Supreme Court criminalises offences within the exercise of freedom of assembly, expression

The Supreme Court decided in a 6-1 ruling last week that the police should investigate criminal offences carried out within the exercise of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

The ruling comes in a case filed by the Attorney General in September requesting the court to determine that public disturbances in the name of political protests were not within the scope of the rights guaranteed in the constitution.

These included protests outside private residences late at night, use of defamatory language and incitement to violence – “calling for people to be killed, hanged and attacked.”

The Supreme Court was asked to declare that such actions infringed upon the right to life, liberty and security of persons (article 21); the right to privacy and respect for private and family life (article 24); the right to protect reputation and good name (article 33); and special protection for children, young, elderly and disadvantaged people (article 35).

The apex court ruled that activities that violate “public safety, health, tranquillity and morality” could be considered criminal offences and falls within the purview of the security services.

The case was filed by the Attorney General following months of protests by the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the dismantling in March of the party’s protest camp by security forces.

President’s Office Spokesman Masood Imad told Minivan News last month that the government fully supports the right to protest, but it needs to be done in such a manner that does not adversely affect the lives of others.

“A protest should be about changing something. A protest conducted in residential areas has nothing to do with parliament. Public protest and public nuisance are two very different things,” he contended.

The MDP meanwhile likened the move to Bahrain’s efforts to outlaw protesting.

“The MDP strongly condemns efforts to restrict freedom to assembly by the government. One of the most fundamental clauses in the new constitution is the right to protest and we are witnessing democratic gains fast slipping,” said MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

Dissenting opinion

In his dissenting opinion, Justice Ahmed Muthasim Adnan – the only Supreme Court Justice with a background in common law – concluded that establishing a judicial guideline for the exercise of rights and freedoms was not within the remit of the Supreme Court.

He contended that such principles “should be determined in a law passed by the People’s Majlis.”

Justice Adnan noted that the case was considered ‘ex parte’ or conducted for the benefit of one party.

He noted that according to article 16 of the constitution, the rights and freedoms enshrined in chapter two were “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis in a manner that is not contrary to this Constitution. Any such law enacted by the People’s Majlis can limit the rights and freedoms to any extent only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

It was therefore clear that rights and freedoms could only be restricted or narrowed through a law passed by parliament, Justice Adnan added.

The Attorney General’s request was not a matter to be decided by the Supreme Court, he concluded, as “these problems should be proposed to the People’s Majlis for a solution.”


6 thoughts on “Supreme Court criminalises offences within the exercise of freedom of assembly, expression”

  1. Congrats, now go and arrest all the police officers who violated privacy, dignity and honor of all the Maldivian people.

  2. Applaud the decision of the supreme court.

    MDP has in the past believed that its protestors and activists who commit criminal acts such as throwing stones (March 2012, parliament opening day when MDP activists openly attacked police with pavement bricks), torch public buildings (as was the case in Feb 8th of 2012, when MDP activists torched police stations and courts of Addu, assault people and police have to be let go by the authorities in the name of freedom of expression.

    But is it truly freedom of expression for the party to stand idly by or openly instigate acts such as throwing pavement bricks, torching public vehicles and state buildings ? Why has the party which promotes such freedom of expression instigated such a campaign of denial (No, it wasnt our protestors that were waving MDP flags, wearing yellow T-shirts, and chanting death to Waheed that were throwing stones, or torching public property, No it wasnt our pickup that was leading the rally which led a violent confrontation against the police) when it comes to condemning the acts done in public by its members and activists ?

    Ali waheed recently famously said, a crime is a crime, no matter who did it.

    In this regard why doesnt MDP move to condemn such attacks by its protestors ? We see its activists driving pickups, with loudspeakers chanting and provoking members in marches to attack police. We see marches led under the flag of MDP where calls are echoed to hand people.

    How can MDP turn a blind eye to these events ? Why doesnt it acknowledge and condemn these events ?

    In the recent case when Jabir and Hamidh Abdul Qafoor and prominent MDP 'politicians' such as Zaki and President Nasheeds previous spokeperson Zuhair was arrested with alcohol bottles in an uninhabited island, we saw the leader of MDP President Nasheed move to categorically deny the evidence and the alcohol bottles found. We saw photos of Hamidh meekly stand by while he was photographed opening boxes and suitcases inside rooms filled with alchol.

    Is it so much for president nasheed to state "I condemn any and all who drink alcohol", instead of expressing support for the accused convicts ? Why does he side with these crooks and morons of MDP who commit open crimes, and lead the task of spinning public attention away from the crime committed to a different angle ?

    In the recent case where a notable speaker in MDP gatherings Hoara Ibbe was caught red-handed with a 17 year old underage girl, MDP swiftly moved to defend the guy, instead of trying to confirm what had happened.

    In other countries, political parties distance themselves from politicians who are arrested in scandals such as this. Yet in Maldives we have the opposite. Majilis members are actively defended by their parties, in spite of every evidence to the contrary.

  3. One word of advice to all reasonable Maldivians: if you can, pack up and leave the banana republic.

    A democracy can only thrive when fundamental rights are protected and enshrined in law. The behaviour of a minority should not infringe on the freedom and rights of the majority.

    We have to note that under this ruling, the majority of political protestors on all sides would have fallen foul of this, and would have faced detention. This includes "Sheikh" Imran after he threatened members of the Majlis!

  4. Justice Muthasim was an ex MDP members. I was him speaking at an MDP podium. Will you believe me!

  5. Justice Ahmed Mu'thasim Adnan is very right here!

    This is something the People's Majlis have to, and can decide.

    This is clear indication that the Supreme Court intends to take precedence over the Constitution, interpret it the way they deem fit!

    This is no better than an automatic rifle with unlimited rounds being given to someone mad and asked to fire at will!

    People's should decide, or take advice and leave this hellhole, just the same as JUSTICE seems to have done in 1978!


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