Seminar on new Penal Code commences at Nasandhura Palace Hotel

A two-day seminar to create awareness in the legal community of the new penal code – to be implemented in April of this year – has commenced at Nasandhura Palace hotel Haveeru reports.

The programme, conducted with the assistance of the Commonwealth, will hear lectures from the Commonwealth secretariat’s legal and constitutional affair division’s legal advisor Mark Guthrie, Australian Chief Magistrate Ray Renaud, and UK judge Shameen Quraishee.

Speaking at the ceremony today, Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Didi expressed his joy over the introduction of the new penal code which he described to be a progressive step for the development of the Maldivian criminal justice system. The code was approved in the Majlis last year, four years after first being introduced.

Further, Justice Abdulla Didi thanked the Commonwealth for its continued efforts to aid the development of the Maldivian judiciary, assuring that the Maldivian legal system will maintain a close relationship with the organisation.

According to Haveeru, Maldivian court officials, magistrates, and judges along with other members of the legal community will attend the seminar.

Source: Haveeru


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.”


Criminal Procedure Code to be completed by end of week: MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik

Chair of Parliament’s ’241′ Security Services Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Moosa ‘Reeko’ Manik, has told local newspaper Haveeru that the country’s Criminal Procedure Code will be completed within a week.

“Even if it means meeting twice a day, the Committee members wish to complete the bill on criminal procedure during next week. There is unfinished work in the Parliament over the strengthening of the judicial system. So we are completing the bill on criminal procedure,” he was reported as saying.

Reeko added that representatives of both the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office and the Attorney General’s (AG) office would be assisting the committee with its work in analysing the current draft of the code.

Both Attorney General Azima Shukoor and Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Reeko added that Parliament’s Independent Commissions Committee will also assist efforts to complete the bill, while expertise of other relevant stakeholders would also be sought if deemed necessary.  He was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The amendments follow a number of high profile murders that have taken place in the country this year.

In February 2012, a 21 year old man identified as Abdulla Muheeth was murdered by a gang after that allegedly mistook him for someone else.

On May 30, the body of a 16 year-old boy was discovered by police inside the park behind Kulliyathul Dhirasathul Islamiyya.

The following day, a 65 year-old man identified as Hassan Abubakur was found murdered inside his own house on the island of Manafaru in Noonu Atoll.

A month later, Prominent Lawyer Ahmed Najeeb was found brutally murdered.

On the same month, 26 year-old police officer Lance Corporal Adam Haleem was stabbed to death on Kaashidhoo island in Kaafu Atoll while trying to apprehend a suspected criminal.

The latest high-profile nurder was that of religious scholar and MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The MP, a representative of the government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) was found murdered outside his home after returning home from appearing on the TVM show “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Life) with Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Qubad Aboobakuru.

Following the deaths, parliament was subjected to public criticism and condemnation over claims it had not passed adequate laws to combat fears of growing criminal activity in the country.

However, responding to the criticism, several parliamentarians claimed that they had passed the necessary bills and it was the responsibility of the authorities to execute the passed laws.

The recent murders have given rise to growing calls from the public to implement death penalty under Islamic Sharia.  The government of President Waheed has stated that it is in the process of proposing a bill on death penalty very soon.

Under Islamic Sharia, the death penalty is the punishment of a murderer (one who kills deliberately) and that he is to be killed in retaliation (Qisaas) unless the victim’s next of kin let him off or agree to accept the ‘Diyah’ (blood money).

In April 2012, the PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof proposed an amendment to the Clemency Act (Act no 2/2010) which would make performing the death penalty mandatory in the event it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

His amendment would require the President to enforce any death penalty if the Supreme Court issued the verdict of death, or if the Supreme Court supported the ruling of the death penalty made by either the Criminal Court or the High Court.

The move would halt the current practice of the President commuting such sentences to life imprisonment.

“I believe nobody would want to die. So if the death penalty is enforced, a person who is to commit a murder would clearly know that if he carries out the act, his punishment would be his life. I believe this will deter him from committing such acts,” Mahloof said following the submission of the amendment.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed and later MP Ibrahim Muthalib had also previously submitted similar amendments to the Clemency Act, although both men subsequently withdrew the motions.

Although death sentences are issued by courts in the Maldives, traditionally those sentences a commuted to life imprisonment under the power vested in the President.

From January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by the courts.  None of these sentences have been carried out.

The last person to be executed in the Maldives after receiving a death sentence was in 1953 during the first republican President Mohamed Ameen. Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic.


PG criticises Home Minister, calls for action on police brutality allegations

Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz has criticised Home Minister Ahmed Jameel for “misinforming” the public over the PG office’s performance in a press release unveiled Thursday (March 16).

Muizz, responding to comments made by Jameel,  called on the home minister to himself act upon and investigate allegations of police brutality and other unlawful acts carried out during the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

The statement counters allegations made at a press conference held March 11 in which Jameel called the criminal prosecution system “lazy,” claiming that the PG office was delaying the prosecution of cases relating to arson and vandalism in Addu City on February 8.

Supporters of former president Nasheed are alleged to have destroyed police, court buildings, vehicles and a police training centre on February 8 in Addu in the aftermath of a perceived brutal police crackdown on protesters in Male’.

Muizz said although the police had claimed by February 16 to have filed cases related to widespread violence that occurred on February 8, the PG had only received incomplete documents as of February 21. He pledged he would expedite the February 8 cases, but only after verifying evidence related to them.

“This office is not mandated to prosecute all cases submitted by the Maldives Police Services,” the statement read. “This office will only lay charges once we have independently verified all evidence and if we believe the accused can be convicted.”

In Defence

Responding directly to Home Minister Jameel’s criticisms of the amount of work being carried out by the PG’s office, Muizz claimed that he could only conduct cases within the wider parameters of the criminal justice system.

“Some note an ‘extraordinary delay’ with cases submitted to this office.  But the PG’s office believes the performance of any institution within the criminal justice system must be measured based on the nature of the institution’s work, and in comparison with other offices with which the institution coordinates its mandate with,” Muizz stated.

Jameel had previously said that the delay in prosecution did not lie with the police, but rather with the PG’s office.

However, Muizz noted that of 305 cases the police had filed for prosecution in January and February of 2012, only 97 cases had been investigated and filed within three months of the crime being committed

Of these, only 22 were cases related to offences committed in 2012. In 42 of the 305 cases, the police had taken over a year or more to complete investigations, the statement also noted.

The PG office had also submitted 442 drug-related offenses to the criminal court, and had completed 87 percent of cases filed with the office in 2011.

“Hence, we do not believe our performance is far behind that of other institutions within the criminal justice system,” the statement read. However, many aspects of the criminal justice, including that of the PG office, needed to be strengthened in order to better serve the public, the statement added.

Allegations against Police

“I believe the Home Minister, as one mandated with upholding the constitution and the fundamental rights of the citizens of the Maldives, must act upon allegations of unlawful behaviour said to have been committed by the police between February 6 and 8 through an internal process that the public can trust, but one that does not cause loss of faith in the police,” Muizz said.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed announced his resignation after the military joined a police mutiny on February 7.

The next day, Nasheed alleged the transfer of power had been a coup d’état and led a peaceful march in Malé on February 8.  Police were widely reported to have used tear-gas and excessive force against Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters.

Amnesty International (AI) has issued several statements condemning and documenting police violence in Malé and Addu City on  February 8 and in the weeks following the transfer of power.