Attorney General accuses Gahdhoo Court of misleading the public

The Attorney General’s Office has accused Gahdhoo Island Court of misleading the public, after the Court summoned the AG and threatened to hold him in contempt of court if he failed to appear.

The judge had requested the AG’s Office send a representative to appear in an ongoing trial of a case concerning the government.

In a statement, the AG’s Office said that the case Gahdhoo Island Court was referring to was a suit related to the Pension Administration Office, which had its own legal authority to both file suits and respond to legal summons. The government was not required to send representatives from the AG’s Office, it said.

The AG’s Office further claimed said that the Gahdhoo Island Court had not examined the suit in as much detail as it was obliged to do legally, and had mistakenly registered the suit as against the government rather than the Pension Administration Office.

According to the statement, the AG Office had not received any summons chit from the court besides the one sent yesterday, and that there was no reason for the Prosecutor General to take action against the AG.

The AG Office accused Gahdhoo Island Court of phoning media outlets and telling them that the Attorney General was in contempt of court.

Gahdhoo Island Court yesterday sent a summons chit to Attorney General Abdulla Muiz, requesting he produce himself to the island court.

According to the local media, the Gahdhoo Court Judge decided to summon Muiz after the AG’s Office did not send a representative from the AG in a case involving the office.

The judge claimed that the AG was guilty of contempt of court and requested the Prosecutor General to take action against him, and said that no exemption would be made if Muiz defied the summons.


No-confidence motion against Attorney General will not succeed, say MDP Chairperson

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has said that the no-confidence motion opposition parties were trying to file in the parliament against the Attorney General Abdulla Muiz will fail.

“We will not let the no-confidence motion succeed, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) is attempting to terminate anyone that works for justice,’’ Moosa told MDP Official website.

Moosa said that the no-confidence motion was planned to save Gassan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is currently being investigated for allegedly hitting a 17 year-old boy with a wooden plank.

Recently, interim council member of PPM Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Shareef told the local newspaper that he was concerned about the revision of prosecution guidelines, insisting that it might force Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz to press criminal charges against Gassan Maumoon.

“His decision to revise prosecution guidelines concerning a single individual proves that he hasn’t been carrying out his responsibilities,” he told newspaper Haveeru, adding that Muiz had violated the Supreme Court ruling issued in September 2009 in Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) President Hassan Luthfy’s case that the AG cannot appeal verdicts delivered by lower courts.

Shareef told the media that he will submit a resolution to PPM Parliamentary Group to forward a no-confidence motion against AG Muiz.

Meanwhile, the government has said that it will forward a no-confidence motion against Prosecutor General after he allegedly forced a police senior officer’s team to leave his office when they went to see the PG for advice on Gassan’s arrest and the Criminal Court’s ruling.

When police arrested Gassan for investigation of the case where a 17 year-old boy was injured, the Criminal Court ruled that police have violated the criminal justice procedure in arresting Gassan and that he cannot be held in detention.

Later the police said most of the criminals arrested in the past were arrested in the same way as Gassan and that if Gassan’s arrest was unlawful so will be all the arrests made in the past.

PPM Spokesperson Ahmed Mahlouf and Media Coordinator Ahmed Nihan did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Committee to probe 2003 Maafushi Jail shooting

A second investigation of the 2003 Maafushi Jail shooting has been launched by a special committee appointed by President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet.

The committee includes Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam, Attorney General (AG) Abdulla Muiz and Defence Minister Thalhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaan, and will investigate the incident that took place on September 20, 2003 – a watershed moment following the death in custody of Evan Naseem that led to street riots, the declaration of a state of emergency, and ultimately, the introduction of multi-party democracy and the eventual ousting of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

An investigation was previously conducted by a special commission under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The censored results were published in January 2004, and 12 prison guards were sentenced to death. Captain Adam Mohamed, the commanding official charged with ordering the shootings, was granted clemency by Gayoom. Subsequently, the sentence of the prison guards was commuted to 25 years in jail.

In June 2011, the case was re-opened and three of the former prison guards, who were living at large, were sent back to jail.

State Home Minister Mohamed Naeem previously told Minivan News that he regretted sending the convicted men back to prison after a long period without clear legal action.

“If [the former administration] had not freed them from prison, by now they would have served most of their sentence and could have even possibly applied for clemency,” said Naeem.

However, he did say that the action of the former administration had not only violated the rights of the convicted, but also those of the victims.

“When the victims who survived that time see these convicted people roaming around the streets, how do they feel? It is unfair for them,” he said at the time.

An individual who was imprisoned at Maafushi jail at the time of Evan Naseem’s death and the prison shootings spoke to Minivan News about the renewed investigation.

“I think they need to find out who ordered the torture of Evan Naseem–was it the highest ranking officer, or a lower officer? This has been delayed too long now. We have to have proper justice to move ahead,” he said.

The source added that a lot of information surrounding the incident had been censored, and said he wasn’t sure that “the right people” had been sent back to prison.

“I think it is wrong for the one who complied with the order to take the punishment. It should be the one who gave the order,” he said.

Former President Gayoom at the time was also Minister of Defence and National Security.

The former Maafushi prison guards involved in the shootings were recently re-arrested for the 2003 event. The source said several senior prison officials had informed him at the time that the order to shoot on September 20 had come from the top.

The shooting occurred after inmates broke out of their cells “to learn the details of fellow Evan Naseem’s death”, the source said.

The source told Minivan News that he could hear people being tortured from his cell, and that he had also heard these sounds on the night that Naseem died. His own cell was secure at the time of the riot.

“This army man was controlling us, and he said it was nothing. But we knew some things were happening. I knew, because I saw people jumping off the wall from my cell.

“When they opened the door to the block to bring the breakfast things we kept asking the guards what was happening but they would tell us nothing. Finally, we asked the guards to please open the gate so we could see, and at that time we saw a lot of people lined up on the beach in handcuffs. By the evening the army came and took control of things. Then, an inmate said ‘let’s burn this place down!’, but I said, ‘No, let’s work to get free. We are not going to burn the prison.’ I told him not to do anything, but he said ‘Let’s use [force].’ I said, ‘Let’s negotiate.’  So we negotiated.”

Following the shooting, 19 inmates and one officer were reported injured, and three inmates were reported dead. 15 of the 20 persons wounded had been shot above the knee.

An English translation of the initial investigation, provided by the Dhivehi Observer on January 24 2004, described the prison break as “not an emergency situation,” and determined that the use of weapons against the inmates was “neither a proportionate response nor a reasonable means of control.”

The report, which was filed by the former administration’s special commission, further stated that inmates were partially excused for the alleged riot “on account of the fact that they were acting on deep grief and frustration and did not appear to intend further harm [other] than demanding an investigation into Naseem’s death.”

Naseem “died due to grievous hurt caused to him by some personnel of Maafushi Jail Security System,” stated the report. The report further notes that inmates at Maafushi Jail had requested to meet with a security officer from the Department of Corrections several times after learning of Naseem’s death. Captain Adam Mohamed was assigned to this meeting, but chose to ignore it; he was the captain that the inmates confronted with their questions during the outbreak. The investigation report states that the captain “did not offer any reasonable response to those questions.”

CCTV recordings of the prison’s Operations Room and the block in which the initial outbreak took place had not been preserved for the investigation, and no Event Log Book had been used by officials, the report claimed.


UN Committee grills Maldives delegation on human rights commitment

A delegation from the Maldives headed by Attorney General Abdulla Muiz has reported to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which will release its findings in early September.

According to a UN report summarising the meeting, the delegation was questioned on “restrictions on the practice of religion, the rights of migrant workers, human trafficking, the lack of anti-discrimination laws in the country, the role of the Human Rights Commission and the requirement that all members be Muslim, citizenship laws and the stipulation that non-Muslims could not become citizens nor could they openly practice their religion, the discrepancy in secondary school enrolment rates between boys and girls, and the interaction between English common law and Islam in the legal system of the Maldives.”

The committee noted that the government’s historical position had “been to deny the existence of racial discrimination in the country as the Maldives has a small homogeneous population, of the same origin, pursuing the same religion, and speaking the same language.”

However it had acknowledged that a substantial increase in migrant workers “requires legislative attention”, the UN committee noted.

“In the absence of prejudices leading to racial discrimination in the Maldives, the government did not take specific steps in terms of education and teaching, and culture and information, to address racial discrimination. However, the report says in the Maldives the teaching of Islam promotes understanding, tolerance and friendship among nations and all groups,” the committee noted.

The report was presented to the committee by Muiz, who emphasised the “enormous progress” the country had made in recent years towards guaranteeing “fundamental freedoms and individual liberties”.

He did, however, acknowledge the “enormous challenges” the Maldives faced in ensuring that those rights now protected by law were actually enjoyed in practice. In particular, the Maldives delegation identified these as including “fragile democratic fabric, infant democratic institutions, religious fundamentalism, heavy drug abuse, the vulnerability of the country to environmental threats and most recently, human trafficking.”

Furthermore, the delegation claimed, the country’s Human Rights Commission “was one of the most active national institutions in Asia” and “fully compliant with the Paris Principles”, apart from the requirement that all members of the Commission be Muslim.

“Maldivian law did not provide for freedom of religion, although in practice foreigners were allowed to practice religions other than Islam in private,” the delegation informed the committee.

Nonetheless, the Maldives was “a culturally diverse society” that protected its vulnerable migrant labour population by imposing duties on employers, “including responsibility for the employee during their stay and other requirements”, despite the absence of health and safety laws.

“The right to association and the right to strike were now guaranteed under the Maldives’ Constitution,” the delegation informed the committee.

It noted that while the Maldives did not have any laws prohibiting trafficking in persons “and no official studies or reports had been conducted”, the government had a “strong policy to prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for traffickers.”

“Muiz asked the Committee to bear in mind that the democratic and legal framework of the Maldives was a work-in-progress,” the committee noted.

Delegation confronted

In contrast to the Maldives’ position that racial discrimination did not exist, the committee observed that cases of hostility and ill-treatment of the country’s increasingly large number of migrant workers – half the country’s total workforce – had been reported.

“The Maldives should consider acceding to conventions concerned with the rights of non-citizens and amend relevant regulations to allow non-Muslims to acquire Maldivian citizenship,” the committee suggested, and noted that there was “still no anti-discrimination legislation” active in the Maldives.

“It is necessary for the State party to enact legislation on prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred,” the committee stated.

The committee observed that there was a lack of demographic information on the Maldives, given the extensive size of its foreign labour force, and that “it would be useful to investigate whether there are tensions between Maldivian citizens and foreign workers.”

“Restrictions on the rights of migrants and other foreigners to prohibit the practice of religions other than Islam, except in private, were of concern as well. Was any one Maldivian citizen married to an individual practicing a different religion?” one committee member asked.

Delegation defends

In response to the committee’s questioning, the Maldives delegation contended that the Maldives had “capacity constraints” and “relied on the support of international organisations”, in which case the committee noted “a report longer than three pages would have been appreciated.”

Regarding the committee’s questioning on freedom of religion, the delegation noted that the Maldives maintained a reservation to article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of religion “and there were currently no plans to withdraw that reservation.

“This was a reflection of the deep societal belief that the Maldives always had been and wished to remain a 100 percent Muslim nation,” the delegation informed the committee, adding that “Muslims and non-Muslims lived harmoniously in the Maldives.”

“It was not true that under the new Constitution existing citizens could be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality if they were to stop practicing Islam. The Constitution was very clear on this point: no citizen could be deprived of his or her nationality under any circumstance. The Muslim-only clause under the citizenship article of the Constitution only applied to non-Maldivians wishing to become naturalised,” the committee reported.

The delegation acknowledged “increased reports of mistreatment of migrant workers by their employers”, but noted that the Maldives placed high importance on acceding to the eight core Conventions of the International Labor Organisation (ILO).

It also argued that “some of the rights and privileges enjoyed by foreign workers were even better that those enjoyed by Maldivians themselves”, such as those mandating the provision of food and accommodation for foreign workers.

“Foreign workers were not discriminated against in any way in the Maldives,” the delegation informed the committee.

In his concluding remarks, Muiz observed that the exercise of appearing before the committee “was tougher than even appearing before the parliament of the Maldives.”

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