Bill proposes criminalizing ‘expressions contrary to national interest and Islamic tenets’

The Attorney General’s (AG) office has drafted a new law that would criminalise expressions contrary to national interest or tenets of Islam.

The draft legislation (Dhivehi) on freedom of expression – obtained by Minivan News – states that four types of “expressions contrary to national interest” will constitute criminal offences: encouraging harm to a person or damage to private party, calling for the illegal overthrow of the government, threatening the country’s independence, sovereignty, and security, and accusing a person of committing a hadd offence without conclusive evidence.

Free expression can be restricted on the grounds of national security only if the following circumstances arise: if there is a need to protect the nation or its territory, if Maldivians or foreigners threaten national security with the use of force, and if the government’s ability to defend the nation is endangered.

If the state restricts freedom of expression in such cases, the state must show that the right has been restricted as narrowly as possible, that the restriction is permissible in a democratic society, and that the expression in question poses “a serious danger to national security.”

Hadd offences are crimes for which punishments are prescribed in the Quran or the hadith (sayings of the Prophet), including theft, fornication, making unproven accusations of illicit sex, drinking intoxicants, apostasy, and highway robbery.

The punishment for falsely accusing a person of committing a hadd offence is a jail sentence of between one to three years and a fine of between MVR50,000 (US$3,242) and MVR100,000 (US$6,485)

The bill states that encouraging harm or damage to property – excluding calls for a boycott of goods – and calling for the illegal overthrow of the government can be prosecuted under sections 222 (threatening catastrophe) and 610 (rioting or forceful overthrow of the government) of the new penal code.

Expressions that threaten independence, sovereignty, or national security are punishable by a jail sentence of between three to five years and a fine of between MVR100,000 and MVR500,000 (US$32,425).

The bill states that individuals can be prosecuted for the offences if he or she is unable to prove the truth of a claim under standards followed in civil defamation cases.

The freedom of expression bill was among the government’s 207-bill legislative agenda. It was scheduled to be submitted to parliament during the second session of 2014, but has yet to be submitted.

In May, prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin said his office was looking into prosecuting opposition politicians for libel and slander following allegations linking President Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb with the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

“People are acting however they want. They are trying very hard to defame state institutions in front of the public. The constitution does not give us the right to commit crimes hiding behind a political party,” he said.

“People in responsible posts are publicly accusing others of murder. We are researching on pressing charges against individuals who accuses some one of a crime and which the punishment is hadd.”

Later that month, President Abdulla Yameen threatened to prosecute Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who had said the president and tourism minister would know the truth behind the murder.

“I am being accused falsely. This government will penalise them. I want to file charges against those who are making these accusations. Not that of defamation, but criminal charges. I will file charges against Sheikh Imran,” he said.

Religious unity

The Maldivian constitution guarantees “the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam.”

The draft freedom of expression bill criminalises insulting Islam, questioning the validity of a tenet of Islam, and threatening religious unity or causing religious disputes, strife, and discord.

Persons accused of anti-Islamic expressions can be prosecuted under section 617 (criticising Islam) of the new penal code.

The bill, however, exempts “constructive opinions” expressed respectfully regarding Islamic tenets for academic or research purposes or at a public forum.

The proposed law states that permission must be sought from the Islamic ministry to preach, deliver religious sermons, or inform the public about religious edicts and specifies a fine of between MVR50,000 and MVR100,000 for violations.

Teaching Islam at a school, college, or university without the ministry’s permission will also be punishable with a fine of between MVR10,000 and MVR50,000.

The 1994 religious unity law will be repealed once the proposed law comes into force. The Islamic ministry must enact new regulations on issuing permission based on education and experience and put in place a mechanism for investigating complaints.

Under the new law, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives will investigate complaints of expressions contrary to national interest or Islamic tenets and forward cases to the prosecutor general’s office.

The bill states that defamation will not be considered a criminal offence and specifies civil remedies. The Supreme Court is mandated to enact regulations specifying rules for determining compensation for damages.

Defamation cases can only be heard in cases where the complainant has suffered damages.

Defamation was decriminalised in 2009 when parliament abolished section 125 of the old penal code, which stated: “Where a person makes a fabricated statement or repeats a statement whose basis cannot be proven, he shall be punished with house detention for a period between one to six months or fined between MVR25 and MVR200.”


Comment: New penal code comes into effect! A truly historic moment

This article is by Hussein Shameem, a partner at Aequitas Legal Consultants and the former deputy Prosecutor General. 

Today is July 16, 2015, a momentous day in the history of the Maldives’ criminal justice system. The penal code of 1968 expired at 11:59pm on July 15. In this historic moment, 12am on July 16, 2015, a brand new penal code takes effect in the Maldives.

The revolutionary change we are ushering in today is significant even by global standards, and equivalent to the historic change brought by the ratification of a new constitution in the Maldives on August 7, 2008. The constitution, in addition to granting many fundamental rights, also brought in major reforms to the criminal justice system. These reforms can only be complete with the enforcement of the new penal code.

Article 61 (b) of the constitution states: “No person may be subjected to any punishment except pursuant to a statute or pursuant to a regulation made under authority of a statute, which has been made available to the public and which defines the criminal offence and the punishment for commission of the offence.”

The statute that defines criminal offences and the punishment for the commission of those offences is the penal code that took effect today. This law states, in clear and simple language and not in legal jargon, what criminal offences are and what their corresponding punishments are.

This penal code will improve transparency in the law enforcement sector. It clearly lays out what law enforcement officers can and cannot do, and provides measures that judges must refer to in meting out punishment. It allows an offender to argue several justifications in their defense, such as self- defense, defense of property or that of law enforcement authorities.

This is the age of transparency and access to information. Laws must clearly state how people are to be treated. This is a crucial element of the philosophy of the rule of law. If an individual knows beforehand how they will be treated under the law, it will increase their trust in the legal system. Public trust is one element lacking in and much needed for the Maldives criminal justice system. This penal code paves a path to gain that trust.

This penal code only applies to events that occur after 12:01am on July 16, 2015. Hence, the old law will be used in the prosecution of events that occurred before the new law came into force. This is because the public must be notified before a certain action is declared as a new offence. If an act is not an offence at the time at which it was committed, the person who committed the act cannot be prosecuted retroactively by a new law. This is not justice. Since this law came into force today, and since the notice was provided today, this law only applies to events that occur today onwards.

What will happen to cases under investigation at present?

Some crimes are reported to the police only days after they took place. Since the current penal code only applies to events that occur from today onwards, the police must consider the date on which the reported offence took place. Depending on the date of the alleged offence, the law they apply will be different. Hence, law enforcement agencies will have to consider both laws for a time being. But this will be resolved soon, when police start receiving reports of events that occur from today onwards.

This overlap is inevitable. If the enforcement of a criminal law is suspended for any period of time, it may permit criminality for that period. The police and law enforcement agencies will have to bear some difficulties in this period of transition, for our protection and safety.

What will happen to cases sent for prosecution to the Prosecutor General’s Office?

The Prosecutor General (PG) must press charges according to the law in force at the time that an offence was committed. Even if the punishment for the offence is considerably lesser in the new law, the charges must be filed under provisions in the law in effect at the time the act was committed.

Judges, however, must consider the more lenient punishment in sentencing. I will address that in the next section

What will happen to ongoing cases at the criminal court?

With the enforcement of the new penal code, prosecution in ongoing cases will continue according to the offence the person was charged with under the old law.

However, the accused has the following rights:

Firstly, the defendant will have the right to the justifications outlined in chapter 40, 50 and 60 of the current penal code. For example, if the offence was committed in self-defense, the defendant can take this argument up in the trial. Chapter 40 introduces six defenses, chapter 50 introduces seven, and chapter 60 introduces six. These chapters detail how these justifications can be used. The defendant will now have the right to argue the justification relevant to their circumstances.

Secondly, Article 59 (a) of the constitution states that if the punishment for an offence has been reduced between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, the accused is entitled to the benefit of the lesser punishment. Hence, judges are obligated to consider the punishments outlined in the old and new laws and mete out the lesser punishment. If not, the accused has the right to appeal the sentence at the High Court. Unlike before, the accused can appeal either the reasoning or the severity of the sentence at the High Court. If judges find that the accused was handed the severe sentence, they can reduce the sentence to the lesser punishment.

What will happen to completed cases?

If a case had been tried and a verdict had been delivered before the new law came into force, there will be no change to the sentence.

Exempted Acts

Even though the new penal code takes effect today, Article 18 states that the following acts shall take precedence (meaning provisions in the following Acts will take precedence over that in the penal code):

  • Act 12/2009: Special Provisions Act to Deal with Child Sex Abuse Offenders
  • Act 17/2010: Intimidation and Possession of Dangerous Weapons and Sharp Instruments
  • Act 17/2011: Narcotic Drugs Act
  • Act 12/2013: Anti-Human Trafficking Law
  • Act 13/2013: Anti-Torture Act
  • Act 10/2014: Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Act
  • Act 17/2014: Sexual Offences Act

Even though provisions in the above-mentioned laws will take precedence over the penal code, for prosecution under those laws, the defendant will get the benefit of defenses. If the defendant is able to prove such a defense, they may not be punished. For example, if a defendant is able to prove they were mentally incapacitated at the time of committing the offence, they may not be sentenced.

The offences mentioned in these laws, and the procedures relating to those offences must be reviewed by the Majlis and a decision on the annulment of these Acts must be made before July 15, 2016.

Because of all the reasons outlined above, the enforcement of the new penal code is truly a historic event. It opens doors for the Maldivian criminal justice system to become a globally accepted system.

Human beings wrote the penal code. Therefore, it is likely to have some flaws. They will become clearer as we begin to enforce the new law. These flaws can be corrected and the law can be improved further. In all countries, it takes some time to reform and improve laws. Our task now is to identify such gaps and block them. The Attorney General’s Office has set up a mechanism to do so—the Legal Resource Center (LRC). This center will consult with all stakeholders, conduct research and bring the necessary reforms to this law.

The legal system is not just dependent on good laws, but also on their enforcement. If we are unable to implement and enforce the law, even the most perfect law will not bring resolutions. I call on the law enforcement agencies to be sincere in enforcing this law, even if there are some difficulties at first. When problems arise, we must resolve them. The real problem is when there is no interest in solving problems.

Shameem is a consultant with the Legal Resource Center. 

This is a translation of an article written in Dhivehi. Translation by Zaheena Rasheed. 

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


JSC lawyer election scheduled for October 30

An election for a lawyer to represent the legal community on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) watchdog body has been scheduled for October 30, the Attorney General’s (AG) Office announced on Thursday (October 2).

Interested candidates were invited to submit applications before October 16.

In mid-August, the AG Office postponed the election for a second time after the Supreme Court struck down section 11(a) of the regulations enacted for conducting the polls, which states that polling mechanisms would be established on inhabited islands with at least five registered voters.

The apex court had declared that all licensed lawyers eligible to vote in the elections – including magistrates of island courts – should be able to do so anywhere in the country without registering.

The order prompted the AG Office to repeal the procedural regulations as the “essence” of the annulled clause was assuring “secrecy of the ballot”.

The AG Office said last week that new regulations (Dhivehi) have since been formulated in line with the Supreme Court order (Dhivehi). Lawyers and magistrates in other islands would be able to vote via fax from a polling station arranged by the AG Office.

Once the faxed ballot paper with the name, signature and fingerprint of the voter is received by the AG Office, an election official at the office would omit the section with the name and cast the ballot into a ballot box in Malé.

The election was first delayed in July after Gaaf Dhaal Fiyori Magistrate Abdul Razzak Mohamed filed a case at the Civil Court seeking annulment of section 11(a) of the procedural regulations.

After issuing a stay order postponing the election pending a judgment, the Civil Court ruled in late July that annulling the requirement would violate the secrecy of the ballot.

Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain noted that allowing voting mechanisms on islands where only one lawyer casts a ballot would compromise secrecy.

Along with former Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem, the three other candidates that have been stood for the election were Anas Abdul Sattar, Mohamed Faisal, and Latheefa Qasim.

After withdrawing his candidacy, lawyer Mohamed Fareed objected to judicial interference in the election following an earlier Supreme Court’s ruling allowing all licensed lawyers, including sitting MPs and judges, to vote in the election.

“The belief that an election in the Maldives may proceed without Supreme Court interference is against the facts, reality. This is the reality now,” he said at a press conference.

Had voting mechanisms been set up on every island, magistrates would have been forced to vote for the judiciary-backed candidate Latheefa Qasim, he suggested.


Termination of misappropriated state funds investigation cost government MVR66 million

The termination of an agreement to investigate the alleged misappropriation of state funds by the regime of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom cost the government MVR66.17 million (US$4.2 million), a special audit report of the defunct presidential commission has revealed.

The report released last month explained that UK-based firm Grant Thornton dissolved the ‘asset tracing, recovery and repatriation’ agreement on April 30, 2012, after the Attorney General’s (AG) Office failed to respond to eight emails seeking instructions on how to proceed following the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012.

The report noted that a settlement agreement was reached following a mediation process in March 2013 for the government to pay the forensic accountancy firm MVR64.61 million (US$4.1 million).

The government also paid MVR1.56 million (US$101,167) for legal counsel – to Eversheds LLP – employed for the arbitration process.

Following full payment of the settlement claim, the report revealed that Grant Thornton handed over all documents and information related to its investigation as well as minutes of meetings and expert findings on November 13, 2013.

The AG’s Office shared the documents with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

“As the agreement was brought to an end before Grant Thornton’s investigation was fully concluded and because the presidential commission’s investigations had noted a number of cases of suspected corruption and embezzlement when its work came to a halt, this office believes that the investigations should be completed,” the audit report stated.

The Auditor General’s Office recommended the ACC conclude the investigations commenced by Grant Thornton.

Oil trade

Former President Mohamed Nasheed formed the presidential commission in May 2009 to investigate alleged corruption during his predecessor’s 30-year reign.

The audit report noted that the commission’s investigations were mainly conducted through Grant Thornton, which included the alleged illegal oil trade involving the State Trading Organisation’s (STO) Singapore branch, the 2007 audit report of the Bank of Maldives, and asset tracing of senior government officials.

Nasheed’s vice-president, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, dissolved the presidential commission shortly after assuming office on February 7, 2012.

A week before the transfer of power, the presidential commission forwarded for prosecution a case against then-opposition MP Abdulla Yameen for his involvement in the alleged oil trade during his time as chairman of the STO.

The allegations first appeared in February 2011 in India’s The Week magazine, which described Yameen as “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through STO’s branch in Singapore and sell it through a joint venture called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black market premium price.

The article drew heavily on an investigation report by Grant Thornton, which obtained three hard drives containing financial information detailing transactions from 2002 to 2008.

Investigators learned that Mocom Trading was set up in February 2004 as a joint venture between STO Singapore and a Malaysian company called ‘Mocom Corporation Sdn Bhd’, with a potentially lucrative deal of selling oil to Myanmar and an authorised capital of US$1 million, it acted as a front for an international money laundering racket.

The presidential commission sought criminal charges against Yameen and two other shareholders of STO Singapore – former Managing Director of STO Mohamed Manik and former Managing Director of STO Singapore Ahmed Muneez – and asked the AG’s Office to pursue civil compensation suits.

Yameen has dismissed the allegations on several occasions and disputed the illegality of the oil trade.

“It’s perfectly legitimate. I was a perfectly clean minister while in Gayoom’s cabinet. They have nothing on me,” he told Minivan News in February 2011.

Moreover, grilled by parliament’s national security committee in November 2011, he denied any involvement in “micro-management” of STO subsidiary companies. Upon assuming office in November, President Yameen called on the ACC to investigate the allegations.

Presidential commission audit

The audit report noted that the commission tasked Grant Thornton with investigating the finances of 12 associates and relatives of former President Gayoom.

If the amount of funds or assets recovered by Grant Thornton reached £1.5 million after deducting investigating costs, the government agreed to pay 25 percent as a fee and 35 percent if the figure exceeded £1.5 million.

In July 2010, the agreement with Grant Thornton was transferred from the audit office to the AG’s Office, the report noted.

Under revised terms of the agreement, the government agreed to pay Grant Thornton 2.5 times the cost of investigation if the agreement was terminated. Additionally, consultancy fees and rates were also raised.

Auditors calculated that the government had to pay MVR20.3 million (US$1.3 million) as a result of the modification.

Among other issues highlighted in the report, the audit office noted that the commission’s expenses were not monitored either by the President’s Office or other state institutions.

Moreover, emailed invoices and bills from Grant Thornton were paid without supporting documents, the report noted.

From May 2009 t0 February 2012, auditors found that the commission spent MVR36.02 million (US$2.3 million) for its investigations.


Attorney General’s Office postpones JSC lawyer election following Supreme Court order

The Attorney General’s (AG) Office has postponed an election for a lawyer to represent the legal community on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) following a Supreme Court order.

The AG office announced the postponement on Thursday night (August 14) after the Supreme Court struck down section 11(a) of the regulations enacted for conducting the polls, which states that polling mechanisms would be established on inhabited islands with at least five registered voters.

The Supreme Court issued an order (Dhivehi) on Thursday afternoon annulling the clause and declared that all licensed lawyers eligible to vote in the elections – including magistrates of island courts – should be able to do so anywhere in the country without registering.

Following the apex court order, the AG office explained in a press statement that it has repealed the procedural regulations as the “essence” of the annulled clause was ensuring “secrecy of the ballot”, which could not be assured after it was struck down.

The election had been scheduled for August 21. The AG office said it would announce a new polling date later.

The election had previously been delayed after Gaaf Dhaal Fiyori Magistrate Abdul Razzak Mohamed filed a case at the Civil Court seeking annulment of section 11(a).

After issuing a stay order postponing the election pending a judgment, the Civil Court ruled in late July that annulling the requirement would violate the secrecy of the ballot.

Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain noted that allowing voting mechanisms on islands where only one lawyer casts a ballot would compromise secrecy.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, former Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem – among the four candidates for the seat – welcomed the Civil Court verdict.

“The verdict yesterday proves the Fiyori magistrate had no case. He has caused an undue delay to the process. An election involves the rights of a group of people, not just one individual. I hope the courts consider this in the future and that there are no more delays,” he said.

In addition to Shameem, the other candidates are Anas Abdul Sattar, Mohamed Faisal, and Latheefa Qasim.

Lawyer Mohamed Fareed, however, withdrew his candidacy on July 10, expressing concern over judicial interference in the election following the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing all licensed lawyers, including sitting MPs and judges, to vote in the election.

“The belief that an election in the Maldives may proceed without Supreme Court interference is against the facts, reality. This is the reality now,” he said at a press conference.

Had voting mechanisms been set up on every island, magistrates would have been forced to vote for the judiciary-backed candidate Latheefa Qasim, he suggested.

Latheefa is a public relations staff at the Department of Judicial Administration and had served on the JSC for a year as former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s appointee to the commission.

Former Attorney General Husnu Suood meanwhile accused the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives of attempting to fix the composition of the new JSC.

Although he was skeptical of reform through the commission, Suood urged lawyers to back Shameem in order to ensure transparency within the JSC.

“If there is a single effective candidate, I believe they can give us information and work to make the JSC more transparent. There is a huge difference between one person being there and none being there,” he said.

In July, parliament voted for PPM MP Ibrahim Riza to represent the People’s Majlis on JSC.


All licensed lawyers, including judges and MPs, can vote to elect JSC lawyer, rules Supreme Court

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Any individual with a lawyer license, including judges and MPs, will be allowed to vote in electing a lawyer to the ten member judicial oversight body, the Supreme Court has ruled on Monday.

The order voids a clause in new regulations compiled by the Attorney General’s office which prohibits judges and parliamentarians from participating in the vote to elect a lawyer to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

The JSC is comprised of the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, a Supreme Court judge elected by the bench, a High Court judge elected by the judges of the High Court, a judge of the lower courts elected by the judges of the lower courts, an MP elected by the MPs, a member of the public appointed by the Majlis, a presidential appointee, the Attorney General, President of the Civil Service Commission and a lawyer elected from the licensed lawyers.

The order – signed by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain – said lawyers do not lose their license despite serving in other professions. It further noted that the High Court had rescinded a Civil Court order of 2009 which prohibited judges from voting in the lawyer election.

Faiz advised against discrimination between licensed lawyers based on their profession, and ordered the state authorities to ensure all lawyers, regardless of their current positions, are able to vote in the election.

Speaking to Minivan News, lawyer Husnu Suood said the ruling compromised the independence of the legal profession.

“I feel that allowing judges to vote in the election of a member representing legal profession in JSC compromises the independence of the legal profession. It is high time that we expedite the enactment of the much awaited legal professional Act to ensure independence of the legal profession,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hassan Latheef said the Supreme Court’s ruling was “wrong” and appears to be an attempt to limit the space for lawyers to advocate on their behalf.

The lawyer slot must be occupied by a practicing lawyer, Latheef said pointing out that judges are not allowed to practice despite having licenses. Further, judges from the Supreme Court, High Court and lower courts already have designated slots in the JSC, he added.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s office has extended the application deadline – set to expire at 2 pm today – to Monday (June 30).

Latheef said the extension may allow judges or MPs to apply for the lawyer slot.

“If they can vote, they probably can stand for the position? This undermines the spirit of the whole election,” he said.

The election is currently scheduled for July 13.

Minivan News was unable to contact AG Mohamed Anil at the time of press.

At present, AG office lawyer Ahmed Rasheed represents the lawyer community on the JSC.

The four lawyers who have applied for the position are former deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem, Mohamed Fareed, Anas Abdul Sattar and Mohamed Faisal.


Bill on construction and infrastructure development released for public comments

The Attorney General’s Office has released the draft bill on construction and infrastructure development for public comments on Thursday, 19 June.

Interested persons are required to submit comments in writing by July 6, according to an announcement on the AG Office website.

A copy of the bill, consisting of a 102 articles, is currently available on the website.


Bar Association expresses concern with AG office ceasing issuance of law licences

The Bar Association of Maldives has expressed concern with the Attorney General’s (AG) office indefinitely suspending issuance of licenses to practice law in December last year.

In a press statement today, the Bar Association noted that a number of newly graduated lawyers have since been awaiting licenses from the AG office.

The new graduates were “facing financial and professional losses” as a result of the delay, the Bar Association stated.

The AG office announced on December 17 that it was ceasing the issuance of licenses pending amendments to regulations governing the legal profession.

The office would resume issuing licenses once the amended regulations take effect, the announcement stated.

An official from the AG office told Minivan News today that the amendment or review process was still ongoing, adding that it was difficult to estimate a time for completion.

The Bar Association stated in its press release that it accepted that the regulations were “in need of reform”.

“And this association believes that the solution to this would be the submission of the legal profession bill to the People’s Majlis and its passage into law as soon as possible,” the statement read.

Pending the enactment of a law governing the legal profession, the Bar Association recommended that the AG office resume issuing licenses after amending the regulations in accordance with the draft legislation on the legal profession.

The draft legislation was formulated by the association and shared with the AG office.

Legal lacuna

A bill on the legal profession is included in the government’s legislative agenda (Dhivehi), to be submitted during the second session of the People’s Majlis for 2014.

In the absence of a law governing the legal profession when the new constitution was adopted in August 2008, parliament passed a General Regulations Act as parent legislation for over 80 regulations without a statutory basis, including the regulation governing lawyers.

Article 271 of the constitution states, “Regulations derive their authority from laws passed by the People’s Majlis pursuant to which they are enacted and are enforceable pursuant to such lawful authority. Any regulations requiring compliance by citizens must only be enacted pursuant to authority granted by a law enacted by the People’s Majlis.”

The parent act prolonged the lifespan of the regulations – which did not derive authority from an act of parliament – until new legislation could be passed. Parliament has since been extending the regulations for one year periods.

The last extension was approved in April 2013 with the next extension due in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, in a comprehensive report on the Maldivian justice system released in May 2013, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, expressed concern “about the absence of an independent self-regulating bar association or council that oversees the process of admitting candidates to the legal profession, provides for a uniform code of ethics and conduct, and enforces disciplinary measures, including disbarment.”

The AG office being the authority who regulated the legal profession was “contrary to the basic principles on the role of lawyers,” she wrote.

Powers to issue licenses to practice laws as well as enforce disciplinary measures should not rest with the executive, Knaul advised.

She recommended that parliament “should pass comprehensive supporting legislation for the legal profession,” which should be drafted following “comprehensive and substantive consultations with lawyers and should be in line with international principles.”

“The Special Rapporteur believes that the current draft bill on the legal profession needs a lot of revision as it centres on the creation of a Bar Council and neglects other necessary aspects, such as examination procedures to get a licence to practice and continuing education and training,” read the recommendations.

Moreover, Knaul recommended that a “self-regulating independent bar association or council should be urgently established to oversee the process of admitting candidates to the legal profession, provide for a uniform code of ethics and conduct, and enforce disciplinary measures, including disbarment.”

“The Bar Association should, as a matter of priority and in accordance with international standards and norms, develop a code of ethics applicable to all lawyers, which it should vigorously and coherently implement and enforce.”


AG’s Office announces hundred day roadmap

Halfway through the first hundred-days of President Abdulla Yameen’s government, the Attorney General’s Office has announced its ‘hundred day objectives’, joining various other state institutions that have announced such plans within the past fifty days.

The AG Office’s ‘hundred-days plan’ consist of seven objectives, including the providence of legal assistance to institutions in achieving their hundred-day goals. Three separate ‘five-year road maps’ targeting to ‘strengthen’ the civil justice system, the criminal justice system and the constitutional, legal and judicial system is to be formulated within the first hundred-days of the new administration.

In addition to this, the legislative agenda of the new government – listing the bills to be introduced by the government – and the strategic plan of the AG’s Office for the next five years will also be ready within this period, according to the roadmap revealed yesterday.

The AG’s Office also plans to prepare for awareness and training programs to be carried out with the implementation of the new penal code.

Other institutions that have announced hundred-day plans include the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, the Maldives Police Services, Maldives Customs Service, Maldives National Defense Force, the Ministry of Environment and Energy and the Ministry of Education.

The hundredth day of President Yameen’s government will be 26 February 2014.