transparency after coming under criticism and allegations of possible corruption.

Beyond adopting regulations and procedures to create greater accountability into the JSC’s decision making by recording detailed minutes of its meetings, a technical secretariat could also be established by a neutral party that could limit the workload to allow the organisation to work to its constitutional requirements.

The ICJ added that these developments needed to be backed by using international experts to help oversee work, and also ensure the high “moral integrity” of judges in relation to their criminal records that is also outlined under various international treaties and agreements.

The report also outlined recommendations for the country’s parliament and government to adhere to in their conduct in relation to the courts such as launching public awareness campaigns in relations to the requirements under the constitution of various legal institutions. The government was also called on to provide funding and strengthen the faculty of law and Sharia in the country, and the Majlis were called upon to pass vital laws such as the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code to allow swifter and more impartial delivery of justice.

The organisation also called for reform of the JSC in relation to concerns the report and others have raised over issues of transparency.

“As a principle, the JSC must become more transparent and effective in processing the complaints by the public about judges,” added Normand.  “In fact, it is important for the judges themselves that the institution of the judiciary has the confidence of the public – that you’re qualified, that you’re not a criminal – it’s important for everyone.”

Taking the example of other nations such as Indonesia that are claimed to witnessed huge problems with trying to establish an independent and efficient judicial service, Normand claimed there were positive examples of countries like the Maldives that had seen vast improvements in the impartiality of its courts.


11 thoughts on “Maldivian courts failing to serve the public impartially: ICJ report”

  1. Maldives is a small country, and the population is small also. A further problem is that all the people are not on one island.

    It is more difficult to be objective in decision making when things can easily become personal, as it is the case in the Maldives.

    Further, Maldivian people are not equal. There are vast differences in health, wealth, education and other status indicators.

    Moreover, the country has long been under a patriarchal, hegemonistic, hierarchical,undemocratic and unintellectual social, economic and political system.

    The summary dismissal of the first independent auditor- general, and the non- appointment of a successor, speaks volumes about the atmosphere and tone in Maldivian public life.

    India has a splendid judiciary particularly at its higher levels. If a system can be agreed at international level for a period of tutorship- say for 20 years- for Maldivian courts to work under the guidance and even some control of the Indian judiciary, Maldivian society can only gain.

    It will not lose anything.

  2. Excellent report MV. Keep it up, someone has got to keep this in the spot light!

  3. @ Michael Fahmy. Again India. Is that the big picture? So why don't we call ourselves Indians. Look at what they have done to our health sector by using Maldives as one of their research and training ground. Looks like the mind manipulation is played at a very fast speed and it is very organized. Seems like everyone is getting brain washed. Within few years we will be believing that we can't survive on our own as a nation, so whats the harm in becoming a part of India.
    And for many fellow Maldivians this will be a conspiracy and I will be stupid. I say we must kick out the Indian ambassador who is a buddy of Ibrahim Hussain Zaki now before its too late. The situation is indeed very serious and threatening our independence. I am sure I can survive on one meal a day. That also garudiya and rice.
    Dont need flats and other luxuries on debt money. Was happy with my gabeela life style before.

  4. @Micheal Fahmy,
    You are suggesting that our courts be under the control of India. A system that is more corrupt than the current one we have. I would object.

  5. The democratisation of the Middle East may also help us. For many years, some people in the legal services got trained in the Middle East. They learned under authoritarian systems and needless to say, would have had left lasting impressions on them.

    With the changes in Egypt, for example, one would hope that future students would have a more modern view of democracy and human rights.

    I raise this point, since it was revealed in the leaked audio recordings of the JSC members, they were referring to such and such cannot happen in an Arabic country. Arab countries have been ruled by dictators and autocrats for centuries and there is little good example coming out of them.

    Looking at places like Malaysia and Indonesia may be more productive. We can learn a lot from them. But the hard fact is that, there is an intransigent and significant faction of "old guard" that do not want change the "status quo" within the legal system. We need to keep on hammering at them until their armour cracks.

  6. Judiciary is the worst part of our government and we need to reform it like Egypt to make this country prosper.

  7. hmmm...I wonder why my comment was blocked by the moderators of Minivan. No names were named and the only comments were regarding possible structural reforms to be brought to the FSL.

    Hope I get an answer. Cheers 😀

    99% of 'missing comment' cases are due to the spam filter, which is an unavoidable necessity. Try a resubmit. -Minivan News team

  8. This all need to go in MDP otherwise cannot see the real comment.All rubbish.

  9. Iblis - Afraheem will be very worried and he will try to avoid this report and blame the others.
    He should be fired from now on.We Maldivians don't need him.he is trying to run behind the money?hell bent sucker!
    I urge all concerned institutions not to feed them from our money.He is the first man to be fired.
    He says justice is very transparent to the public.What a big lair he is!He is the one trying hard to hide everything.
    Mr Afrasheem you just shut up, resign and walk away.We don't want hear anything from you.You sucks.You have slipped off from the right path.

  10. Micheal Fakmy:

    God help us if we get under indian supervision - already we're bad enough ...!!!

    Haha, Maldivian Judiciary of India Pvt Ltd // 🙂

  11. Oh I forgot : half of all Indian MPs are apparently established criminals whose webs n tentacles reach to all spheres of state, including gvt, courts n all important institutions...!! In 20 years we'll have Indian passports n we'll all be slaving off in Dubai construction sites...!


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