Police cleared of wrongdoing in manhandling ex-president

The police watchdog has determined that police officers used proportionate force and acted legally when they escorted former President Mohamed Nasheed to the criminal court on February 23.

Nasheed appeared for the first hearing of his terrorism trial with his arms in a makeshift sling. Police officers had manhandled and dragged the opposition leader inside the court building when he stopped to speak with journalists.

However, citing testimony from police officers and video footage obtained for its inquiry, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) said “Nasheed stopped near the gate of the justice building and refused police orders to go into the building.”

Minivan News journalists saw Nasheed repeatedly asking the the police to let him walk into the court, but police officers dragged him in by force, ripping his shirt open in the process.

The PIC launched an inquiry after the former president submitted a complaint alleging police brutality.

Nasheed was subsequently sentenced to 13 years in prison over terrorism charges related to the detention of a judge during his tenure. Foreign governments, the UN, and international human rights organisations widely criticised the 19-day trial over its apparent lack of due process.

The PIC said in a press statement today that police officers acted in accordance with regulations and used “force necessary in the situation.”

The office of former President Nasheed has slammed the PIC’s statement, noting that the oversight body had not sought statements from Nasheed or journalists who witnessed the incident.

Nasheed’s office accused the commission of defending police for political reasons, calling on the watchdog to act independently and to conduct impartial investigations into complaints of police misconduct.

Meanwhile, Nasheed was brought to the Malé from Maafushi prison this afternoon for a doctor’s appointment at the Senahiya military hospital.


“He was brought for medical examination several days after doctors in Maafushi Health Centre recommended for him to be examined by medical specialists,” read a separate statement from Nasheed’s office.

Doctors at the health centre had recommended on May 7 that Nasheed should have an MRI and consult a dentist, but the authorities had denied requests from his family and lawyers to provide medical care, the statement added.

The former president’s office noted that “Senahiya is not a tertiary hospital and the authorities have not given any reason why he is being treated at a health clinic and not a well equipped hospital in the Maldives.”

Hundreds of supporters gathered near the Senehiya hospital this afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the former president who has not been seen since he was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13.

Police arrested Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla’s husband Ahmed Shahid (Saabe) near the hospital for allegedly disobeying orders. He was released by the court within hours.


Five police brutality cases from February 2012 ongoing at court, AG tells Majlis

Five cases involving four police officers accused of committing acts of brutality in February 2012 are ongoing at the Criminal Court, Attorney General Mohamed Anil informed parliament today.

At minister’s question time, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla asked how far investigations into police brutality – as recommended by the 2012 Commission of National Inquiry’s (CoNI) – had progressed.

With respect to the administration of justice, in particular concerning allegations of police brutality and acts of intimidation, there is an urgent need for investigations to proceed and to be brought to public knowledge with perpetrators held to account and appropriately sanctioned,” read the second recommendation of the report.

While it concluded that the transfer of presidential power was constitutional, CoNI had found that “there were acts of police brutality on 6, 7 and 8 February 2012 that must be investigated and pursued further by the relevant authorities.”

Anil explained that the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) had investigated 45 cases of alleged police brutality and made a recommendation to the home ministry to dismiss six police officers.

After the ministry instructed police to take disciplinary action against the officers, the police disciplinary board investigated the cases and sacked one officer.

However, the disciplinary board decided there was insufficient evidence to prove wrongdoing by the other five officers and decided not to dismiss them pending the outcome of a trial.

Four of the accused officers were nonetheless removed from “front line” duty and transferred to different departments, noted the attorney general.

The PIC had also submitted cases involving six police officers to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office to press assault charges, he continued.

Of the cases filed at the Criminal Court by the PG’s Office, Anil said one case had been concluded and has since been appealed at the High Court.

Moreover, he added, cases involving three other officers were sent back to the PIC due to incomplete information with instructions for resubmission.

The PG’s Office also decided not to prosecute three police officers accused of obeying “unlawful orders,” Anil noted.

Of the 45 cases investigated by the PIC, the attorney general explained that the commission decided there was no evidence concerning 14 complaints, while there was insufficient evidence to identify the officers responsible for 11 acts of brutality.

The remaining cases involved procedural violations, he added, concerning which the PIC recommended strengthening institutional mechanisms.

Following the recommendation to the home ministry, Anil said efforts were undertaken to familiarise police officers with laws and regulations as well as to strengthen ethical training, while further courses were formulated and conducted.

Police brutality

On February 8, 2012, thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé in a protest march after former President Mohamed Nasheed declared his resignation the previous day had come “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying police officers of the Special Operations (SO).

Following an investigation, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concluded that the heavy-handed police crackdown on the MDP walk was “brutal” and “without warning.”

The HRCM recommended investigations by the PIC into the “disproportionate” use of force that left dozens of demonstrators injured and hospitalised.

In May 2013, the PG’s Office pressed charges against two police officers accused of assaulting MDP MPs ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and Mariya Ahmed Didi during the violent crackdown.

Amnesty International meanwhile warned that failure to prosecute police officers accused of human rights abuses and “serious failings in the justice system entrenched impunity”.

In June 2013, former PIC member Hala Hameed told parliament’s government oversight committee that the cases involving the six police officers were “not disciplinary issues, but crimes,” expressing concern with the home minister’s refusal to suspend the officers.

Moreover, former PIC Chair Shahinda Ismail told Minivan News in September 2012 that a staff sergeant caught on tape kicking a fallen demonstrator “was promoted after this incident.”

In February this year, Shahinda told Minivan News that detainees arrested in Addu City on February 9 were “forced to walk on smoldering coals”.

According to the HRCM report, 32 people filed complaints concerning varying degrees of injuries sustained in the crackdown, while 20 people submitted medical documents of their treatment of injuries.

Two fingers on the left hand of one demonstrator were crushed, the report noted.

Al Jazeera filmed parts of the crackdown, reporting that “police and military charged, beating demonstrators as they ran – women, the elderly, [with] dozens left nursing their wounds”. The BBC meanwhile reported “a baton charge by police on crowds gathered outside one of the main hospitals.”

In a report in May 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul warned that there could be more instability and unrest unless serious human rights violations of Maldives’ authoritarian past are addressed.


Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed presides over second hearing in Shiyam trial

Chief Judge Abdula Mohamed has today presided over the hearing of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam, after taking over the case last week.

Abdula Mohamed responded to the points taken by MP Shiyam’s attorneys, who said they had no witnesses that they would like to call after the prosecution had produced five witnesses, including the officer who detected the bottle and other customs officials, reported Haveeru.

Abdulla took over Shiyam’s alcohol-smuggling trial after the defendant had requested the change – suggesting that Judge Aziz’s “hand gestures and facial expressions” had indicated a personal grudge against him in the first hearing.

Shiyam was charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol in March 2012 after customs officers at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) discovered a bottle of alcohol in his luggage.

Prior to the recent change, the trial has experienced multiple delays, with today’s hearing only the second to be completed.


Man arrested after trying to escape from courtroom window

A man who was taken to Criminal Court for a hearing to extend his detainment period has been arrested on Saturday (March 29) after he tried to escape by jumping out of a second floor window.

Local media outlet Haveeru reported that the Criminal Court identified the man as Hassan Nashid from Gaafu Alif atoll Dhevvadhoo. He was a suspect in a drug-related case, according to the court.

The man reportedly tried to escape after the court had extended his custody by five days. After jumping out the window, the man landed near the vehicle in which he was brought in, and was immediately apprehended by the police who were standing nearby.

According to Haveeru, police said that the man is now under their custody, but declined to comment on the injuries he had sustained from jumping through the window.


Broadcasting Commission cannot regulate way in which Supreme Court is addressed

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has told the Supreme Court that asking media to write the names of persons in a specific way is against international best practice.

The commission’s letter was sent to the Supreme Court on Sunday (March 16) in response to a court request for MBC to enforce strict rules on how Supreme Court judges must be addressed in the media.

It was also pointed out to the court that the commission is mandated with regulating broadcast media alone.

MBC claims to have received a letter suggesting that the court’s justices were being addressed in ways other than how they should be, requesting that the commission inform all media outlets on the appropriate manner in which to write the names of the Supreme Court bench.

An official at MBC told Minivan News that the letter stipulated the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz’s was to be preceded by the title ‘Chief Justice of the Maldives Honorable Al Ustaz’, the title ‘Justice Honorable Dr’ should be used for Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi, and ‘Justice Honorable Al Ustaz’ for the rest of the bench.

MBC’s reply to the court – signed by the commission President Mohamed Shaheeb – stated that it was not within the commission’s mandate to dictate the content of any station, and that broadcasters were free to work in accordance to their own editorial guidelines in such matters.

The commission highlighted that it does only what is mandated by the Broadcasting Act and regulations, and that it ensures that all licensed broadcasters abide by the code of conduct formulated by the commission.

The Maldives Media Council – established under the Maldives Media Council Act – is mandated with establishing and maintaining a code of conduct for journalists in the country. Minivan News has learned that the council has yet to be approached by court on this matter.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Journalists Association President Ahmed ‘Hirigaa’ Zahir has said that the association is also of the view that journalists should not be forced to use names of anyone in a specific way.

“Anyone can request the media to use write their name how they want it to be written. But it should not be a requirement. Media reports in simple language,” said Zahir.

“While members of parliament are addressed as ‘honorable member’ in the parliament or justices are addressed in a specific way within the courtroom, it does not have to be the case in reporting or speaking in general public.”


MDP asked for cancellation of Nasheed trial: Adheeb

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) deputy leader and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb has said the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) asked for cancellation of criminal charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed in exchange for MDP endorsing cabinet ministers.

Nasheed has been charged with the unlawful arrest of a Criminal Court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed. The case is still pending.

MDP International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has dismissed Adheeb’s claims, terming them “nothing but blatant lies”.

Adeeb alleged that the MDP had raised Nasheed’s personal interest over national interest in discussions held between the two political parties ahead of the parliamentary vote to endorse cabinet ministers.

The People’s Majlis voted to endorse President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s cabinet yesterday. Six MDP members voted against a three whip line in endorsing eight ministers who MDP had rejected claiming they are ministers of “the coup government.”

Describing Nasheed as a man who “raised self-interest above all with no consideration towards national good”, Adeeb claimed that MDP had “reverted back to it’s old manners”.

“Instead of that exemplary behaviour, what we saw was that the party wants to revert back to its old manners and return to the past. Every time we tried to sit down with MDP and talk about endorsing our government’s ministers, they set the condition that we must recall the case against Nasheed. But we are not a government who will form commission upon commission and engage in digging up people’s past,” Adeeb said in a press briefing on Monday.

“Despite some MDP parliamentarians failing to work responsibly, the brave decision to vote in favour by some among those MPs who have deep-rooted love for the nation made it possible for all our ministers to become endorsed,” Adeeb stated.

“While I won’t accuse all of them, some among MDP attempted to inhibit the development we are trying to bring to this country, and to decrease investor confidence. However, the parliament vote has demonstrated the fact that our party is going steadily forward. That we will bring about the development that the citizens yearn for,” he stated.

Prior to Monday’s vote, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali had also expressed confidence that the ministers will receive sufficient votes from the parliament, saying at the time that “the government has a very good understanding with the leadership of MDP.”

He added then that the MDP had “put forward a number of suggestions”, but refused to reveal details of the discussion.

“Blatant lies”: MDP

MDP has meanwhile dismissed Adeeb’s allegations as “blatant lies”.

“Adeeb’s comments are nothing but blatant lies. To my knowledge, no one from this party has brought up some a topic or condition with any other person ever. We have set no conditions in discussions about ministers endorsement,” the party’s International Spokesperson Hamid told Minivan News today.

Hamid added that there has been “no formal negotiation between the parties, although there have been unofficial discussions between politicians from over the political spectrum”.

“Over a 1000 regular members of MDP have been placed in detention after the coup d’etat of February 2012, with a wide range of fabricated charges raised against them. I have heard of discussions about this matter between politicians of various parties. MDP does have an expectation that these people must be freed and allowed to return to their normal lives now that there is an elected government in place. They have done no wrong, and the charges against them were fabricated after they were arrested for exercising their right to demonstrate,” Hamid explained.

Former President Nasheed has also dismissed Adeeb’s allegations as false.

“To my knowledge, no such conditions were put forward. This is clear even from MDP parliamentary group’s whipline in the vote,” he is quoted as saying in local media Haveeru.

In Monday’s parliamentary vote to endorse ministers, MDP had enforced a three line whip against voting for 8 of the 15 cabinet ministers, while a free whip had been released in voting for the remaining 7.

A number of parliamentarians had breached the party’s whipline, resulting in the endorsement of all cabinet ministers. One of these members – Mohamed Rasheed – has since joined ruling party PPM.

The MDP leadership has announced that it will reveal the form of action to be taken against those who voted against the whipline after further investigation of the matter.


Comment: Maldives’ judiciary an impediment to democratic consolidation

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

In September 2003, 30-year dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom declared a state of emergency after the dictatorships guards killed an inmate named Evan Naseem in Maafushi jail. Security services on duty resorted to the use of firearms to defuse the revolt, killing three others and injuring 17.

The riots that erupted forced Gayoom to initiate a reform agenda. The security forces and the judiciary came to the forefront of the discourse on democratic transition. The constitutional assembly, which proposed democratic restructuring of the system of governance and the report published by legal expert Professor Paul Robinson in 2004, highlighted these reforms needed for the criminal justice system. Professor Robinson concluded that “the reforms needed [for the Maldivian judiciary] are wide-ranging, and that without dramatic change the system and its public reputation are likely to deteriorate further.”

The Constitution ratified in August 2008, which paved way for the first democratic elections won by Mohamed Nasheed in October that year, consisted of a mechanism to re-appoint sitting judges during the interim period from August 2008 to 2010 and ensure judicial independence for the first time in Maldives’ history.

During the interim period, in accordance with sub-article (b) of Article 285 of the Constitution, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was mandated to ascertain whether all sitting judges possess mandatory characteristics and standards prescribed under Article 149. Aishath Velezinee, former JSC member appointed by Nasheed, who publicly spoke out about JSC’s failures, claims that judges appointed during Gayoom’s regime secured their positions on the bench through a “Failed Silent Coup” in 2010 which subverted the Constitutional processes to re-appoint judges. In January 2011, her criticism of the manipulation of the Constitution by judicial actors made her the victim of a knife attack.

The interim Supreme Court judges, who were also subject to Article 285, wrote to the Nasheed administration as early as June 2010, declaring that they would permanently remain on the bench. Velezinee recalled the appointments to the Supreme Court as a “grave blunder.” The JSC defied Article 285, declaring it “symbolic” and swore-in all sitting judges, securing their tenure for life. A report published by the International Commission of Jurists in February 2011, also raises concerns about “the politicisation of the judicial vetting process.”

Coup to undo democratic gains

The first democratically elected government of Nasheed was forcefully brought to an end on 7 February 2012 by a televised coup d’état, led by loyalists of dictator Gayoom’s regime, and facilitated by Nasheed’s deputy Mohamed Waheed. The international community was quick to recognise the post-coup government headed by Waheed. A Commission of National Inquiry [CoNI] backed by the Commonwealth declared the chaotic transfer of power “lawful”.

The CoNI report published at the end of August 2012 was heavily criticised by the MDP, and with good reason, claiming that the inquiry selectively ignored evidence that did not fit its contrived conclusion.

International legal experts also echoed MDP’s concerns with regard to the report. The MDP, however, accepted the report with reservations as it acknowledged police brutality on 6, 7, and 8 February 2012. To date its recommendations regarding police brutality have not been implemented, resulting in impunity for Special Operations officers who were involved in the violent crackdown in early February 2012.

During the onset of the political turmoil, MDP maintained that elections should be held that same year, without letting the post-coup regime “entrench itself.” International community supported calls for an early election in 2012, although Waheed’s administration stated that “earliest an election could be held under the Maldivian constitution was July 2013.”

In July 2012, MDP’s presidential candidate Nasheed was prosecuted for the arrest of chief judge of the Criminal Court, whom the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) failed to take any action against despite his prior criminal record and misconduct in 2011.

Nasheed also faced proceedings against him at the Civil Court over allegations of defamation made against him by dictator-loyalists Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim and Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz who led Nasheeds ouster. Over 20 MDP parliamentarians and some 800 active members and supporters were also subjected to various politically motivated criminal proceedings against them. In hindsight, the period leading up to elections was used by the post-coup regime to create shock and awe among the electorate, characterised by manufactured incidents and political persecution of MDP supporters in order to dissuade them from taking part in political activity and deflect attention away from the disputed legitimacy of the regime.

The juridical system continues to act as the means by which the regime achieves these ends under a democratic façade. Without a constitutional mandate to regulate lawyers, the Supreme Court issued a resolution for all practicing lawyers and prosecutors in April 2012. The resolution restricted lawyers’ freedom of expression, ordering that lawyers shall not discuss or criticise judicial proceedings or judges.

Lawyers were pressured to sign the resolution since the courts refused right of audience to those who didn’t. Ahmed Abdul Afeef who was part of Nasheed’s legal team was not able to represent him in court since he had protested the resolution and remained without signing it.

The muzzling of lawyers didn’t end there; Abdullah Haseen who represents a huge number of pro-democracy protestors was suspended for appearing on a TV show on Raajje TV disseminating information of the law.  Although there is no legislation that prohibits sketching inside the courthouse, a lawyer named Shafaz Wajeeh was fined by the Supreme Court for his sketch. Lawyer and MDP parliamentarian Imthiyaz Fahmy is currently being prosecuted for contempt of court due to remarks he has made against the judiciary, although his comments are in line with international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Nasheeds prosecution further revealed the state of Maldives’ judiciary to the international community. Trial observer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh from Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales noted in her report that the panel of judges in the Hulhumale Magistrates’ Court was “cherry-picked for their likelihood to convict by a highly politicised JSC.”

The 2012 report by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul detailed the crisis Maldives’ criminal justice system is faced with. The report expressed concerns over the “politicised and inadequate” JSC, noting that “the concept of independence of the judiciary has been misconstrued and misinterpreted in the Maldives, including amongst judicial actors” to benefit judges, enabling a culture of unaccountability. The UN Special Rapporteur also questioned legitimacy of the Hulhumale Magistrates’ Court since it contravened the Judicature Act 2010 and was declared invalid by a parliamentary oversight committee in November 2012.

The selective manner in which the JSC has taken disciplinary measures against judges suggests that the judicial watchdog refrains from taking action where it suits its political needs to shield loyalists of the former regime. In 2009, then Chief Judge of the High Court was removed from his position, and the JSC suspended a Civil Court judge for sexual misconduct. In 2013, a Criminal Court judge was suspended for sexually harassing a public prosecutor and Chief Judge of the High Court who was hearing Nasheeds appeals was also suspended.

However, it has not occurred to the JSC to take any form of action against Justice Ali Hameed of the Supreme Court whose scandalous escapade in Colombo with three prostitutes have become public knowledge with leaked video footage of him doing the deed. The Bar Association of Maldives called for the immediate suspension of Justice Hameed back in July 2012. JSC’s inconsistency in penalizing  Justice Hameed is left unscathed so he can sit in the Supreme Court hearing the motions filed by Qasim Ibrahim who has close family ties to Gayoom’s family. It is also worth remembering the motion filed by Gayoom’s half-brother Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom at the Supreme Court.

Ballots to restore democracy

One of many gigantic posters of incumbent Mohamed Waheed put up across Male' ahead of 7 September polls. Waheed got 5%. Photo: Aznym

One of many gigantic posters of incumbent Mohamed Waheed put up across Male’ ahead of 7 September polls. Waheed got 5%. Photo: Aznym

February this year, the Elections Commission of the Maldives (EC) announced the presidential election to be held on 7 September 2013. On 28 July 2013 the EC officially announced the order of the candidates on the ballot paper, after approving the candidacy of all four candidates; Qasim Ibrahim with his Jumhooree Party (JP) and Islamist party Adhaalath (AP) coalition; Dr Waheed, independent, incumbent president, endorsed then, by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP); Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in a coalition with Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA); and Nasheed from Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Foreign and local observers such as the Commonwealth, the European Union, Transparency Maldives, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives declared that the first round of polls were “peaceful and inclusive” with a markedly high voter turnout of 88%. Transparency Maldives, which observed the election across the country, stated “none of the incidents reported on Election Day would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.

The chair of the Commonwealth observer group, former Prime Minister of Malta Dr. Lawrence Gonzi stated, “the vote count at the polling station was highly transparent with media monitors, party observers, and national and international observers able to scrutinize the process closely.”

In accordance with sub-article (a) of Article 111 of the Constitution and sub-article (a) of Article 19 of the Presidential Elections Act 2008, the EC began preparations for the presidential election’s runoff as none of the four candidates secured 50% of the votes; Nasheed had 45%, Waheed an embarrassing 5% and Qasim who had 24% came closely behind Abdul-Gayoom who secured 25%. The third place JP coalition refused to accept the first round of elections, and filed a motion at the Supreme Court requesting annulment of first round of polls. The JP also filed a motion at the High Court, requesting the Court to release the voters’ list.

JP produced three documents as evidence for their motion at the High Court, which indicated three lists of alleged discrepancies in the voters’ registry. Out of the first list that JP claimed consisted of deceased people who appeared on the registry, only seven were found on the original voters’ registry, and five were found to be alive. The other list consisted of allegedly repeated names of eligible voters. The EC’s legal counsel later proved in court that these were not repeated names but in reality different people with different national identification numbers and dates of birth. The third list consisted of people who were on Male Municipality’s Special Register who have mailing addresses registered in the capital. The High Court decided that there was no evidence of fraudulent activity with regard to the motion. However, it allowed supervised viewing of the electoral registry.

Supreme tyranny of the electoral process

Protests near the Supreme Court in Male' as it deliberated JP's case to annul 7 September election Photo: Aznym

Protests near the Supreme Court in Male’ as it deliberated JP’s case to annul 7 September election Photo: Aznym

Article 172 of the Constitution indicates that the High Court has the appellate jurisdiction for electoral motions, while Article 113 states the Supreme Court shall have final jurisdiction over such motions. Regardless, JP filed their motion directly at the apex court. MDP, the Attorney General (AG) and PPM made inter-partes claims to the motion, with PPM supporting JP’s claim and with the AG calling for the Court to order the Prosecutor General and Maldives Police Service (MPS) to investigate the alleged “irregularities” in the electoral registry.

The request by the AG is contrary to electoral laws and the Maldives Constitution, which clearly outlines the forum and mechanism to investigate and adjudicate on disputed results of an election. Sub-article (b) of Article 64 of the Elections Act 2008 states that if electoral laws have been violated, only the EC has the legal authority to initiate criminal proceedings through the Prosecutor General. Article 62 stipulates that the electoral complaints mechanism shall be established by the EC, and if a party is not satisfied with the recourse given by the complaints bureau, he or she may file a case at the High Court in accordance with sub-article (a) of Article 64.

The EC’s lawyer, former AG Husnu Al Suood noted an astounding lack of evidence to back JP’s claims. Suood also claimed that any delay could result in a constitutional void, citing US Supreme Court case Bush v. Al Gore 2000. MDP’s lawyers Hisaan Hussein and Hassan Latheef expressed concern at the lack of substantial evidence to claim electoral fraud, and stated that JP had not submitted complaints to the EC regarding the registry when the EC had publicly requested for complaints with regard to the publicized list of eligible voters.

JP’s lawyer and its presidential candidate Qasim’s running mate Hassan Saeed stated that the JP had thirteen reasons for annulment, reiterating claims made at the High Court. At the proceedings Saeed requested that; the security services oversee a fresh round of elections after nullifying the first round and for the Court to issue an injunction halting the EC’s work to hold the runoff dated 28 September 2013. The AG Azima Shakoor echoed JP’s criticism over the EC, but refrained from vocally supporting an annulment. The international best practice where either a public prosecutor or state attorney does not support actions of a state institution would be to refrain from commenting.

It is of importance to note such procedural irregularities that took place during the proceedings for this extraordinary motion. Despite the case being deemed a constitutional matter by the Supreme Court, and anonymous witnesses whose identities are protected by courts are only very rarely admitted in serious criminal cases, the apex court acted as a court of first-instance, admitting 14 witnesses submitted by JP who gave their testimonies in secrecy. Out of the three witnesses submitted by the EC, only one was admitted.

The AG also withheld certain evidence and this was left unquestioned by the Court. The AG’s office requested to submit a police intelligence report as “confidential” evidence – solely submitted as evidence to the Court’s Bench. The Chief Justice responded on behalf of the Bench, inquiring whether the intelligence report (or at least parts relevant) should be disclosed to the EC since their lawyers requested it. In her response to the Chief Justice, the AG stated that she will not submit the police intelligence report if the contents of the report would be disclosed to the EC.

“Where is my vote?”

Protesters near Supreme Court hold up cartoons making fun of disgraced Justice Ali Hameed Photo: Aznym

Protesters near Supreme Court hold up cartoons making fun of disgraced Justice Ali Hameed Photo: Aznym

At approximately 8:00 pm on 23 September 2013, four justices from the apex court signed and issued a stay order indefinitely postponing the runoff election until the court reaches a verdict. After the issuance of the stay order, the Commonwealth, European Union, Transparency Maldives, Human Rights Commission of Maldives, the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Russia, and India all expressed concern over the postponement of the second round, calling Maldivian authorities to hold the second round according to the timescales stipulated under the Maldivian constitution.

At the proceedings the next day, the Supreme Court ejected and suspended lawyers Suood representing the EC, Hussein and Latheef representing MDP as a third party to the case, claiming that they were in contempt of court for their comments on social media regarding the Court’s stay order. Subsequently the MDP revoked its inter-partes claim to the case, claiming that the Court cannot guarantee the rights of over 95,000 of its supporters.

MDP’s chairperson Moosa Manik sent an open letter to the Chief Justice, criticizing the apex court’s contravention of the Constitution by denying fundamental right of reply and issuing a stay order indefinitely suspending sub-article (a) of Article 111 of the Constitution. The chairperson also called on the Chief Justice to restrain the Court to the “legal ambit of the Constitution” and “uphold Article 8 of the Constitution, which states that all powers of the State shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution.”

After weeks of countrywide protests against indefinite postponement of the runoff election, the four Justices; Abdullah Saeed, Ali Hameed, Adam Mohamed Abdullah and Ahmed Abdullah Didi who infamously legitimised the Hulhumale Magistrates’ Court earlier this year, also issued the stay order halting elections, and on 7 October 2013 decided to annul the first round of elections held on 7 September 2013. Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justices Abdullah Areef and Ahmed Muthasim Adnan gave dissenting judgments, which claimed that the Court has adjudicated based on “inadmissible evidence” which the EC, the respondent in the motion, was not privy to, and questioned the Court’s jurisdiction in accepting the motion prior to the High Court.

The confrontations the judiciary continue to have with the legislature and executive from 2008 to present day is proof that elements within the Maldives’ judiciary is adamant on holding onto the power structures that existed during the former dictator Gayoom’s regime. The dregs of dictatorship continue to impede realisation of democratic governance in Maldives as envisioned in the Constitution.

The final chance to consolidate democracy through universal suffrage is at risk due to justices in the Supreme Court who have assumed supreme powers unto themselves, in order to benefit those politicians who unequivocally support their tenure, and are against overhauling or reforming the judiciary.

Mushfique Mohamed is a former Public Prosecutor and a member of MDP’s Electoral Complaints Committee. He has an LLB & a MScEcon in Post-colonial Politics from Aberystwyth University.

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]


PG assures Election Commission it will be protected

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has today assured the Elections Commission (EC) that it will do all it can to ensure the constitution is upheld after receiving a complaint regarding the behaviour of the security forces.

The PG issued a statement acknowledging receiving the EC’s complaint that the security forces had ‘hijacked’ the EC the evening before the scheduled second round of the presidential election.

In a statement the PG’s office assured the EC that it would take any action necessary to carry out its responsibilities as stated in Article 233(j) and Act Number 9/2008 15(j) to uphold the constitution, laws and rights of the people.

On September 27 when police were surrounding the EC building, commission President Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News “We will not be able to hold elections without support from the police. The police will stop any election preparation activity.”

Thowfeek said the EC members had been met by two officers “to get our assurance the preparation activities have been stopped.”

Special Operations (SO) police surrounded the EC secretariat with orders from Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to take over the building and ballot papers.

The police barricade followed a Supreme Court order calling on the security forces to prevent anyone from disobeying a previous injunction to delay the second round of presidential elections.

The injunction was issued after the the Jumhooree Party (JP) filed a case at the Supreme Court alleging that there were major issues with the voter registration and requesting to cancel the first round of the presidential election and to delay the second round.

On October 8, the Supreme Court annulled the first round of the election and ordered the elections commission to hold the first round again before 20 October.

The EC has announced the re-vote will take place on October 19, leaving voters less than 24 hours to re-register due to the upcoming Eid holidays.

EC member Ogaru Ibrahim Waheed has today resigned, reports local media, though the reasons for his departure are not yet known.

On the evening in question, the police cordoned off the area around the EC and ordered journalists at the scene to leave. One EC official told Minivan News, on condition of anonymity, that staff were not being allowed to enter the building.

The PG’s office said that the case alleged security forces had obstructed the legal duties of an independent commission established under the constitution. It stated that the office was now discussing the matter with the EC.

Shortly after its acknowledgement that conditions were not appropriate for a free and fair polls, the EC filed a report with the police following multiple death threats received by its staff.


Transparency slams parliament, JSC for failure to address challenges to Supreme Court’s integrity

The failure of parliament and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address alleged integrity issues of the Supreme Court judges have “created avenues for political and other actors to question the conduct, injunctions and verdicts of the Supreme Court”, Transparency Maldives has said.

Transparency fielded a team of 400 election monitors during the first round of September 7, stating that the process was fair and credible and that incidents observed on the day would not have had a material impact on the outcome of the election.

The Supreme Court on Monday evening, however, issued an indefinite injunction halting the second round of the presidential election, which had been scheduled for September 28.

The case was filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP), whose presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim narrowly missed a place in the run-off with 24.07 percent of the votes.

Prior to his registration as a presidential candidate Gasim was a member of the JSC, and was responsible for rejecting a recommendation from the JSC’s own subcommittee recommending that Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed be suspended pending an investigation into his leaked sex tapes.

The sex tapes and suspension of the election have resulted in escalating protests targeting the courts, with large pairs of white underpants quickly becoming widely adopted as a protest symbol.

“Expeditious resolution of such allegations and issues is imperative to ease rising tensions in the election environment and prevent the derailment of democratic processes,” said Transparency Maldives in its statement.

“Relevant state institutions, including the Judicial Service Commission and the Parliament of the Maldives must expedite the resolution of these issues and allegations, in a transparent manner free of conflict of interest, to reduce questioning of and allegations of partisan bias in such processes.”

The JSC is headed by Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed, one of the four Supreme Court judges who endorsed the suspension of the election. Despite a recommendation from its subcommittee to suspend Hameed, the JSC rejected taking action against the judge citing “lack of evidence”. Gasim meanwhile publicly dismissed the videos as “fake”.

A meeting of parliament’s Independent Commissions Oversight Committee yesterday was meanwhile been disrupted by government-aligned MPs blowing whistles, shouting and destroying equipment and furniture.

Local media captured video footage of yesterday’s meeting, including Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed vandalising equipment, hurling a chair and threatening cameramen while Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ali Arif and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) MP Ahmed Amir blew on whistles and yelled at parliament staff.

Newspaper Haveeru reported that the three pro-government MPs grabbed documents from administrative staff, impeded journalists and used obscene language.

After microphones and recording equipment were damaged, MDP MPs used their phones to record proceedings, during which MDP MP Ahmed Sameer was elected as chair and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam as deputy chair.

Former chairperson of the committee, Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, resigned from the position this week but choose to remain a member of the oversight committee.

In addition to the Kulhudhufushi South MP, the committee includes Sameer, Ali Waheed, Ahmed Hamza, Ahmed Abdulla and Hamid Abdul Gafoor from the MDP; MPs Abdulla Yameen, Mohamed Mujthaz and Ibrahim Riza from the PPM; MP Rozaina Adam from the DRP; and Riyaz Rasheed from the DQP.

At yesterday’s meeting, the committee also decided to summon members of the JSC sub-committee formed to investigate a sex tape of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed for questioning over delays to concluding their investigation.

Following the resignation of JSC members Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi and President’s Member Latheef Gasim from the sub-committee, the remaining members – JSC members Ahmed Rasheed and lawyers Hussain Shiraj and Mohamed Anil – are to be summoned before the parliamentary committee at 8:30pm tonight.

Haveeru video MPs disrupting September 25 meeting of Parliament’s Independent Commission’s Oversight Committee