The Juvenile Court has postponed an order summoning all members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) to discuss their alleged misleading of the public over the court’s work.
An official from the Juvenile Court has today confirmed to local media that it has now asked all members to produce themselves to the court next Monday (March 17) at 9:30am.
The official told local newspapers that the decision was made in compliance with the commission’s request made due to three members being out of town and the other two also unable to attend.
The Juvenile Court has previously sent letters to the commission on two occasions asking them to discuss a report made regarding a 15 year old minor charged for fornication in 2012.
The court has claimed the report contained misleading information that gave a “negative impression” of the court’s conduct. The report was also said to contain statements that could be considered as attempts to influence the court’s work.
In a matter relating to criticism of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has this week said that the maintenance of the respect and the positive reputation of the courts was a constitutional responsibility of all state authorities.
Following the HRCM members’ failure to comply with the court requests last Sunday (March 9), the court issued the summons for today.
The report in question came during the trial of a 15 year-old girl who had given birth to a baby which was later discovered buried in the outdoor bathroom at her residence. Her stepfather was subsequently charged with sexual abuse of a child and committing premeditated murder.
The 15 year-old was convicted of premarital sex at the Juvenile Court on February 26 and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest after confessing to fornication with another man.
The Attorney General’s Office appealed the case on March 27 last year following appeals from international human rights advocacy organisations and Avaaz.org, which launched an online petition that gained over two million signatures.
On August 21, 2013, the High Court decided to overturn the minor’s sentence after she denied having confessed to consensual sex with an unknown partner during the Juvenile Court trial. Authorities have previously said the minor had confessed to having consensual sex during a separate investigation into her abuse.
According to Islamic Fiqh scholars, a confession of fornication can be retracted before the resulting sentence is carried out in full, the High Court statement added.
It was further noted by the court that there were discrepancies in the statement given by the girl to the Juvenile Court. The High Court concluded that the minor – found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – was unable to correctly define pre-marital sex according to the law.
The High Court argued that its verdict had been based on evidence that the girl was “unfit for trial” during investigations into her alleged abuse and the subsequent Juvenile Court hearings.
The court said that the minor had provided her original statement in the capacity of a victim and not a suspect, and that authorities had therefore not given her the fundamental rights legally required of a suspect in a crime.