The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has told Minivan News that it has serious concerns over the structure and operations of the Maldives judiciary, which are set to be outlined in the findings of a “comprehensive” new report to be released next week.
Roger Normand, director of the ICJ’s Asia Pacific operations said that although he could not reveal specific details of the report ahead of its publication on Monday, a number issues will be raised by the NGO concerning the independence of the Maldives judiciary, as well as the conduct of the government during last year’s constitutional “crisis” over the legitimacy of judges in the country.
The comments were made as institutions such as the country’s High Court are said to effectively be on “hiatus” due to ongoing legal disputes involving the appointment of a bench to oversee its cases – a trial that is currently awaiting a final decision by the country’s Supreme Court .
The appointments issue was initially raised in Civil Court by Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baary over claims that the appointment procedures of the local watchdog body, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), were unjust.
Eventually the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Court did not have the mandate to rule on appointments of a higher authority such as the High Court and that it should therefore have the final say on such a constitutional matter.
In this environment of judicial uncertainty, High Court Chief Judge Abdul Ghani Mohamed told Miadhu today that the issue of completing the bench was a huge challenge for the institution.
However, he claimed that various parties were working on a solution to ensure human rights were not being lost out on due to concerns that the court was “now almost on hiatus” due to the ongoing appointments case.
Forward looking report
Although not wishing to discuss any specifics ahead of the publication of the ICJ report, Normand said that the findings could be expected to detail a number of issues claimed to be specifically at odds with judicial structure and general practice designed to ensure greater transparency in line with the independence of certain courts in Europe and Asia.
“[The findings] are going to be part of a forward looking report for the country, given that you can’t have democracy without strong judiciary,” he said. “It’s essential for all political parties to work towards strengthening an independent judiciary under the framework of the Supreme Court.”
The report’s findings could prove hugely significant for groups such as the JSC that has faced criticism in recent months over their transparency.
The attacks are perhaps more significant in that they come from one of the JSC’s own members in the form of Aishath Velezinee, who now faces internal disciplinary action for her work in leaking details of their operations.
Velezinee, an outspoken critic of the JSC’s refusal to adopt a Standards of Procedure as required by the Constitution, earlier this month accused several fellow members of corruption and treason.
She has published a large cache of JSC documents, including audio recordings of Commission meetings, on her personal website as evidence, she says, to support her accusations.
The JSC last month appointed a special three-member team to decide on the best course of action against JSC member Aishath Velezinee for removing official documents from the Commission’s premises.
The JSC, which is yet to adopt a Standards of Procedure a year after the 26 January 2010 deadline, earlier this month, passed new secrecy regulations that make it an offence for members to reveal any Commission business to the public without prior authorisation.
A number of JSC members contacted by Minivan News were not available for a response at the time of going to press.