New bill grants president authority to declare groups ‘terrorist organisations’

The Attorney General’s (AG) office has drafted a new anti-terrorism bill that would grant exclusive authority to the president to declare groups as terrorist organisations.

The 39-page draft defines terrorist organisations as a group of people acting as a whole, which carries out or has the purpose of destroying properties or carrying out acts of brutality.

The draft legislation proposes restricting constitutional rights upon arrest for terrorism suspects – including the right to remain silent and access to legal counsel – and criminalises flying overseas to fight in foreign wars.

Inciting violence at demonstrations and threatening the country’s independence and sovereignty will be considered acts of terrorism.

Other terrorism offences include kidnapping, abduction, hijacking, endangering public health or safety, and damaging important infrastructure. The bill specifies penalties of up to 25 years in jail.

Committing any of the offences for the purpose of creating terror among the public or promoting a political or religious ideology will also be a terrorist offence.

The bill also authorises the home ministry to carry out extensive surveillance of suspects.

Encouraging terrorism, an act which carries a 10 to 15 years jail sentence, is defined as “a speech or statement perceived by the public as encouragement of terrorism.”

Circulating messages or statements of a terrorist organisation is also a crime with a jail sentence of seven to 10 years.

A draft of the bill has been shared with the Maldives Police Service and the prosecutor general’s (PG) office.

Attorney general Mohamed Anil told CNM today that his office is seeking comments from stakeholders and that the bill will be submitted when parliament returns from recess next month.

The bill is likely to pass as the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance controls a simple majority of the 85-member house.

The PG office will have to file charges against a person suspected of terrorism within 15 days and the courts will have to reach a verdict within 30 days.

The home minister will meanwhile have powers to apply for a ‘monicon’ (monitoring and control) order to tag, intercept communications and conduct surveillance on terrorism suspects.

The minister can seek a monicon order if the suspect commits an act that endangers the community.

The minister does not have to inform the suspect and the court is not obliged to summon the suspect before issuing the order.

If a monicon order has been issued the police can order the person to live at a selected house if the suspect has multiple residences, restrict travelling and search the person, his home, suspected whereabouts on any time without an additional court order.

If the law is passed, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990 will be dissolved.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-minister Tholhath Ibrahim were charged under the terrorism law over the military’s detention of a judge in January 2012. The pair were found guilty and sentenced to 13 years and 10 years in prison, respectively, last month.


Attorney General rules that Nazim’s dismissal as LGA chair was valid

The attorney general has said that recently dismissed defence minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim had breached regulations with regards to a no-confidence motion lodged against him by the board of the Local Government Association (LGA).

Mohamed Anil has noted that the agenda of any meetings can only be changed with two days’ notice, and that this was not done when Nazim removed the no-confidence vote from the agenda of a January 15 meeting.

Five of the LGA’s nine board members subsequently refused to end the meeting, writing to Anil for advice before voting on the motion and deciding to remove Nazim from his position. His opponents had accused him of failing to protect the country’s decentralisation system.

Nazim was later reported as saying that the vote was invalid, while the Majlis national security committee last week recommended the dismissal of the interim chair Shujau Hussain.

Following his dismissal in relation to dangerous weapons charges last week, Nazim has been replaced as the president’s representative on the LGA board by home minister Umar Naseer.

Naseer is currently out of the country – receiving his Masters degree from the University of Hull, leaving tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb as acting home minister.

Source: Haveeru


HRCM urges state to address needs of disabled, government launches programmes to improve services

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has urged the government and relevant authorities to fully address the needs of persons with disabilities.

“Disabled persons in the Maldives are not usually provided equal opportunities in education, health care and at communal interactions,” read the statement marking International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The HRCM noted that, despite the skills and resourcefulness of disabled persons, they are not provided with adequate opportunities and are often excluded by the community.

President Abdulla Yameen attended the official function marking the occasion today, with the first lady launching schemes to improve access to medical services and travel for disabled persons.

Today is the twelfth celebration of the international day, which seeks to promote understanding of disability issues and garnering support for affected persons through campaigns and support grants.

The theme for this year is ‘The Promise of technology’, with a focus on assisting the disabled with disaster risk reduction systems, creating enabling work environments, and addressing disability within future development goals.

While speaking at the  ceremony held this morning, Attorney General Mohamed Anil told local media that there were many rights which still needed to be provided for disabled Maldivians.

Anil noted that insufficient thought was going into the construction 0f disability-friendly buildings, adding that service provision was not addressing the needs of the disabled, resulting in “decreased participation and interaction of disabled persons within the community”.

First Lady Madam Fathimath Ibrahim launched the ‎medical and travel concessionary card for persons with disabilities, as well as ‎inaugurating the special discount programme ‘Dharumaverivaashe’.

The ‘Eheetheriya’ programme was also introduced by the national airline, making persons with ‎disability eligible to  a 15 percent discount when purchasing tickets ‎from the airline.‎ The Airports Ferry Operators Association announced last month that it would provide free services for the disabled between Malé and Hulhulé.

Today’s ceremony also saw the assignment of three disability rights goodwill ambassadors – Kaashidhoo MP Faisal Naeem, former Deputy Health Minister Fathimath Afiya, and disability rights activist and National Award winner Ahmed Hishan.

President Yameen also handed employment contracts with state-owned companies to ten people with disabilities.

The Maldives Association for Physical Disabilities (MAPD) observed the occasion today with a walk in the capital Malé, as well the launch of a programme aiming to provide equal and competitive sporting opportunities for disabled youth.

A baseline study conducted by the HRCM in 2010 stated that 8.1 percent of the population suffers from a temporary or permanent disability with most commonly reported disabilities being hearing impairments, speech impairments, and mental illnesses.

Maldives signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in October 2007, the purpose of which is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

The Ministry of Law and Gender announced earlier this year that the government would turn Guraidhoo’s Home for Special Needs – currently the only such facility in the country – into mental health institute, providing separate facilities for the elderly, the disabled, and the psychiatric patients who currently reside there.

Additionally, Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem submitted an amendment to the Disability Act to raise the monthly allowance provided to persons with special needs to MVR5,000 (US$324) in order to enable medical treatment overseas.

Related to this story

Bill submitted to raise disability benefits to MVR5,000

Parents protest as disabled childrens’ school faces closure


President appoints Hassan Ziyath as new auditor general

President Abdulla Yameen has today appointed Hassan Ziyath as the new auditor general within one hour of gaining parliamentary approval.

Ziyath – who received the consent of the parliament at around 1.30 pm – was handed the letter of appointment by President Yameen at a function held at the president’s office around 2.30pm.

The new auditor general won the approval of the Majlis, with 59 of the voting members from across the parties unanimously supporting his appointment.

The nomination of Ziyath for the post by President Yameen has aroused contoversy as his brother, Abdulla Ziyath was recently implicated in a US$6 million corruption scandal alongside  tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

In an audit report released on October 29, then auditor general Niyaz Ibrahim accused Abdulla Ziyath – Managing Director of state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) – of illegally pushing through a US$6 million loan from state funds to two private companies.

The audit report was signed on the same day that the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives brought an amendment to the Audit Act requiring the president to reappoint the auditor general within 30 days of the amendments have been approved.

Ziyath was nominated out of the four individuals who applied for the post, which holds an equivalent salary to the president’s – currently at MVR100,000 (US$6500).

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had ferociously opposed the amendments, stating that the bill would allow the incumbent to be discharged without following the constitutional provisions for impeachment.

MDP MP Rozaina Adam on November 3 said that the party would challenge the constitutionality of the amendment, though it was subsequently with 36 MPs voting in favor and 22 against.

Meanwhile, Niyaz – who had served only three years of his seven year long term – told local media that he would not apply for the post again, instead choosing to challenge the constitutionality of the amendments in the Supreme Court.

While speaking to Haveeru at the time, Niyaz said that he received threats and intimidation from the tourism minister after he started investigating the corruption scandal.

However, Adeeb condemned the report as politically motivated, and accused Niyaz of colluding with MP and former Deputy Speaker of Majlis Ahmed Nazim to discredit him after he refused to back Nazim for the Majlis Speakership in May.

Adeeb also expressed dismay at reports that Nazim had attempted to link him with the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Related to this story

Brother of official implicated in MMPRC corruption scandal nominated for Auditor General

Majlis passes amendment allowing president to reappoint auditor general

Tourism Minister implicated in US$6million corruption scandal


AG seeks to strengthen prohibitions on carrying of sharp weapons

Attorney General Mohamed Anil has today submitted to parliament a number of amendments to the act prohibiting carrying and threatening use of sharp weapons.

Speaking at a press conference held by the cabinet’s Social Council, Anil revealed that amendments included the narrowing of certain rights that the accused currently have.

Among these, the right to remain silent and the right to consult with legal representatives will be narrowed, while police will be given the right to hold suspects in custody for purposes of community safety until the court considers the case.

The proposed changes comes as the number of stabbing incidents in the country continues at an alarming rate, with 18-year old Ibrahim Shifaaz last week becoming the latest in a list of incidents that have resulted in three deaths this year.

Anil explained that the present law only stipulates penalties for the carrying of sharp weapons and for threatening individuals with the use of sharp weapons.

“Both the home minister and we at the AG office find it to be very concerning that the law does not describe penalties for damages caused by such actions, such as the taking of a life, loss of a limb, or other physical harm to the victims,” Anil stated.

“Currently, these crimes are tried under the existing old Penal Code, which has in it far too lenient penalties. Thus, the proposed amendments will include new penalties that can be given to perpetrators for commission of such an act.”

He described the newly proposed penalties as including 7 to 15 year jail sentences and even the death penalty, depending on the seriousness of the crime.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer prompted international concern when calling for an end to the country’s 60 year moratorium on the death penalty earlier this year, completing the required regulatory changes in April.

The new amendments also stipulate that crimes falling under this act should be investigated within 15 days of arrest, while the Criminal Court must complete the case within 30 days from its submission.

Anil also announced that three additional bills have been submitted to parliament. These are the goods and services tax bill, the construction bill, and the mutual legal assistance bill.

Earlier on October 15, Umar Naseer conducted meetings with pro-government parliamentarians about amendments to these same laws.

“Reactions from parliamentarians of both Jumhooree Party and Progressive Party of Maldives were positive to my recommendations,” Naseer said at the time.

At today’s press conference, Naseer also revealed that the government has plans to commence a MVR4 million  (US$260,000)  project to further develop the security of the prisons in the coming week following the recent escape of two convicted murderers last weekend – both since apprehended.


A bill on social workers will be drafted soon: Attorney General.

Attorney General (AG) Mohamed Anil has said that a bill on social workers detailing their rights and their disciplinary code will soon be drafted.

Speaking at a ceremony to conclude workshops held by the gender ministry aimed at social workers, Anil said the bill will ensure that work done by social workers is accepted by the laws and will make sure their services go under a constitutional framework.

The AG also said that the law should not only be targeted at government social workers but should also include social workers from private organisations and NGOs.


Government proposes amendments to old laws to ensure protection of rights

The Maldives government has proposed amending laws enacted under the country’s outdated constitution in order to ensure rights guaranteed by the current constitution are enshrined in old laws.

A bill has been introduced to amend the Immigration Act of 2007 to limit the period for which state institutions can withhold a individual’s passport without a court order to twenty four hours from the currently stated seven days.

Article 48 (d) of the current Constitution forbids detention of a person for more than twenty four hours without being brought before a judge who will decide if the detention could be extended.

It was also proposed that the Controller of Immigration and Emigration should be allowed to withhold passports based on orders from all investigative bodies of the state.

The current version of the Act states that the Controller can only withhold a passport based on court warrants, verdicts and orders from “government institutions authorized to make arrests under the General Laws Act.”

If passed, this amendment will allow independent state institutions such as the Anti Corruption Commission to ask the Controller to withhold passports.

Other major changes proposed to the Immigration Act include removing references to a 1968 law titled ‘Some General Laws’ (4/68) from the Immigration Act. The law allows detention of a person on suspicion of disobeying laws and for security and safety for any period of time by the Ministry of Defence and National Security and the Ministry of Home Affairs if in Malé area and (now abolished) Ministry of Atolls if on other islands.

The government states the law contradicts several articles of the Constitution, particularly those regarding the rights of the detained.

The 1978 “Procedure for detentions exceeding seven days act”  has been put up for annulment for the same reason, as it allows detaining people for periods exceeding seven or more days without authorization from a Judge.

The government has also proposed annulling the 1990 “Law on determining the salaries of the People’s Majlis and the People’s Special Majlis.” The one- line law is no longer of use as the Constitution already authorizes the Majlis to determine their own salary.

The government also proposed an amendment to the “Protection of Child Rights Act” of 1991 to include universal education up to middle school for all children.

The current Act only requires government to provide education “to the extent which the economy of Maldives and the resources of the government allows.” Further, instead of universal education without discrimination, it states that education must be provided for all “in a way that is relevant for each Island”.

Article 26 of the Constitution guarantees universal education for everyone without any discrimination and requires the state to provide free primary and secondary level education.

However, while the amendment to the act requires the state to teach obedience to Islam and instilling love for Islam as outlined in the constitution, it has excluded “fostering respect for human rights and promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people” mentioned in the same article of the constitution.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil yesterday said the government will be sending a total of 51 bills to the current session of the newly elected People’s Majlis where the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives holds a majority.

Speaking to Haveeru he said that 19 of these bills have already been forwarded to the Majlis, and said he hopes to send eleven more bills within the month.

The highest priorities of the legislative agenda will be formulating bills required for implementing the PPM manifesto, he has also said.

The scope of the government’s legislative agenda includes  207 bill comprising 98 new bills and 109 amendments to existing laws.

A bill on establishing special economic zones (SEZ) designed to attract foreign investments was recently proposed by the government.

Anil today revealed that  an interim Criminal Procedure will also be proposed shortly.

Speaking to Haveeru, Anil said it is very important to have an interim Criminal Procedure Act which could complement the recently ratified revised Penal Code which is to come in to force in April 2015.

Anil said he feared that the long-term Criminal Procedure bill may be delayed in the parliament as it “has many issues” and would generate a lot of debate in the parliament.


Criminal cases in PG leadership absence unconstitutional, says Drug Court judge

Any trials of criminal cases in the absence of a prosecutor general (PG) and a deputy PG violates the constitution, Drug Court Judge Mahaz Ali has said.

Writing on his personal blog, Mahaz disagreed with the attorney general’s (AG) recent suggestion that the official in the senior most position at the PG office must take over the PG’s responsibilities.

AG Mohamed Anil claimed the country was in the midst of a “state of necessity” in the aftermath of acting PG Hussain Shameem’s resignation earlier this week.

The doctrine of necessity is the basis on which extra-legal actions by state actors, designed to restore order, are deemed constitutional.

Both the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Maldives Bar Association have also spoken out against the government’s stance on the matter.

State of necessity

Mahaz wrote that the state of necessity argument was valid only if there was no legal solution, suggesting that there was no reason President Abdulla Yameen could not propose a name for approval by the People’s Majlis.

“A state of necessity is faced only when all legal avenues have been exhausted. In the current situation, the solution is to appoint a new prosecutor general. The current People’s Majlis is not in a situation where it cannot carry out its duties,” wrote the judge.

“The authority that must nominate a candidate [the President] is able to do so. Unless these two parties are in a state in which they cannot carry out their constitutional duties, a state of necessity will not be faced in the prosecutor general’s case.”

Although Shameem has called on the executive and People’s Majlis to approve a PG immediately, President Yameen said he will only submit a new nominee to the newly elected house – set to convene on May 28.

After a drawn out nomination process, Yameen’s previous choice for the role – his nephew, Maumoon Hameed – failed to gain the required number of votes in parliament last month. In contrast to the previous session, pro-government parties will enjoy a healthy majority in the 18th Majlis.

Judge Mahaz argued that the Supreme Court order on 6 February – which ordered criminal courts to accept cases filed by the PG’s Office – did not provide a solution, only mentioning how to act in absence of a PG. The Supreme Court order was prompted by the Criminal Court’s January decision to refuse new cases until a new appointment was made.

Mahaz also referred to previous case law regarding the Attorney General’s Office, noting that no superior court had deemed similar instances to be ‘situations of necessity’ requiring the next in line to take charge of the office.

In July 2010, the eight Civil Court judges unanimously decided they would not proceed with civil cases in the absence of an AG following then-AG Husnu Suood’s resignation.

Violation of independence

The Bar Association of the Maldives has also joined the debate, arguing that the AG’s advise was inconsistent with the Prosecutor General Act, and that Shameem’s resignation had created a leadership vacuum.

The resignation of the deputy PG while the position of PG was vacant had left the office with no official who could now assume its legal responsibilities, the association said, arguing state prosecutors cannot represent the PG in the courts in the current situation.

“Given that the prosecutor general’s position is an independent and impartial position, this office believes the government’s exertion of influence by ordering state prosecutors to attend courts is a violation of the office’s independence,” the association said in a statement.

Despite the Prosecutor General’s Act requiring the appointment of a new PG within 30 days of the position’s vacancy, Shameem has headed the office for over five month’s following the resignation of his predecessor Ahmed Muiz in November.

The Criminal Court was forced to cancel more than 100 cases last week as state prosecutors refused to attend hearings, doubting their current legal capacity to represent the PG’s Office.

The Hithadhoo Court in Addu City is conducting criminal trials, however, and is issuing verdicts in the absence of a state prosecutor. Court officials told local media on Thursday that they did not accept the justification of absence put forth by lawyers from the PG’s Office.

In his resignation statement, Deputy PG Shameem had said he was unable to fulfill his duties due to the Criminal Court’s failure to prosecute foreigners involved in drug trafficking, delays in issuing rulings on drug related offenses, and “unreasonable obstacles” in filing cases at the court.

The President’s Office put out a third call for names this week, claiming the previous number of applicants had been low during the second call. Shameem had expressed interest in the position both times, while local media has speculated that a third call will allow Hameed to resubmit his application.

The MDP has also commented on the current situation, accusing President Yameen of nepotism:

“In contravention to principles of good governance in democratic countries, it is evident is more for the president in this current state to appoint his nephew or other relatives to the position of Prosecutor General.”


Amount proposed by GMR for out-of-court settlement too big, says president

President Abdulla Yameen has said that the compensation proposed by GMR for an out-of-court settlement is too big and the government does not believe that it has to be paid.

“GMR is seeking a very big compensation. We, the government, do not believe that we can pay such an amount, or that it is necessary to pay it. So now we are facing [the issue of] unmatching numbers,” Yameen was quoted as saying in local media.

Yameen suggested that the large compensation being sought is the reason the parties have failed to reach an out-of-court settlement.

Both sides are now awaiting the conclusion of the arbitration, revealed Yameen, and further discussions will continue afterwards if it is necessary. He did not reveal the amount proposed for an early settlement.

Proceedings of the arbitration case, in which GMR is seeking US$1.4 billion as compensation for the abrupt termination of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) contract, has already begun in Singapore.

Last week the government appointed sitting Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Saeed as a legal expert in the arbitration case, with the Saeed promptly travelling to Singapore.

According to the Judges Act, however, any judge leaving the country to take part in a judiciary or law-related event should first obtain special permission from the independent Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Judicial Service Commission (JSC) member Sheikh Shuaib Abdurahman – one of the two members legally required to give consent for such a trip – has said said he was unaware of Judge Abdulla Saeed’s departure, though the Attorney General’s office has told local media that all necessary permissions were acquired.

The Maldives’ legal team includes Attorney General (AG) Mohamed Anil,  Deputy AG Ahmed Usham, and a team of experts from Singapore and the UK.

Haveeru has reported that GMR hired former Sri Lankan Attorney General Mohamed Shibly Aziz, former Maldivian Deputy Solicitor General Ibrahim Riffath, and Maldivian lawyer Fayaz Ismail to assist them in matters related to the Maldivian legal system.

The AG’s Office is now looking into Riffath’s involvement in the case, stating that he could have accessed privileged information when working at the office during the cancellation of the GMR agreement and several other GMR related cases before that.

The office has noted that information obtained through holding such a position cannot be utilised in such circumstances.

The AG’s Office earlier stated that the Maldives would be represented by Singapore National University Professor M. Sonaraja, while former Chief Justice of the UK Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips were to represent GMR.

The arbitrator – mutually agreed upon by both GMR and the Government of Maldives – is retired senior UK Judge Lord Leonard Hubert Hoffman.

Legal experts are expected to present their opinions to the arbitration panel today, local media has reported, while the process is expected to continue until Wednesday.

Airport development plans

The government owned Maldives Airports Company Limited which took over the airport’s management from GMR after the cancellation of the agreement, is now planning further development.

A US$5 million work project to develop ground handling at INIA was announced in January, with more plans to be announced in the near future based on a revised version of the previously compiled Scott Wilson airport development master plan.

Since assuming office President Yameen has made repeated assurances that the country is safe for foreign investors, calling for new developers from the Arab-Muslim countries in particular.

“The thrust of the government is to welcome foreign investment, ‎and to assure all investors that your investment – your money – is safe ‎with us, and your stay here in Maldives is going to be conducive ‎for you”, Yameen said earlier this month at a housing project inauguration in Hulhumalé.

The president yesterday shared the government’s INIA development plans with a delegation of Singapore’s Changi Airport Group and Changi Airport International in a meeting at the President’s Office, although a subsequent press release did not specify the exact reasons for the visit.

President Yameen will also travel to Singapore later this month to inaugurate the Maldives Investment Forum, a government initiative to showcase ‘high level’ investment opportunities in the country.

During the forum, the government’s development plans and projects will be revealed to international corporate and individual investors. One of the key five projects being scheduled for presentation is the the development of INIA.

Earlier this month Maldives Tourism Development Corporation Plc – 45 percent of whose shares are held by the government –  sold Herethera Island Resort in Addu City for US$33 million to Singapore’s Canaries Private Ltd.