The Supreme Court has reprimanded President’s Advisor Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail for reportedly calling on the public to “rise up and sort out the judges” at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally Friday night in Kaafu Thulusdhoo.
A press statement issued by the Supreme Court yesterday claimed that Ibra’s remarks “encouraging the illegal curtailment of the tasks of the judiciary” could lead to “the loss of peace and security of the Maldivian state and plunge the nation into chaos and unrest”.
While article 299(a) of the constitution demands “obedience to the constitution” and compliance with all its provisions, the statement noted, article 144(c) states that, “No officials performing public functions, or any other persons, shall interfere with and influence the functions of the courts.”
Moreover, article 144(d) states that, “Persons or bodies performing public functions, through legislative and other measures, must assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, eminence, dignity, impartiality, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.”
The Supreme Court asserted that “making such statements in a free, democratic society under lawful governance goes against the principles of civilisation” and “the constitution of the Republic of the Maldives does not allow any such illegal activity”.
The court’s statement concluded by assuring the public that the highest court of appeal “as the parent of the constitution and laws of the country” would not tolerate “any action that could undermine established democratic institutions and the rights of the Maldivian state and the Maldivian people.”
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – oversight body for the judiciary – meanwhile conducted an “emergency meeting” Sunday night prompted by Ibra’s remarks and decided to request “relevant authorities” to carry out an official investigation.
Ibra’s remarks came after the Criminal Court barred journalists from observing the corruption trial of Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim on August 25.
“Judges are issuing verdicts any way they please. The effort we have to make against this is not inconsiderable. It was citizens who came out and ousted Maumoon from power. The matter of judges too can only be sorted out by citizens rising up,” Ibra, former Male’ MP and first elected president of MDP, was quoted as saying in newspaper Haveeru.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Ibra argued that criticism of the judiciary did not constitute a criminal offence or could be considered unlawful.
Responding to the Supreme Court claim that his remarks could “plunge the nation into chaos and unrest”, Ibra noted that ensuring law and order was “out of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.”
“Before making such serious allegations against a person they should at least attempt to find out the truth or see if any law was violated,” he said. “It is like the Supreme Court believes they are above the law or a law unto themselves.”
Ibra, who also served as chairman of the drafting committee of the Special Majlis – the special assembly convened to revise the constitution in 2004 – noted that according to article 16 of the constitution fundamental rights and freedoms could only be limited by a law passed by parliament and “only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
“I know of no law passed by the Majlis that says it is illegal to criticise the judiciary,” he said.
On the Supreme Court’s contention that he violated article 144(c) and (d), Ibra pointed out that he had not said anything about an ongoing case that could be construed as “interference or influence.”
Ibra went on to criticise the JSC for deciding to investigate his remarks: “It has nothing to do with the mandate of the JSC. What law says their job is to take measures against people who criticise the courts?”
Moreover, he added, the JSC could only ask police to investigate if there was a criminal offence involved.
“Whether it’s the executive, legislature or judiciary, if anyone is acting dictatorially and harming citizens, I will come out and I will do everything I can to stop it,” he said.
Former President’s member on the JSC and outspoken whistle-blower, Aishath Velezinee, told Minivan News that Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed had in his capacity as JSC President asked that police investigate Ibra, and then had the Supreme Court issue its statement.
“What are the police going to do? It sounds like the highest court in the land has already issued its verdict,” she said.