Majlis removes MP Hamza from judicial watchdog

The People’s Majlis has removed MP Ahmed Hamza from the judicial watchdog body – the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

Speaker Abdulla Shahid sent a letter to the JSC President and Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed informing him that Hamza is no longer a member of the commission following his decision to contest parliamentary elections.

Hamza is standing in the March 22nd election for the Bilehdhoo constituency in Faafu atoll.

Shahid said Hamza had lost his seat as Article 10 of the JSC Act states that a commission member will lose their seats if they stand for a political position elected under the constitution or a law.

Speaking to Minivan News, Hamza said he did not believe Shahid’s interpretation is accurate.

“But I accept the decision since Article 14 of the act states that the parliamentary representative can only be removed by the People’s Majlis,” he said.

Hamza has previously said that the speaker and Majlis representative should be exempted from Article 10 “as it creates a legal vacuum.”

Meanwhile, Shahid has also announced he will contest the Majlis elections. Hamza said his removal from the JSC meant that Shahid might also lose his seat.

Judge Adam Mohamed sent a letter to Hamza and President Abdulla Yameen earlier this week claiming Hamza’s position was now vacant.

Hamza responded by stating his belief that Adam Mohamed’s attempt to remove him was intended to reduce the number of members who advocated for judicial reform and an investigation into Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed’s alleged involvement in a series of sex tapes.

Similarly, former Attorney General Husnu Suood has suggested his suspension from practicing law – handed down by the Supreme Court last month – was related to his role in the JSC’s investigation into the Hameed tapes.

Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman – the public’s representative on the JSC  – has also accused Judge Adam Mohamed of stalling the JSC’s investigation into the Hameed scandal.

Adam Mohamed had refused to schedule a vote on whether to suspend Hameed following his refusal to cooperate with the investigation, Hamza said.

“The JSC cannot be productive as long as Adam Mohamed remains the president,” he said. “I call on the public to pressure the JSC to table the motion to suspend Ali Hameed,” he said.

Hamza has previously accused judges of using legal loopholes to preventing the JSC from functioning.

The Supreme Court in January prevented a JSC attempt to shuffle judges in the superior courts, stating that the authority to do so was reserved by the Judicial Council – a body which had previously been annulled, and whose powers have been assumed, by the Supreme Court.


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.


Chief Justice silent on Judge Ali Hameed’s sex tape probe

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain has refused to comment on Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed’s alleged appearance in a series of sex tapes, claiming the judicial oversight body will investigate offenses committed by judges.

Speaking to the press following the inauguration of a seminar on criminal procedures and sentencing at Nasandhura Palace Hotel, Faiz said: “We are speaking about accusations. The Chief Justice will comment on the matter when relevant authorities decide on the nature of the accusations. How many other’s have also faced accusations?”

However, the judicial oversight body Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has failed to take action against Hameed despite repeated recommendations for suspension by two separate sub committee set up to investigate the matter.

A second subcommittee set up in December requested the JSC suspend Hameed claiming he had refused to cooperate with the investigation.

JSC member and opposition MP Ahmed Hamza said JSC chair and Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed have refused to schedule the issue on the commission’s agenda.

Hamza has told local media he believes the JSC will delay deliberations on the issue until his membership and the People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid’s membership expires with the inauguration of the new parliament in June. Shahid and Hamza both belong to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The 10 member commission includes representatives from the legislature, judiciary, executive, and public.

Local media in December reported that the Maldives Police Services had sent a letter to the JSC claiming the sex-tape probe had been stalled due to the Criminal Court’s failure to provide keys search warrants.

The police had allegedly sought two warrants, one to authorise the police to take a photograph of Hameed’s face for comparative analysis, and a second to search his residence.

Neither the police nor the JSC have confirmed the existence of the letter, but the police have said it was still unable to determine if the man in the three sex tapes is Hameed despite several forensic tests.

At the time, Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz said the police were awaiting key information from abroad for more clues.

Spy cam footage allegedly depicting Hameed indulging in different sexual acts with multiple foreign women surfaced on local media last July.

One such video – time-stamped January 24 2013 – showed the judge fraternising with a topless woman with an eastern European accent. At one point the figure alleged to be the judge – who was only wearing only white underwear –  leans into the camera, making his face clearly visible.

Afterwards, the woman repeatedly encourages the man to drink wine from a mini-bar. “If I drink that I will be caught. I don’t want to be caught,” the man insists, refusing.

Images and symbols depicting scenes from the sex-tape formed a prominent part of protests against the court’s repeated interference in the presidential election of 2013.

The videos appeared shortly after a film – also involving Hameed – began circulating on social media in which he appeared to be discussing political influence in the judiciary with a local businessman.

Despite public circulation of the videos and widespread media coverage of the scandal, Hameed continues to sit on the Supreme Court bench.

Following the scandal, Hameed was one of the four judges forming the majority in the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the initial first round of the 2013 presidential election, as well as the ruling that unseated two opposition MPs over a controversial case of decreed debt.


Committee to re-submit Penal Code in March

Parliament’s Special Committee for Penal Code Review has stated that the committee will complete work on revising the bill by early March.

The final draft of the penal code – which had taken seven years in the committee stage – was rejected in yesterday’s parliamentary sitting with 36 votes. MPs then voted to send the bill back to the drafting committee

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and chair of the committee Ahmed Hamza told Minivan News today that the committee will send letters today to every individual member of parliament, asking them to submit any desired amendments to the bill by January 20.

On receiving the amendments, the committee will review them and decide on those to be accepted by January 30, after which the revised bill will be sent to the parliament floor for voting on February 5.

The committee will work with a representative from the Attorney General’s Office when reviewing amendments submitted by parliament members, Hamza said.

“The committee has decided today to work by this plan. My hope is that both the government and other members will send in all the amendments they want within this period of time, and that we will be able to complete this work. Our aim is to table the report by the time parliament reconvenes on March 1,” Hamza said.

Bill rejected by a narrow margin

Hamza said he was “astounded” by the rejection, given that the review committee which had passed the draft was representative of all the political parties.

Members from the government coalition parties had voted against the bill, with Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof confirming to Minivan News yesterday that a coalition whip-line had been issued for the matter.

In addition to pro-government members, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdulla Jabir has also voted against passing the Penal Code.

Jabir was not responding to calls at the time of press. However, he is quoted in local media as saying he had voted against the bill as he found it to be “too harsh”.

Two members abstained from voting on whether to return the bill to the committee.

MP Ibrahim Muhthalib refrained from voting, stating that “no human being has the right to rephrase divine laws in Islamic Sharia into separate articles in a law” and that he would abstain from voting on the matter as some scholars believe that participation in such an act may be blasphemous.

While voting records are not yet published on the parliament’s official website, an official confirmed that independent MP Mohamed Nasheed was the second member to have refrained from voting.

MP Nasheed was also not responding to calls at the time of press.


Penal Code returned to drafting committee

Parliament has sent the Penal Code back to the special committee tasked with revising it with a majority of 61 votes. While three members voted against re-sending it to committee, two abstained from the vote.

The final draft submitted to the parliament floor was rejected by 36 votes out of the 72 members present in Sunday’s session, after which a vote was taken whether to send it back to committee for review.

Members from the government coalition parties voted against the bill, with Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahloof confirming to Minivan News today that a coalition whip-line was issued for the matter.

The Penal Code was submitted to the floor after seven years of review in the committee, having been initially submitted in 2006.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Hamza – Chair of the Penal Code review committee – stated that the reason for the long duration of review is primarily due to the long periods required for reviewing and commenting by state institutions including the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

The bill, if ratified, will replace the 52 year old penal law which is currently in effect.

The Penal Code and religion

Much of the arguments presented against the Penal Code revolved around the concepts of religion and Sharia law not being “sufficiently reflected” in the final draft.

Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ibrahim Muhthalib stated that “no human being has the right to rephrase divine laws in Islamic Sharia into separate articles in a law” and that he would abstain from voting on the matter as some scholars believe that participation in such an act may be blasphemous.

Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) MP Ahmed Amir echoed Muhthalib’s concerns and added that penalties on crimes which have a hadd [fixed punishments specifically mentioned in the Quran] sentences in Sharia Law are what most people have found concerning about the bill.

MP Ibrahim Riza who voted to send the bill back to the review committee said that the bill included some penalties which contradicted Sharia law mandates.

Religious conservative Adhaalath Party Sheikh Ilyas Hussain has also previously in March criticized the bill in sermons saying it will “destroy Islam”, prompting a parliamentary inquiry.

“If it is passed, there is no doubt that there will be no religion in this Muslim society that claims to be 100 percent Muslim. There will be no Islamic punishments. Refusing to incorporate even a single hadd is destroying Islam,” he had said then.

However, presenting the bill to parliament today, Hamza stated that in light of academic and technical expertise of the committee members, irreligious effects in the penal code have been brought to a minimal level.

“We are aware that various scholars from around the globe have commented on this work by Professor Paul Robinson,” Hamza said, referring to the legal expert from University of Pennysylvania Law School, under whose leadership the first draft of the Penal Code had been prepared on the request of then Attorney General Hassan Saeed in January 2006.

“Keeping this in mind, we took care to use our academic and technical capacity to minimalize any irreligious effects that might have been in this bill’s initial draft. Man-made laws are always less perfect than divine laws,” he stated.

The other main reservation put forth by members is the short period of time given to review the bill and submit amendments in.

The committee opened up the draft for amendments from December 24 to 26. On Saturday, December 28, the committee announced that no amendments had been submitted within the given timeframe.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Mausoom, JP MP Shifaq Mufeed, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan voiced concerns about the short period of time given for review when speaking to Minivan News today.

Mausoom said that besides the time limitation, he also noticed double penalties for the same offence in the bill, and that is why he voted to return the bill to parliament.

“The penal code is as thick as a generic A4 ream of papers. It is unrealistic to ask us to read and comment on it in such a short time. What we have now is a penal code that has existed for very many years. When we pass a new one, I do not wish it to be one that calls for amendments to be submitted every other day. We are not of the mindset that we want to reject it, but we want enough time to review it in light of the Maldivian people’s way of life, Islamic Sharia and existing laws,” Shifaaq stated.

Meanwhile Nihan described the bill as “a rushed job done to bring an end to years of it being pending in committee”.

“There isn’t a single member in the committee who has actually read this bill. How can anyone spend time on it when there are so many other important bills that also call for our attention, as well as the annual budget? It has to come with enough time allowance for us to submit amendments,” he stated.

Bill review

The review committee’s Chair Hamza maintains that the government was given sufficient time and opportunity to submit all and any desired amendments to the bill.

“Voting records show that it was members of the government coalition who rejected this bill. We provided sufficient time allowances for them to submit amendments. We have even included 12 of the amendments submitted by the Attorney General,” Hamza explained.

“In fact, we worked at length both with former Attorney General Azima Shakoor and current successor Mohamed Anil. We also gave opportunities for political parties to submit amendments, where even PPM sent in submissions. I do not understand why it was rejected after all of this. I am astounded. I sincerely hope the government will explain its reasons for rejecting the bill in the form of an official statement,” he continued.

“I do not see how it will be possible to ever pass the new Penal Code if it is to be left as everyone’s lowest priority. Members need to make time and work to pass this bill at the earliest. I have now scheduled a meeting of the committee for tomorrow. I personally hope to review this, open it up for amendments, incorporate what we will from those and have it resubmitted to the parliament floor by early March next year,” Hamza said.

Responding to members’ criticisms, Hamza pointed out that members had not asked for additional time for reviewing the bill during today’s parliament session, and had instead voted to return it to committee.


Judges not informed of impending shuffle

The Judicial Services Commission’s (JSC) Secretary General Abu Bakuru Mohamed has said the commission has not informed ten superior court judges about their impending transfer on January 1, according to local media.

The JSC decided to shuffle the judges in December “in a bid to strengthen the judiciary.” However, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz objected to the decision claiming the commission does not have the authority to shuffle judges.

Although only two days remain for the shuffle to take effect, JSC SG Mohamed has failed to inform judges or explain reasons for the delay, local media have said.

Meanwhile, JSC Members Shuaib Abdul Rahman and MP Ahmed Hamza have confirmed to Minivan News the JSC will stands by its decision to shuffle judges and has called on the SG to facilitate its implementation.

“Informing the judges is an administrative work and the responsibility of the Secretary General. I believe he will abide by the commission’s decision and notify judges prior to their date of transfer. The transferred judges must report to work at the courts where they have been transferred to starting from January 1,” Hamza stated.

The JSC has so far transferred ten Superior Court judges to other courts of the same legal calibre, including the transfer of controversial Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed to the same position at the Drug Court.

JSC Senior Legal and Complaints Officer Hassan Faheem Ibrahim also said that notifying judges is the responsibility of the SG, and so he is unable to comment on the matter.

Controversy around transfer of judges

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain termed the JSC’s decision “unlawful.” He sent a letter to the president of the judicial watchdog Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed stating that the commission did not have the legal authority to carry out such transfers without deliberation with the Judicial Council – a council compiled of the seven judges of the Supreme Court.

Judge Adam Mohamed himself is reported to have expressed disapproval with the decision of the remaining commission members to transfer judges and to have walked out of the commission meeting.

The commission, however, decided with majority votes to go ahead with the transfers, stating that the Chief Justice’s objection lacked any legal grounds.

“Even under the constitution and the JSC Act, the commission is vested with the power to transfer the judges as we have,” member Hamza said at the time.


MDP to take province issue to Supreme Court

Spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group MP Ahmed Shifaz has said the parliamentary group intends to take the dispute over the province section of the decentralisation bill to the supreme court.

Shifaz said according to the constitution, when the parliament disputes an issue by resolution it has the power to ask for advice from the supreme court.

”The opposition say it is unconstitutional to divide the country in to seven provinces,” Shifaz said, ”so we are going to present a resolution to the parliament, and see what the Supreme Court says,”

He said he hoped the opposition MPs would agree to pass a resolution to hear what the Supreme Court says.

”According to the constitution the Supreme Court is able to give the last word,” he said. ”I hope they agree and pass the resolution.”

MDP MP Ahmed Hamza said the MDP parliamentary group had decided to present a resolution according to the Article 95 of the constitution.

Aricle 95 of the constitution reads as follows: ”The People’s Majlis may by resolution refer to the Supreme Court for hearing and consideration important questions of law concerning any matter, including the interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutional validity of any statute. The Supreme Court shall answer the questions so referred and shall provide the answers to the People’s Majlis, giving reasons for its answers. The opinion shall be pronounced in like manner as in the case of a judgement on appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Hamza said that the opposition MPs claimed that dividing the country into seven provinces was against article 230 [b] of the constitution.

Article 230 [b] of the constitution reads as follows: ”In order to provide for decentralised administration, the President has the power, as provided in law, to create constituencies, posts, island councils, atoll councils and city councils.”

”This is not a constitutional issue, in fact, this is a political issue,” Hamza said, ”we want the Supreme Court to say whether dividing in to seven provinces is against 230 [b] of the constitution.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed said did not wish to comment on the issue yet.

”This might even be a political issue,” he suggested.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ahmed Nihan said it was written in the constitution “in clear words” that the country’s administrative units cannot be divided into seven provinces.

Nihan said the party would not change its stand.

”I do not think the Supreme Court would say we are wrong either,” he said. ”I think our party will not change its mind.”

He said dividing the country into administrative units would make it more difficult for people to get services from the government.

Deputy Leader of DRP Umar Naseer said that presenting a resolution to the parliament to hear what the Supreme Court had to say on the matter “does not have any weight.”

”Although the Supreme Court can say whatever it likes, it’s in the hand of MPs to decide what to do with the provinces,” he said. ”They are just trying to delay this bill.”

He said that MDP MPs were already aware that people did not want to divide the country’s administrative units into seven provinces.