JSC president attempts to remove parliament’s representative

President of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has attempted to remove the parliament’s representative – Bileiydhoo MP Ahmed Hamza – from the commission.

In a letter sent separately to MP Hamza and the President Abdulla Yameen, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed stated that Hamza is no longer a member of JSC as he is running for parliament.

Commenting on the attempt to remove him, Hamza said that the decision was unlawful and unwarranted.

“For one thing, I believe it is an incorrect interpretation [of the JSC Act]. And the president of the commission cannot make such a decision sending a letter by himself,” Hamza said.

Article 10 of the JSC Act states that the post of a commission member shall be deemed vacant if a member is “contesting for a political
position elected under the constitution or a law”.

However, Article 14 (a) of the Act states that certain appointments to the commission, including the representative appointed by the parliament, can only be removed from office by the appointer – in this case, the People’s Majlis.

Stating that Article 10 of the act is not a general statement, he said that if the JSC president’s interpretation is to be followed, the Majlis speaker’s seat would also be vacant.

“There seems to be a contradiction, I believe parliament members or the speaker running for the parliament shall be an exception [under article 10]. Otherwise it creates a legal vacuum,” he said.

Following his decision to remove the MP, Judge Adam Mohamed today asked for the removal of Hamza from a JSC meeting. When Hamza refused to leave, the JSC member representing the public -Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman – proposed a motion requesting that no meetings be held until the matter had been settled. The motion was passed and the commission is expected to meet within the week.

Rahman has also criticised the JSC president’s decision:

“It is not his [Adam Mohamed’s] mandate, and it goes against article 20 [of the JSC Act]. He may have discussed it with certain members on the phone, but it should be decided by the commission.”

Accusing Judge Adam of trying to control all affairs of the commission, Rahman said that the judge “withholds any agenda item he wants, and prioritises and postpone cases at whim” – an accusation frequently made by former presidential appointment to commission Aishath Velezinee.

Rahman said that Judge Adam had sped up some cases and held back others without any regard to the urgency or importance of the matter in question.

The public’s member on the commission unsuccessfully attempted to file a no-confidence motion against Adam last August, later alleging that the commission’s president had refused to table the issue during meetings.

Rahman has accused Judge Adam of being responsible for the judicial watchdog‘s “state of limbo”, accusing him of failing to back the JSC’s investigation of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed’s sex-tape scandal, and abusing power to release press statements on behalf of the commission.

MP Hamza today said that Judge Adam had not taken such an action in previous cases where questions had arisen regarding the validity of JSC membership.

“Even in Gasim Ibrahim’s case [when he ran for President while still as parliament’s representative at JSC], he did not act like this. Gasim stepped down by himself,” said Hamza.

Hamza was appointed to the commission in October, being approved after the narrow rejection of Jumhooree Party MP Ilham Ahmed.


“The JSC cannot form a court”: JSC Vice Chair Abdulla Didi grilled by Parliamentary Oversight Committee

The Vice Chair of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi, attended parliament’s Independent Committees Oversight Committee to answer its queries about the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and the appointment of the panel of judges hearing the Nasheed trial.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed is being tried for his detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Abdulla Didi attended the committee despite the chair of the judicial watchdog, Adam Mohamed, disputing that the JSC was answerable to parliament on the grounds that the summons referred to an “ongoing case”.

Asked if he believed Adam Mohamed had acted legally in unilaterally deciding that the JSC would not abide by the oversight committee’s summons, Abdulla Didi responded that he “will not say that the Chair acted against the law,” and that he “cannot make any comments on the matter.”

“I personally believe that we must be answerable to the oversight committee. That is why I am here today,” he said.

Conflict of Interest

Before discussions on the scheduled topic began, Abdulla Didi requested that Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Waheed leave the committee.

Didi said Ali Waheed currently had a case against him in the Criminal Court of which he the judge, and hence he believed there is a conflict of interest to have the MP question him during Thursday’s meeting.

“I wouldn’t have felt any hesitation if all the JSC members were here. But since I am being questioned separately, I don’t think it is a good idea to have someone who has a criminal case against him question me here,” Abdulla Didi said.

Ali Waheed said he believed he was not required to leave the committee as per the constitution, but was willing to do so as it was “ethically the right thing to do.”

Chair of the committee MDP MP Ahmed Sameer informed Abdulla Didi that Ali Waheed had previously informed the committee that he would not be asking any questions from the JSC member, and that he was only participating in the meeting due to the quorum requirements needed to have the meeting.

“Abdulla Didi is here as a JSC member, and not as a Criminal Court Judge. Likewise, it is the citizen Ali Waheed who has a pending case in the court, not the MP for Thohdoo constituency. As there is no conflict when viewed in the light of the capacities in which you both are participating in this meeting, I am of the opinion that MP Ali Waheed is legally allowed to stay and question you. I would like to state here that if Ali Waheed is leaving, it is only out of his personal accord,” Sameer stated.

Later in the meeting, Sameer referred to Ali Waheed’s voluntary exit from the meeting as an example of abstaining from action in cases of conflict of interest, and asked Abdulla Didi why he had not similarly abstained from voting on deciding the panel overseeing Nasheed’s case.

“You are a member of the JSC which voted on choosing judges for the Hulhumale’ Court panel of magistrates. You also serve as a judge in the Criminal Court. The case which this panel is to preside over concerns the Chief Judge of the court you serve under, Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Under these circumstances, why didn’t you abstain from the vote which decided upon magistrates for the Abdulla Mohamed case?” Sameer asked.

“I had no such intentions like what you are implying. The short answer to that question is that we did not decide on the panel to preside on an ‘Abdulla Mohamed case’. It disturbs me when you refer to the case as such,” Didi responded.

“It is a case regarding the arrest of Abdulla Mohamed, in which some other people are accused of having committed criminal acts. The case is about them, not Abdulla Mohamed,” he said, shaking his head.

Sameer also asked about alleged conflict of interest in the vote taken by the JSC to continue running the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court itself.

“JSC Member Ahmed Rasheed, who is the husband of a Hulhumale’ Court Magistrate, was among the members who voted to establish or continue the said court, isn’t he? And you voted, too. This is extremely concerning, and so I repeat: the case concerns the detention of the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court by the then government. You are a judge serving in that court. Rasheed’s wife is a magistrate in the court trying this case. Do you think this decision is impartial under these circumstances?” Sameer asked.

Didi attempted to dodge the question, stating he was unaware how Rasheed had cast his vote. MP Sameer, however stated he had seen the related documents, and informed him that four members had voted, including Rasheed and Abdulla Didi.

Didi still insisted that he “found it difficult” to answer the question, or decide on the validity of the decision.

The Vice Chair of the judicial watchdog stated that as a norm, if a member felt that he had a conflict of interest in any matter that the commission was taking a vote on, he would state the reasons and excuse himself. He further stated that if a member failed to excuse himself, and yet JSC Chair Adam Mohamed believed such a conflict existed, the chair would then point it out and discuss with the relevant member an agreeable way to proceed.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor asked if any such issues had arisen during the vote taken to appoint magistrates to the Hulhumale’ Court panel.

“I cannot recall if any members declared any conflict of interest. Nor can I at all remember whether the Chair noticed such a conflict,” Abdulla Didi said.

The panel

Didi said that discussion about the panel of judges of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court initially began in the JSC after the then head of the court requested the commission assign judges from other courts to preside in a pending case at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

“Once this request came in, we discussed the matter and proposed names for the bench. We then sent these names to the Supreme Court bench, otherwise known as the Judicial Council, for comment. They decided on those names and sent it back to the JSC. This is how the process went,” Didi told the committee.

“This is also completely in line with what the laws state, I refer to Articles 47 to 49 of the Judges’ Act. I might be referring to the previous Judges’ Act. There were some amendments made to it later, which may have changed the order of these articles I quote. I am not sure, I haven’t reviewed it that much,” Abdulla Didi said.

Article 47 of the Judges’ Act states “If a judge is temporarily transferred to preside over a case in a different court, he must be transferred to a court of the same level as the one he is serving in.”

Article 48 states “A judge can be temporarily appointed to another court in the instance that the court is unable to sufficiently complete assigned work, or if the court had difficulties providing services, or if the judges serving in the court has been suspended from their duties, or if other circumstances which may cause a delay in the completion of work assigned to the court occur.”

Article 49 states “It is the Judicial Services Commission, with the counsel of the Judicial Council, which will come to a decision on the transfer of judges to oversee cases in other courts.”

After listening to Abdulla Didi’s version of events, Sameer presented the information previously gathered by the commission.

“The laws state that the JSC has no right to decided on the judges on a panel. Only the head magistrate of the relevant court has the powers to do so,” Sameer said.

“Now, the Chief Magistrate at this court at the time, Huraa Magistrate Moosa Naseem, sent in three names for the panel to JSC asking only for your commission’s comments. The list included his name as well. Can you then tell me what legal right the JSC has to disregard these three names and appoint three completely different magistrates?”

Abdulla Didi said in response: “We at the JSC considered the important cases pending at the Hulhumale’ Court. So we proposed other names with the intention of assigning qualified, experienced judges. I don’t believe this conflicts with any existing laws. What I am saying is, I did not come to any decision. It was after discussion with the other JSC members that we passed it through a vote.”

MDP MP Ahmed Abdulla asked the JSC member why, if the selection was based on merit and experience, the three magistrates proposed by the Hulhumale’ Court had been disregarded while all three were currently serving as chief magistrates of their respective courts.

“Let me explain. According to the Judge’s Act, no judge had the power to bring in judges from other courts to preside on cases. JSC considers the good magistrates in the atoll… That is not to imply that any magistrate is bad at their work, just that because of the nature of this case, we took special care to appoint the most able and appropriate judges who will treat the case with extra care and contemplate the matter deeply,” Abdulla said.

Didi insisted that the JSC that held legal powers to appoint magistrates to the panel, at which point the Chair of the parliamentary committee intervened and advised the judge to refrain from making misleading and non-factual statements.

“I am deeply disturbed that you are making these comments and passing it off ‘as what the law says’. The law says perfectly clearly outlines the role of the chief magistrate, and that if other magistrates are temporarily being brought into a court, they must be from the same judicial jurisdiction,” Sameer intervened.

Didi also claimed the JSC had appointed the panel after the Hulhumale’ Court requested additional magistrates to assist with their work.

However, member appointed from among the public to JSC Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, who had been interviewed by the committee prior to Abdulla Didi on Thursday, had stated that the request for additional magistrates and other support for the court had come after the appointment of the panel of magistrates.

MP Ghafoor questioned if the bench had been appointed after Nasheed’s case had been referred to the Hulhumale’ Court, to which Didi replied in the affirmative.

Asked if Didi was aware that one of the magistrates appointed to the bench had allegations of disciplinary issues, sexual offences and corruption against him, he responded that he was not aware of such a case.

When MDP MP Rugiyya Mohamed said JSC Member Sheikh Rahman had confirmed that indeed such an allegation was being looked into by the commission, Abdulla Didi then responded that he had heard such rumours via media and had asked administrative staff to look into the matter.

He later said he “did not believe any of the magistrates on the bench would have done anything of the sort.”

“I cannot confirm whether such a matter exists. The thing is, if we are to consider an allegation or a complaint, there has to be some solid reasons that should support the allegation, whether it be proved or not. If it is a solid and believable allegation, then I might not agree to have him on the bench,” he continued.

“I don’t think just being alleged of anything is reason enough to remove any magistrate from the bench. The allegation itself must carry some weight. However, such allegations can only be cleared once the relevant authority investigates it. So, I do believe any such investigations must be expedited. I don’t see any reason why such a magistrate cannot sit on the panel in the meantime.”

Is the Hulhumale court legitimate?

Asked directly whether Abdulla Didi believed the court to be a legitimate entity, he answered, “I am not saying it is a legitimate court. Then again, nor I am I saying it is illegitimate. All I can say is I don’t believe it will be liquidated.”

“I think the JSC cannot establish a court through a vote. I can’t really recall the law too well at this moment, but the JSC certainly cannot form a court,” Abdulla Didi confirmed in response to a question posed by Sameer.

Sameer then asked if the Vice Chair of JSC had cast his vote on the matter of forming the Hulhumale’ Court.

“That’s a huge misunderstanding. We never voted to form a court. We voted to establish that, in accordance with the laws, the Hulhumale’ Court will not be automatically cancelled. The court was in existence even before [the vote],” Abdulla Didi answered.

However, Sameer challenged Abdulla Didi’s statement. He stated that in 2007, the President’s Office had created an administrative office called the Hulhumale’ Courts Section, and not a court, saying that the existence of a magistrate court in Hulhumale’ is not noted on any paperwork.

“We have documents proving that after the ratification of the Judicature Act, that under a decision of the JSC itself, the budget, stamp and even staff of this Hulhumale’ Court Section office were transferred to the Family Court in Male’. And then, out of the blue, your commission decided there is a Magistrate Court in Hulhumale’,” Sameer stated.

“You are aware that a case against the Hulhumale’ Court was filed in a lower court. The JSC then referred it to the Supreme Court. Then JSC Chair Adam Mohamed, who is a Supreme Court Judge, cast the deciding vote on the case. Do you believe this was conducted in due process?” Sameer asked.

Abdulla Didi refused to answer the question on the grounds that he could comment on a decision of the Supreme Court. He said “there is no way I can call that a bad ruling.”


SAARC Secretary General attacks government over detention of Chief Judge

The Maldivian government has clashed with the youngest and first female SAARC Secretary General, Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed, over the legality of its arrest of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.

Speaking at a press conference held by a group of lawyers contesting the legality of Judge Mohamed’s arrest, aired on Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim’s VTV last night, Saeed accused the government of ignoring the law and called for parliament to oppose the ruling body.

The government does not have the authority “to say ‘we will act on this article, and this article does not exist for us’,” Saeed claimed. “This is not something we can pick and choose.”

The government’s rejection of court orders to release the judge could “only be solved by the people”, Saeed said, but added this should be through the parliament “and not by coming out on the roads”.

The government has expressed outrage over Saeed’s television appearance, arguing that her position as SAARC Secretary General demands her political impartiality in the internal affairs of all SAARC nations – including her own.

Article one of the SAARC Charter emphasises “strict adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter and non-alignment, particularly respect for the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, national independence, non-use of force and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and peaceful settlement of all disputes.”

President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said Saeed’s stating her “personal, private position” on VTV “clearly contravened the SAARC Charter”.

“The SAARC charter forbids interference in the matters of any state, including the state she represents,” Zuhair said.

“She should have resigned and then taken her stand, or brought her concerns to us – or someone like the Attorney General. We are her colleagues. This is at best very dishonourable,” Zuhair said.

He claimed that Saeed had pledged her allegiance to the government “and her husband (Abdulla Jabir) is head of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and a senior member of the party,” Zuhair said. “Even should she resign, [her behavior] is still dishonourable and indecent. “

Saeed reacted angrily to Zuhair’s allegations and said his comments were not indecent, and that she had not violated the SAARC Charter.

“I am first and foremost a Maldivian citizen. It is my right [to comment] on whatever happens in my country, and I will not give away that right. As a lawyer I am also a member of the Maldivian bar,” she told Minivan News.

“[The Chief Judge’s detention] is a violation of individual human rights, a violation of the independence of the judiciary, and the violation of the constitution,” she stated.

“The constitution defines how a person should be detained, and this is not an ordinary person, this is a judge. Up until last night no one even knew where he was held.”

If the government contended that Abdulla Mohamed had violated the constitution, “he has to be dealt with within the confines of the law,” she insisted. “The government should not take the law into its own hands.”

“This action is very clearly unconstitutional. If you look at the how the government has acted these last three years you can see a trend. The government thinks any means to an ends is alright,” she said.

Saeed said she did not wish to comment on whether she intended to resign.

The government has meanwhile contended that Abdulla Mohamed’s detention is legal under the President’s mandate to protect “the letter and spirit” of the constitution, arguing that not only had he corrupted elements of the judiciary in favour of the political opposition, but that the constitutional body mandated with overseeing the judges – the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – had also been politically compromised.

The JSC failed to table or even acknowledge receipt of a report on the judiciary produced by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which questioned whether the JSC possessed the technical ability and knowledge to investigate complaints and hold the judiciary accountable, as well as its independence.

In May 2011 the JSC abolished its complaints committee. By its own statistics, of the 143 complaints received in 2010 concerning the conduct of judges, none were tabled and only five were ever replied to.

Chair of the JSC’s dissolved complaints committee, former President’s Member of the JSC Aishath Velezinee who was stabbed in the street in January 2011, said at the time that the complaints committee had been unable to operate as the chair of the JSC, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed,  had persistently scheduled timetable clashes.


High court judge rules Himandhoo protest was ‘terrorism’ and denies appeal

A high court appeal by three men sentenced to jail for the violent protest at Himandhoo has failed.

Ahmed Ramzee, Ahmed Ali and Adam Mohamed, all from Himandhoo, were originally sentenced for up to 10 years each for their involvement in the protest in October 2007.

The 200 police and army personnel who travelled to the island in search for evidence related to the Sultan Park bombing the previous month were confronted by the islanders, who donned red motorcycle helmets and armed themselves with batons and knives and denied the authorities entry to the Dhar-al-khuir mosque.

In the ensuing skirmish, a policeman was taken captive and another’s hand was severed. Shortly afterwards a video discovered on an Al Qaeda forum was found to contain footage taken inside the Dhar-al-khuir mosque moments before it was raided by police.

Senior High Court Judge Ali Hameed today ruled that the actions of the three men during the protest qualified as ‘terrorism’ under the law of Maldives, and said that the case was not open to appeal. Reading the verdict, Judge Hameed said their actions were “against the public order of the country and weakened the religious unity of the people.”

“The [verdict] of the criminal court cannot be overturned,” he said.

In the appeal, the men claimed their actions against the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were in “self defence”. Adam Mohamed and Ahmed Ramzy also told the court in previous hearings that their confessions had been extracted under duress.

At the time, Minivan News reported that Mohamed’s account tallied with other reports of abuse to have emerged from the police-run Dhoonidhoo detention centre. On 19 March 2008, he told the court he had been taken out of his cell at night during the investigation, handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and beaten in the football ground area.


On 9 February senior members of the Maldivian government met with the 16 people arrested and sentenced for the Himandhoo protest, to inform them that President Mohamed Nasheed had made the decision to lessen their sentences under the forthcoming clemency bill.

“One criteria of the clemency laws is that [the defendant] must have exhausted all other avenues of appeal,” said the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair. “They are more eligible [for clemency] as a result of going through the [appeals] process.”

Zuhair said the accusation that the government was ‘releasing terrorists’ was unfair.

“I believe people cannot comment on the actions of the government without knowing the details of the matter,” Zuhair said. “There are complex issues being considered, such as the trial that was conducted under the previous constitution. The president has made it known he will alleviate their sentences.”

“This government came into power saying democracy would extend to religious matters,” Zuhair added.