Political tensions flare amid constitutional crisis over judiciary

Male’ is bracing for further protests after a weekend of violent demonstrations involving several hundred opposition supporters, as political tensions spiral over the military’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

Eight opposition-aligned political parties held a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon calling on the public to join their series of protests “to defend the Maldivian constitution” and “bring the government back into legal bounds”.

Police said in a statement that five officers were “seriously injured” in protests that evening after opposition supporters in front of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) building attempted to break through the police blockade.

A number of other police officers sustained minor injuries while a window of the MMA building was smashed and three police vehicles, one MNDF vehicle and the car of Civil Service Commission (CSC) head Mohamed Fahmy Hassan were damaged.

Opposition protesters also broke into the home of Youth Minister Hassan Latheef and vandalised his living room, while his wife and children were in the house. The homes of other ministers were also vandalised from the outside, and palm trees lining the main roads of Male’ were uprooted.

The Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) claimed that six of its reporters were attacked on Thursday evening by the opposition protesters, including a cameraman who had paving stones and oil thrown at him, and a camera woman who had an unknown substance sprayed in her eyes as demonstrators attempted to take her video camera.

A group of male demonstrators also reportedly surrounded a female MNBC journalist and threatened to kill her and dump her body into the sea, before she was rescued by other reporters in the area.

Protesters also attempted to gather outside the MNBC premises and threw rocks and other objects at the walls.

Police arrested 43 people over the weekend, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahlouf, Adhaalath Party President Imran Abdulla, and spokesperson for the coalition of NGOs campaigning against the government’s religious policy, Abdulla Mohamed.

Charges included disrupting peace, damaging public and private property, including youth minister’s residence, breaking police lines, and inciting violence.

The Criminal Court today however ruled the arrests were unlawful and ordered the release of all those arrested.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) meanwhile called on the protesters to be mindful of the rights of others and to exercise their right to free assembly responsibly.

The commission observed that as a result of the manner of speech heard at such protests, “inducing anger, hatred and fear in people’s hearts”, public order and peace was “being very adversely affected.”

“As a consequence of such actions, the country’s social fabric is weakened and the trust and respect we should have towards one another are lost, forming numerous obstacles to establishing an environment that fully guarantees rights,” the commission said.

Hundreds of supporters of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile gathered at a heated rally near the tsunami monument on Saturday afternoon. The ruling party launched a campaign earlier this month dubbed “You can’t say that anymore” against the opposition’s “use of religion as a weapon for political purposes.”

Today’s rally at the tsunami memorial area was part of the campaign, which has seen eight rallies held at the party’s Haruge headquarters in past weeks.

Detained Judge

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed is at the centre of the constitutional impasse currently being played out in the Maldives. The opposition contends that the judge’s “abduction” by the military last week and its refusal to release him or present him in court, despite being ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, represents a constitutional violation by the government.

The government – and former whistleblower on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee – present Abdulla Mohamed as the corrupt heart of a “silent coup” by the former government to assume control of the judicary, “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” and ensuring legal impunity for key opposition figures.

Presented with a litany of allegations against the judge, the JSC, as the watchdog body charged with overseeing the judiciary, formed a complaints committee to investigate the cases against the judge in December 2009.

However in November 2011 the Civil Court ordered the judicial watchdog to take no action against Abdulla Mohamed, despite a report by the JSC claiming that he had violated the Judge’s Code of Conduct by making  statements favouring the opposition in an interview he gave to private broadcaster DhiTV.

The government’s decision to take action against the judge followed his opening of the court outside normal hours, to order the immediate release of Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, deputy leader of the minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

Police had attempted to arrested two senior members of the party on charges of slander and hate speech after they published a pamphlet alleging, among other claims, that the government was plotting with “Jews and Christian priests” to undermine Islam in the Maldives.

The Chief Judge was first summoned by police for questioning on January 16, but did not appear.

Instead, he filed a case at the High Court requesting the summons be cancelled on the grounds that it was illegal. The High Court then issued an injunction ordering police to halt enforcement of the summons pending a ruling.

Police subsequently requested the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) take Abdulla Mohamed into custody, as “the Criminal Court was not cooperating with police and that as a consequence of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed obstructing police work, the country’s internal security was threatened and police were unable to maintain public order and safety.”

The judge was taken to the MNDF training island of Girifushi, where he currently remains.

“In good health”

HRCM in an “emergency” press conference yesterday stated that it had visited the judge and that he was in good health and being well treated, with the ability to freely roam the island. He had been granted, but had refused, access to his family, HRCM said.

In response to HRCM’s comments, the opposition accused the human rights body of “backing down” from its responsibilities. Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Ibrahim Shareef, attacked the statement as “tame” and “mellow”, claiming that the “kidnapping” of the judge was inhumane.


The detention of the Chief Judge has polarised Maldivian society – and the government – even amid the country’s already intense political divide.

In an especially dramatic tangent, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan declared on his blog that he was “ashamed and totally devastated by the fact that this is happening in a government in which I am the elected the Vice President.”

“Besides all the international legal obligations, the government of the Maldives is bound by the Maldives Constitution 1988 which prohibits arbitrary arrest and forced disappearance. We have just witnessed the first possible violation since the dawn of democracy in our country. I cannot understand why this is not an issue for everyone in this country,” Dr Waheed said.

“Those of us who have struggled for freedom in this country for over 30 years, are wondering whether we have wasted our efforts.”

The European Union Heads of Mission issued a statement expressing “concern at recent developments in [the Maldives], including the arrest of a criminal court judge by members of the security forces.”

“EU Heads of Mission reiterate their support for the process of democratic transition in the Maldives and note the importance of the principles underlying that transition, including respect for the constitution, due process, independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and freedom of expression are central to this process,” the statement read.

“EU Heads of Mission call on all parties in the Maldives to act in accordance with these principles and to refrain from inflammatory language or other action which could incite hatred.”

Secretary General of SAARC, Diyana Saeed, the youngest person and first woman to be appointed to the post, today confirmed her resignation following her public criticism of the executive’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court order to release the judge, during a press conference on VTV.

“[The Chief Judge’s detention] is a violation of individual human rights, a violation of the independence of the judiciary, and the violation of the constitution,” she told Minivan News on Thursday.

The government’s ignoring of a Supreme Court order is not without precedent in the Maldives.

Prior to the appointment of the new Supreme Court in August 2010 on conclusion of the constitution’s interim period, the existing bench sent a letter to the President declaring themselves permanent.

The letter was ignored, and the MNDF confiscated the keys to the Supreme Court until the new bench was eventually appointed by parliament – a process of intense and rapid backroom political compromise that was at the time hailed as a rare cross-party success for the institution.

Breaking the impasse

A government legal source told Minivan News that the JSC itself had found evidence of “gross misconduct” by Abdulla Mohamed, but was blocked from proceeding on the matter as the chief judge “has undue influence over at least one other judge of the Civil Court who issued a court order against the JSC and prevented it from performing its constitutional role.”

“The allegations levelled against him are of serious concern to the Maldivian government and community. It is apparent that both the Maldivian High Court and the Supreme Court remained silent on the matter,” the source stated.

“This is tacit acceptance of a ploy to prevent the JSC from exercising its powers under the constitution, and the JSC’s acceptance of the Civil Court order is an indication of the extent of undue influence that members of the judiciary have over the JSC.”

The government was, the source said, “taking appropriate action in extraordinary circumstances involving allegations of serious corruption and gross misconduct by a senior judge. Public statements seeking to define his detention as a human rights issue are part of the web of protection which surrounds Judge Abdulla Mohamed.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed told Minivan News that the arrest of the judge could legally only have been ordered by the High Court.

“We have the security of the constitution, but while the print may be there it is evident that it doesn’t matter very much. If I am going to be arrested I deserve to expect certain rights. The arrest of Judge Mohamed should have been made on the order of the High Court,” he said.

He noted that Parliament had a standing committee, which had in turn formed a sub-committee, to investigate the JSC.

The hearings and interviews have been concluded at the sub-committee level said Nasheed, a member of that sub-committee and chair of the Independent Institutions Committee, and the information was to be compiled into a report and forwarded to the full committee.

“It’s possible we will have the investigation addressed within the first session of parliament this year,” Nasheed said.

He said the sub-committee had considered a reformation of the JSC.

“It’s the one institution that has not really taken off. It’s been bogged down with personality issues and procedural issues. Bring in a change of membership, some new blood, and give it a new chance,” he speculated, although adding that this would require bodies such as the Supreme Court to each revoke their own representatives on the commission.

The constitution also includes provision for the appointment of foreign judges from other Islamic countries, he noted.

Foreign judges may sit on court benches during the first 15 years of the constitution “only because we would like some technical assistance and expertise during the transition. This provision is the only area in which Maldivian citizenship is not required of a judge,” Nasheed said.


28 thoughts on “Political tensions flare amid constitutional crisis over judiciary”

  1. How can the one primary check on judicial authority (the Judicial Service Commission) be under the influence and power of the very bodies that they are meant to oversee! There is no system of checks and balances in the Maldives, and without that system, there cannot be a functioning democracy in the Maldives.

    This is not about the principle of "judicial independence." This is not about the so-called "kidnapping" of a judge. The man was lawfully detained, and his health and safety has been confirmed by an independent institution. This is about the ability of the Maldivian Government (ALL THREE BRANCHES) to function and serve the people.

    When drug dealers, criminals, and rapists are let free, the system is failing. In this case we know who is behind it. The arrest of this corrupt, and highly influential judge, is to protect the nation and the people. Surely that is more lofty a principle than the detention of a judge.

  2. agree with the above comment by Saleman Waheed.

    However, having said that, removing a judge by the JSC could also set a bad precedent and politicize the judiciary.

  3. I Will Never Ever will trust this Judicial System they are so corrupt

  4. maldives already sinking, yet they call our president a liar. climate change will not be the convict it will our positions , justice system , government and business tycoons killing it... its not the alcohol its not even the drugs, its our ego....

  5. I was disappointed to hear that His Excellency Nasheed has sent a letter to JSC requesting the JSC to take action against Judge Abdulla (related to various serious allegations against him.)

    Its not even a week, and the President is already trying to find a way out by passing the buck to JSC. Come on! Its too damn early. Why not just keep the guy in 'deep freeze' and keep the fun going on.

    Just because the international media and foreign governments have joined the chorus demanding the release of this 'judge' is no reason to relent so fast.

    His Highness has 'stopped the Constitution' to take care of some business and this has to be completed before 'restarting the Constitution'.

  6. " Judge Abdulla was not kidnapped".

    How can one say he was kid napped? Firstly according to the Law, he is not a 'kid'. Second, he was not 'napping' when MNDF crashed in at his home. So legally this is not a 'kid napping'.

    Judge Abdulla is such a dangerous criminal that he has no rights to a trial let alone a fair trial. When we "MDP" know that he has no legal mandate to call himself a judge, and we 'KNOW' he is guilty we will deal with him in any way we please. There is no need 'to prove his guilt' because we have declared him guilty.

    And there are precedents. Maumoon's police also beat up Evan Naseem to death because he was 'guilty'. At least be thankful that MDP has not decided to do the same.

  7. Republic of Muzaahra….. If you are hungry go on strike, if you can’t satisfy your wife go on strike, everything is strike now. Allah is now strike; pray for strike, all answers are strike. Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with these Malu Dhivehi? Cognitive deficit…..? What happened to Allah? He is nowhere to solve the problem of faithful.

  8. Dear Salim Waheed,

    You are missing the point about this whole case. This case is not about Judge Abdulla. It is about the violation of a citizen's basic rights. It is about 'forced disappearance', a crime against humanity.

    Moreover, your father (the Vice President of the Maldives) disagrees with you (see his blog). Now are you ashamed of yourself for defending the regime in the interest of your job? So the best thing for you is to keep quiet. You don’t have the guts to speak the truth.

  9. Facts:

    (1) Abdullah Mohammed opened the Criminal Court in the middle of the night to hear Jameel's case. Why? Would he have done the same for me or for any other Maldivian citizen?

    (2) The High Court intervened and stopped the Police from questioning Abdulla Mohammed. Why?

    (3) The JSC has been prevented from taking any action against Abdulla Mohammed, (after their investigation) by the Civil Court. Why?

    (4) Abdulla Mohammed held a secret (closed to public) hearing in the case of Jangiyaa Nazim who is accused of defrauding the State. Why?

    (5) Abdulla Mohammed has not proceeded with the case against Algeen Abdul Qayyoom. Why?

    (6) Abdulla Mohammed has failed to issue an arrest warrant in English for Abdulla Hameed who resides in Sri Lanka, after failing to appear before the Maldivian Courts. Why?

    I'll stop there. Let's get the ball rolling and lets have some answers.

  10. @ Salim Waheed

    Please do not try to play a game here. You are saving something and your father saying something else. I have also seen your comments about Anni calling him a dictator on WashingtonPost website. Please do not try to fool us.

  11. Why don't we put all those who cannot live without Abdulla Ghazee in the same island. Then they can live happily ever after.

  12. The sec. Salim has got it spot on. The Police arrest people for rioting and the Court says they cannot be arrested. The Police arrest people for murder and the courts says they cannot arrest them. Police arrest people for drug dealing and courts says they cannot arrest them.

    I do not care if it is legal or illegal. It is time all Maldivians get together and clean up the judiciary and then if the government is still trying to play this game, we all can protest against the government.
    Right now for the sake of the country, it is the Judiciary that needs to be cleaned and changed and not the government.
    The opposition parties should be ashamed of themselves in trying to support a corrupt judiciary but I guess they would since all these judges are appointed by the opposition.

    As for his father, he should be ashamed of himself too as he is the VP and part of this government. He may be sidelined but to come out in public and undermine his colleagues is a disappointing.

  13. If Dr. Waheed ashamed of our action he must submit his resignation and leave the Maldives and find another job in UN. What did he do to stop this injustice inside the judiciary. He was in charge of the drug program and he was watching when this judge Abdulla was releasing the drug lords one by one. What did he do to protect the majority. Nothing. he just kept quiet. So please don't preach what you cannot do yourself.

  14. I don't think this mayhem is about arresting the judge abdulla. I think the opposition has lost their voice inside the judiciary as this guy was doing the bidding for them. Let's clean the judiciary once for all, otherwise we are going to see this circus continue for years to come. We wanted change, so lets change what is not working for the interest of the majority.

  15. Some of who us who has seen both sides of this country, agree with President Nasheed that this Judge Abdulla has gone way too far. I love this country though I disagree with many things in this government. But those are my views and my position. But in this case, I agree with the President 100%. He must be detained until the judiciary is cleaned and the judges know the consequences of joining partisan politics. For the best interest of this country, we must stop this protests and continue to improve every branch of the government. I hope President Nasheed would be brave enough to take on the Majlis as well.

  16. The courts are there to protect legitimate government, period. Government is elected by the people and it is the highest authority in the country. Malu dhivehin are not disciplined crowd to follow simple hierarchy order. If Anni is soft it doesn’t mean these monkeys can abuse any advantage. Three branch of government does not mean to be archrivals to rule out the decisions of each branch. Ani has not violated rule of law, Anni has not declared emergency to go hunting people whoever criticize him, people are not arbitrary arrested, the judges are not intimidated, the one judge who seems working out of chart need to be investigated tried and put behind bars for life of violating the national security, if he is guilty, this guy is not ordinary civilian. No authority has to act against the government unless the government puts the people and country in imminent danger politically and economically. It is for the people to decide on ballot box to disapprove government for not being competent to carry out its obligation or government resigns if they can’t manage the country.

  17. If the judiciary has failed as you all claim then it would be the fault of the other two institutions, the President and the Parliament who appointed the Supreme Court Bench.

    Therefore all blame lies with them.

    If as you all claim, a people's revolution would be required AND if as Nasheed has pointed out, the Constitution has stopped functioning, then Nasheed is no longer President and the Parliament is dissolved as well. So we need fresh elections to the post of President. Nasheed is now a pretender to the post who has colluded with the military to occupy the Maldives in the absence of a Constitution to sanction his rule.

    Call me crazy but anyone with a basic knowledge of the law would know this is right. To set things right and throw our weight behind the Constitution once more, those who violated it should be brought to justice. However we prolong this crisis when some of us refuse to acknowledge the judiciary while others refuse to acknowledge the President.

    This country was not prepared for democracy and Nasheed was never elected to rule on his own. His government became morally bankrupt the minute he threw out most of those who had helped him secure his Presidency from the posts which the people required them to be in.

  18. No one was thrown out of this government. The people left when they felt they were unable to get a slice of the coffers, like the previous 30 years. Each one of them, starting from Hassan Saeed, Gasim and others left because the government was in control of the finances and they were not allowed to plunder the treasury. Both demanded huge budgets and unlimited power to arrest staff in competitors resorts.

  19. I think some of us who are still supporting Maumoon, must leave him alone and think for a while. Though Gayoom is behind the curtain, we the supporters, must stop this gala every day for the best interest of the country. I just figured this out. This Judge was no saint. He was wrong and did many bad things, which are detrimental for our growing democracy. I hope many of my friends, will stop this losing battle and think of our country first and Maumoon next.

  20. The government should have realised by now that every night more than 20,000 people are protesting on the streets of Male' for a reason.

  21. Totally agree with tsk tsk..right on the spot,
    to all other comentors justifying the judge's arrest,what are you all rumbling abt cleaning judiciary, if the govt is genuine enough they would have made all this hoo haa when criminal court let free of some criminals as the govt claimed , not now.. plus a forceful disappearance of a judge is totally unconstitutional , and anyone who dosent follow the constitution and take the rule of law on their own hands there's no justification to that ..period.

  22. First of all Dr Waheed, please resign and join the opposition. You are going against your own selfless conscience by being part of a government that has made you feel ashamed of yourself. So please do right by youself and resign NOW!

    Secondly for all those who are obsessed on the "legality" of this CORRUPT Judge's arrest, why don't you first consider the "legality" of him hindering the effective implementation of justice in this country and for protecting people like Jangiya Nazim who has looted us of our own resources and setting criminals free when these very criminals have infringed on other's right to live, to feel secure in their community and to protect one's honour! Are you saying that the Judge as an individual has more rights than the whole country put together? That he has the right to do whatever he wants with the justice system of our country and still take home his fat pay and bribes and live as he wants? If so you people must be worshipping him and in that case it may be best as another reader as suggested for all of you to go to an uninhabited island and spend the rest of you lives together in harmony with the Judge, while the rest of us who want peace and security in this Country and who want criminals behind bars, try to rebuild what this corrupt idiot and his loonies have destroyed! If you really listen to what the oppostition leaders are saying, you'll know how desperate they really are! Without anything substantial to go on with, all they can talk about is religion this, religion that and constitution this and constitution that! The poor things are really at a loss and the only thing they can do now is to protest to overthrow a legitimately elected Government. Too bad that they don't have the guts to say that what they really want is to be in power as the last few years have made them suffer unbearable losses from not being able to pocket some of the public finances, as they have been doing for the 30 years they were in power! This is obviously what they are planning to use to bribe our Police and Defence forces. They must be thinking, lets just give out some money now and once we are in power, we'll just take it back from our people! The fact that they are willing to compromise the security of the whole country and all Maldivians shows just how much must be at stake for them, if this corrupt judge were to be removed from office for good!

  23. Salim Waheed is just and right.
    He has spoken what he believe in, despite having to call Anni a dictator when he felt so! Bravo!
    This is democratic belief!

    Fact of the matter in this case is spinned at high speed to suit the needs of the so many involved.

    If one can answer to questions of @ Ahmed bin Addu bin Suvadheeb on Sun, 22nd Jan 2012 2:19 AM, I am sure it would do a lot of good to know probable causes for detaining Abdulla who had over ridden laws and regulations prior to his detention. This Abdulla needed to be stopped a lot earlier!

    There was no reason for this Abdulla to release a victim suspected for murder so as to make a ministry of this government accountable or do what @ Ahmed bin Addu bin Suvadheeb on Sun, 22nd Jan 2012 2:19 AM has indicated in comments here!

    For the good of the nation and its peoples, it is necessary for whosoever to attend to this Abulla first, then go on to his release!

  24. I dont see any reason to defend a judge who let a murderer free to make health minister accountable for not giving a death report of the victim he murdered. In fact the report should come from IGMH hospital as the dead body was being taken to hospital. No body went to street to defend the society and to make things worse the convict killed another person while he was on the loose. The same judge also ordered a child to enact the sexual abuse she underwent. How can such a judge be placed as the chief judge of our Criminal Court. Yes the government was unable to take any action when the judge was appointed by opposition controlled JSC at the time. However the JSC now has publicly informed that there are several cases of misconduct and allegations against this judge. But they failed to take any action and allowed him to sit in the Court Bench. How can they allow him to sit in the Court when they have told the public that there are allegations of misconduct. Unless we want the public uproar agaist this judge he needs protection from MNDF. There are several people now not in a position to accept the verdicts he has given. The whole judiciary have now become a joke. The regulatory body for Judiciary is being controlled by a lower level court judge.
    It is sad that the EU mission heads were misinformed about the situation. We don't need incapable biased judges.


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