PPM parliamentary group leader Nihan criticises US for comments on judiciary

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan has suggested the United States should look closer to home before passing comment on the Maldives’ judiciary.

While speaking at a ceremony in Gaaf Dhaalu Thinadhoo yesterday, Nihan said the majority of the countries issuing statements on the Maldivian judiciary do so without considering their domestic circumstances.

“They are afraid to talk about their own courthouses and the rights of their citizens. For example America, one of the biggest critics, is at the verge of killing black people on sight,” Haveeru has reported Nihan as saying.

“The countries which remain quiet, even as Israel continues to kill off people in the Middle East, Al-Quddus area – they are pointing their fingers at others,” he continued.

Speaking with Minivan News today, the Villimalé MP has suggested his words had been taken out of context by local media, though he defended them as being based upon facts, defending his right to freedom of expression.

Nihan’s comments appeared to refer to two recent incidents in the US in which individuals died at the hands of police officers, prompting nationwide civil rights protests.

During a visit to the Maldives this week US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal said that judicial independence is still an issue in the Maldives, despite the young democracy’s accomplishments.

The comments came just days after the removal of two Supreme Court judges by the People’s Majlis, in a move condemned as unconstitutional by both local and international civil society groups, as well as the Maldives’ Civil Court.

Numerous Commonwealth organisations said the move had “severely jeopardised” the independence of the judiciary, while the International Commission of Jurists said the “astonishingly arbitrary” decision had “effectively decapitated the country’s judiciary”.

Nihan told Minivan News today that there was no reason why the Maldives should act upon “planned and political” statements from European countries either.

The government, and President Yameen in particular, has heavily criticised the EU for what it regards as interference in the internal affairs of the country, suggesting it had prompted the Maldives to look increasingly to China as a development partner.

When asked about the impact of his comments on diplomatic relations, Nihan said that he believed that there should be no impact as Maldives has the right to defend itself from its critics in the international arena.

Meanwhile, a PPM press release on Thursday (December 18) had slammed what it termed attempts to bring the Maldives into disrepute by Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Ibrahim Gasim, who suggested that Maldives was facing international censure over the removal of Supreme Court judges.

“We’re giving a bad signal. [We are] talking about comments made about the Maldives looking at statements from America and the commonwealth,” the business tycoon was quoted as saying in local media.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan were removed following the passage of government-sponsored amendments to the Judicature Act, which proposed reducing the number of judges on the apex court from seven to five.

Following ratification of the amendments by President Abdulla Yameen, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) promptly recommended the dismissal of Faiz and Adnan, which was approved by parliament on December 14 with 53 votes in favour and 21 against.

Related to this story

PPM accuses JP of misleading public, bringing government into disrepute

ICJ says Majlis has “decapitated the country’s judiciary”

Judicial independence still an issue in Maldives, says US assistant secretary of state

Judicial independence, rule of law “severely jeopardised” in the Maldives, says Commonwealth organisations


Maldives’ defence of human rights position before UNHRC to be webcast live

A Maldivian government delegation will stand before the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) at 6:00pm (local time) on Thursday to discuss the current state of national efforts to address human rights and equality issues.

The committee hearing comes as certain local and international NGOs raised criticism over an alleged deterioration in commitments to address national human rights concerns since March 2011.

Representatives of the Waheed administration including Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel , State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dunya Maumoon and the Maldives’ Permanent Representative in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam, will be present during today’s session to discuss human rights in the country.

A number of NGOs, including Redress, the Helios Life Association, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and social services veteran and former State Health Minister Mariya Ali have submitted reports and evidence to the panel, which is to be webcast live.

The broadcast can be viewed live here.

The government of the Maldives responded to the list of issues to be raised during the session today earlier this month.

However, speaking to Minivan News this week, President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said the administration’s key focus at the UNHRC hearing was expected to be countering allegations put forward by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) about alleged police brutality and human rights abuses conducted since it came to power in February.

Abbas added the government would submit its case against what it called grossly “exaggerated” allegations raised by the MDP, which clams to have been removed from office in a “coup d’etat” on February 7.

UK-Maldives All Party Parliamentary Group

Aside from the reports submitted to the UNHRC, a UK-based NGO called Maldives Watch this week provided a report to the UK-Maldives All Party Parliamentary Group outlining what it claims has been a deterioration in human rights commitments despite assurances given in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) back in March 2011.

The report claims that the perceived decline in respect of human rights practices had been largely attributed to a “rising Islamist influence and the return of the former dictatorship.”

Since February’s controversial transfer of power, President Mohamed Waheed has installed a coalition unity government consisting of former opposition groups including the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the Dhivehi Rayithuge Party (DRP) and the Jumhoree Party (JP) amongst others.

The PPM is currently headed by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the former autocratic ruler of the Maldives, who was succeeded by former President Mohamed Nasheed in the country’s first presidential elections in 2008.

The MDP passed a resolution on February 8 contending that the present government was illegitimate.  The party has therefore refused cooperation with the coalition’s work – a position it has continued to back amidst five consecutive days of protests in Male this week that have at times descended into violent clashes with police.

While Waheed’s coalition government includes cabinet positions for several members of former President Gayoom’s family and party, the president on February 17 denied the coalition had restored an autocratic dictatorship to power.

“Anything other than President Mohamed Nasheed’s government is now being painted as the old government, as a return to the old regime. Which is a really misleading way of looking at it,” he stated at the time. “In this country most of us grew up and got education during the last 33 years, and most of the well educated people in this country worked in government. The government was the biggest employer in the country and continues to be so.”

Violation claims

To justify Maldives Watch’s claims about a deterioration of human rights in the Maldives, the report pointed to a number of developments including the adoption under the Nasheed government of Religious Unity regulations it claimed served to violate freedom of expression and right to information.

“The regulations give the Minister for Islamic Affairs arbitrary powers to ensure that only officially sanctioned views on religion can be expressed,” the report claimed.

Maldives Watch also pointed to the condemnation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay following calls she made back in November 2011 to encourage a national debate to ending flogging, a commitment said to have been backed by the Maldives at the UPR.

Criticisms were also made of the December 23 Coalition in Defense of Islam, which included NGOs, former opposition politicians and prominent religious figures.

“The coalition was led by radical Islamists and were joined by all opposition parties, all advocating Islamic supremacist ideas,” the report added.

Concerns were also raised over the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed on January 16 2012 under the Nasheed administration .

The detention, which the the government claimed had been made over concerns about “national security” owing to allegations that Judge Abdulla was involved in perjury and “blatant collusion” with the previous administration, was widely criticised by international bodies at the time.

Other issues raised by Maldives Watch’s report include:

  • The “overthrow” On February 7 2012, of the elected Nasheed government by various members said to be linked to the December 23 Coalition
  • Claims made this year by President Waheed on February 24, May 2, and “several occasions since” from other members of government, warning against dissent and labelling opposition as terrorists
  • A “resurgence of police brutality and growing violations of freedom of assembly freedom of association, and freedom of expression” since the transfer of power
  • Calls made during a series of stalled all-party talks – last held in June – for the opposition MDP to “give up its fundamental rights relating to freedom of expression, association, and assembly”
  • Police and the military “violently” taking over the state broadcaster before former President Nasheed’s resignation on 7 February
  • Allegations that private broadcaster Raajje TV “the only TV station critical of the government” has experienced government interference in obtaining a satellite uplink and harassment of its journalists
  • Perceived bias within the country’s judiciary, which is alleged to be either controlled by the elements of the Gayoom administration “or sympathetic towards the sharia norms espoused by the government”
  • Members of the Country’s Human Rights Commission (HRCM) perceived to be sympathetic to the interests of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom with a relative said to be employed in a key position within the body

The full report submitted to the parliamentary group is available here.