Nasheed denied right to fair trial, concludes Bar Human Rights Committee

Former President Mohamed Nasheed was denied the right to a fair trial ahead of his conviction on terrorism charges in March, the UK’s Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) has concluded in its trial observation report.

The BHRC’s findings echo widespread criticism from foreign governments, the UN, and international human rights organisations over the apparent lack of due process in the 19-day trial.

Following its third legal observation mission to the Maldives from February 26 to March 6, the BHRC found that there was “a clear appearance of bias on behalf of two of the three judges, such as to vitiate the fairness of the entire proceedings.”

Two of the three judges presiding over the trial had provided witness statements to the 2012 investigation of the case.

Nasheed was also “deprived, as a self-representing defendant, of adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence,” denied legal representation at the arraignment hearing the day after his arrest, and the criminal court failed to adequately guarantee the right to a public hearing.

The BHRC is an independent body and the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales.

The mission, undertaken by Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, BHRC vice chair and barrister at Matrix Chambers, assessed the trial on compliance with international fair trial standards, in particular Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

On March 13, Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

“Serious concerns also arise regarding the unexplained delay of 15 months post-election in pursing criminal proceedings against Mr Nasheed, the overall speed at which the terrorism trial before the criminal court took place, once the new charges were laid, the limited time given to his defence team to prepare and the refusal by the court to permit defence witnesses to be called,” the report stated.

“In light of the above, Mr Nasheed’s conviction cannot properly be regarded as safe.”

The prosecutor general had withdrawn previous charges of illegal detention against Nasheed in early February and pressed terrorism charges on the day of his arrest (February 22). The surprise trial began the next day.

In several recommendations made to the government, the BHRC called for an investigation of “all serious allegations of violations of due process and fair trial rights through independent and impartial processes and hold to account those found responsible for those violations.”

The committee also recommended reforms to “strengthen the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.”

The BHRC advised the government to adopt a new penal code, evidence code, and criminal procedures law to codify fair trial and due process guarantees in the constitution, and “institute mandatory training in fair trial rights and guarantees, including those arising under the ICCPR, for all judges, at all levels of seniority.”

Following international criticism of Nasheed’s conviction, President Abdulla Yameen had called on all parties to respect the criminal court’s verdict.

Meanwhile, during the Maldives’ Universal Period Review in Geneva on May 6, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon claimed that Nasheed chose not to appeal his 13-year sentence and that due process concerns regarding the trial were procedural and not substantive.

Criticism of Nasheed’s trial had “mainly focused on the process and not the merits,” she said.

But Nasheed’s office contends he was deliberately denied the right to appeal after the criminal court failed to provide necessary documentation within the ten day appeal period specified by the Supreme Court.

Amnesty International had meanwhile called Nasheed conviction a “travesty of justice” while the UN human rights chief said the opposition leader was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial” and noted “flagrant irregularities.”

The UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers noted “serious due process violations” such as denial of the opportunity to present defence witnesses, which led her to believe “the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”


Global change makers demand a fair trial for Nasheed

Global change makers have demanded a fair trial for former President Mohamed Nasheed, imprisoned ahead of a terrorism trial over the 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

An open letter signed by 31 global activists and film makers, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, called on the international community to use all resources to “pressure the government to free” Nasheed and “desist in all human rights abuses against him immediately.”

Nasheed was arrested on Februrary 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin alleged the opposition leader may abscond from an unannounced terrorism trial scheduled for the next day.

Nasheed has denied ordering Judge Abdulla’s arrest. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

The letter’s prominent signatories include, environmentalist and co-founder of Bill McKibben, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, President of Friends of the Earth Erich Pica, and Oscar nominated documentary film maker Robert Stone.

“We firmly believe that international pressure on the regime can help to end the illegal and politically motivated trial against President Nasheed,” read the letter.

The Commonwealth, UN, EU, Canada, India, UK and Australia have expressed concern over Nasheed’s arrest, denial of legal representation, and mistreatment by the police.

Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon has previously condemned international statements of concern, saying: “No foreign power can tell Maldives what to do under President [Abdulla] Yameen.”

“To criticize us in public statements with lies or based with having only heard the opposition’s point of view is not acceptable. The government will not accept these statements and will not pay any attention to them,” Dunya said.

Also amongst the signatories are Director of acclaimed documentary “The Island President” Jon Shenk and Producers Dan Cogan, Richard Berge and Bonni Cohen.

Speaking to Huffington Post, Cogan called the proceedings Nasheed “a kangaroo court set up to convict him and it should be very concerning for anyone who believes in the rule of law and democratic government.”

Meanwhile, Former US Vice-President and climate change advocate Al Gore tweeted that the “eyes of the world” are watching Nasheed’s trial and said he must be given a “fair and just trial.”

The government has however claimed it has no influence over Nasheed’s trial, arguing charges were pressed by an independent Prosecutor General. President Yameen taking a stand on Nasheed’s trial amounted to interfering in the judiciary, the government has said.

“Judicial Assassination”

Addressing the Australian Parliament last week, Senator James McGrath described the trial against Nasheed as a “state planned judicial assassination,” and said President Yameen is becoming the “Robert Mugabe of the Indian Ocean.”

“[Nasheed] has been arrested on trumped-up charges, denied legal representation, assaulted by police and faces an unfair trial that will ultimately end in the denial of his  presidential ambitions,” said McGrath.

Mcgrath warned that President Yameen’s administration has “hastened its slide into tyranny,” with police conducting illegal arrests and searches, allegedly planting evidence and breaching constitutionally guaranteed rights.

He further said that the courts have “abrogated their duties under the democratic constitution of the Maldives,” by breaching the separation of powers, denying rights to legal representation and abusing fundamental judicial processes.

“The real purpose behind these actions by the Maldivian state is abundantly clear: to silence all opposition to Yameen’s government,” McGrath claimed.

The Australian senator for Queensland also alleged that the government is “all but refusing help” in the search to find Minivan News Journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who went missing in August last year in what is believed to be an abduction by radicalized gangs.

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has also dropped the Maldives from an upcoming tour of Indian Ocean neighbours.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement on Friday that the Prime Minister’s visit “has been postponed to a later date by mutual agreement,” but President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu’ told the Associated Press (AP) the Indian government informed the Maldives the visit was cancelled because the “local environment is not conducive.”

Nasheed’s arrest follows the arrest of former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of terrorism and treason. Nazim is currently standing trial on charges of importing and possessing illegal weapons after police discovered a pistol and three bullets in his apartment during a midnight raid.

Nazim has accused the police of planting the weapons to frame him. The police have dismissed Nazim’s claims.

Related to this story

Indian Prime Minister Modi cancels Maldives trip

Nasheed prosecution highlights “selective approach to justice,” says Amnesty International

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Former President Nasheed appears in court with arm in makeshift sling

Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed


Hulhumale’ court has jurisdiction to hear Nasheed case: Deputy Prosecutor General

Deputy Prosecutor General (PG) Hussein Shameem has said that Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court does have the jurisdiction to hear the case of former President Mohamed Nasheed over his role in the detention of a Criminal Court Chief Judge.

Shameem contended that should the court maintain its decision against hearing the case, there were few other judicial alternatives in trying to ensure a “fair trial”.

The comments were made as the PG’s office called on the Hulhumale’-based court to review its decision to send back the case to authorities on the grounds that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the former president’s trial as written under the Judicature Act.

Nasheed, along with three Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers, face charges over the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chef Judge Abdullah Mohamed – a decision the former president claimed was taken over national security concerns.

Chief Judge abdulla was detained by the military, after he had opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of former Justice Minister and current Home Minister and Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), Dr Mohamed Jameel.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), of which Nasheed is the presidential candidate, has claimed it expects the trial – whether in Hulhumale’ or another court – to go ahead regardless of legality.  The party has alleged the case serves solely as a means to convict the former president and potentially prevent him from contesting in the next general election.

However, Shameem claimed today the PG’s office had opted to hold the case against the former president in Hulhumale’ as it believed a fair trial could not be held at the country’s Criminal Court, an institution Judge Abdulla continues to oversee.

“We believe the Hulhumale’-based court does have the jurisdiction to hear this case under provisions outlined in the Judicature Act. We do not believe a fair trial could be held at the Criminal Court in this particular case,” he said.


Shameem claimed that there was a seemingly limited number of alternatives for hearing the case should Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court maintain it does not have the mandate to host such a trial.

“We would not be sending the case [to the Criminal Court],” he said. “So if the Hulhumale’ magistrate feels uncomfortable with the case or maintains it does not have the jurisdiction, we would have to appeal at the High Court about this.”

A statement sent to local media yesterday by the PG’s office claimed that despite Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s initial reservations, it could hold the case as the island was under the same judicial constituent as nearby Male’ and Villimale.

The statement also contended that judicial regulations did not prevent a magistrate court from investigating allegations of the “deliberate arrest of an innocent individual”.

Addressing the issue of court jurisdiction, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said that the government remained committed to not interfering with the country’s judiciary. Masood said he would not therefore comment on the case against the former president, who has alleged his successor Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan came to power in a “coup d’etat” on February 7.

“We would not want to touch the issue with a ten-foot pole,” Masood added, referring any questions on the case to Attorney General (AG) Azima Shakoor.

AG Shakoor was not responding to calls at time of press.

Former President to justify judge’s detention

Former President Nasheed has previously that he is “prepared” to justify the reasons for the arrest of Judge Abdulla, and said he was ready to appear in court and prove his actions were valid.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that that despite the present uncertainty over the exact legal body that would be hearing the trial, he believed authorities would be going ahead with the trial.

“Nobody, can stop them from doing it,” he claimed. “They have no choice to go ahead with such a thing. It is the only way to avoid talk of an early election by arresting Nasheed and trying to dismantle the MDP. The dictatorship is back.”

Ghafoor alleged that the MDP did not presently take the potential trial of the former President Nasheed “seriously”, owing to what he claimed was institutionalised bias and political influence in the country’s judiciary.

“Today for example, a lower court was able to overrule the JSC [the country’s judicial watchdog] to take action against Chief Judge Abdullah over concerns of his conduct,” he said.

Ghafoor claimed that the judiciary’s reputation and conduct reflected a wider societal attitude that the Maldives did “not have a culture of law” for citizens to rely on.

“The courts and judiciary are not up too much here. During the thirty years of dictatorship we had, the media published propganda about these institutions and people thought they were quite capable,” he said. “Yet in the democracy we have had, you have to prove yourselves”

Ghafoor claimed that as the issue of Nasheed’s trial continued to wear on, more members of the public were becoming are “that the trials are a sham”.

In late 2011, Judge Abdulla was himself under investigation by the JSC, the country’s judicial watchdog, for allegedly politically biased comments made to private broadcaster DhiTV. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) was due to release a report into Judge Abdulla’s alleged ethical misconduct, however the judge approached the Civil Court and successfully filed an injunction against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked international criticism of the Nasheed administration as well three weeks of anti-government protests in January, leading the former government to appeal for international assistance from the Commonwealth and UN to reform the judiciary.