Supreme Court case against HRCM undermining commission’s mandate, says MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has voiced concern over the Supreme Court suo moto case against members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) regarding a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council last week.

In a press statement released today, the opposition party said that the members of the commission were summoned to the Supreme Court because of their criticism of the judiciary the submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

“The party believes that by initiating a suo moto, the Supreme Court is undermining the responsibilities vested by the Maldivian Constitution and international conventions on the independent commission,” read the MDP’s press statement.

Speaking to Minivan News today, parliamentary leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Nihan, said that it is not the place of any member of the government or an independent body to criticise the Supreme Court.

Nihan noted that the commission was fulfilling its mandate by publishing the report but also said  the Supreme Court was carrying out its own duties by upholding the constitution.

Members of the commission were summoned one by one to the Supreme Court yesterday (September 22) and informed of the suo moto initiated by the Supreme Court.

The HRCM report criticised the growing power of the court, suggesting that control of the judiciary by the Supreme Court was damaging the lower courts.

HRCM members said yesterday that they were faced with numerous charges although they had been advised by their lawyer not to give further details. The members are scheduled to be present at a hearing tomorrow morning (September 24).

Article 27 of the HRCM act grants immunity from prosecution in relation to acts carried out as part of the commission’s duty unless a formal inquiry proves that some components in the report are proven to be false.

Earlier this year, Supreme Court used the unprecedented suo moto proceeding, in which the court acts as its own plaintiff and judge, in the removal of Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz.

Both were charged with contempt of court and disobedience to order as a result of testimony given to the People’s Majlis’ independent commission’s oversight committee

Through a raft of regulations enacted in recent months, the Maldives Supreme Court has sought to consolidate control over administrative affairs of the judiciary.

Changes to contempt of court regulations made in June authorised courts to initiate legal proceedings and punish individuals for any expression, action, gesture, or piece of writing “inside or outside a courtroom” that could be considered contempt of court.

The court has come under criticism both home and abroad in recent months, with a sex-tape scandal and perceived interference in the 2013 presidential elections among the issues causing controversy.