Democracy Network alerts Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges on Nasheed’s sham trial

Human Rights group Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has urged the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to investigate the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The “independence of the judiciary has been lost,” MDN said in a letter to Gabriela Knaul, stating President Abdulla Yameen was using the judiciary as a tool to “oppress the opposition.”

“We fear that without timely intervention, the country will complete its slide back to autocracy. We strongly urge you to investigate the matter further and issue a public statement denouncing this flagrant abuse of rights being perpetuated through the Maldives’ judiciary,” the letter read.

MDN called upon the international community to take serious measures to prevent further human rights violations at the “helm of a corrupt judiciary.”

The former president was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison last night (March 13) over the January 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Nasheed’s administration detained Judge Abdulla after deeming him a national security threat. Then- Home Minister Hassan Afeef accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

Delivering the guilty verdict last night, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed ordered the chief judge’s arrest or “forceful abduction.”

The NGO described the trial as a “political tool designed to disqualify him from contesting future elections and silence his voice of political opposition,” noting that the trial took place at an “uncharacteristically extreme speed.”

“The systematic procedural irregularities in the current proceedings demonstrate that the current charges against Nasheed are a continuation of the same campaign to disqualify him from political office and effectively silence his political dissent in the Maldives, using a corrupt and biased judicial system to realise this goal,” said MDN.

All four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit on March 9 in protest of the Criminal Court’s refusal to grant sufficient time to examine the prosecution’s evidence and mount a defence.

The presiding judges had denied the lawyers’ request for adequate time, stating the legal team has had the case documents for three years.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) said today Nasheed “was denied fundamental rights which guarantee a fair trial by the constitution, and some rights granted by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

HRCM noted that the Criminal Court denied requests made by the commission to observe trials.

Advocacy group Transparency Maldives (TM) also expressed “grave concern” on the guilty verdict, stressing Nasheed was denied legal representation, right to appeal and adequate time to build a defence against new terror charges.

TM also noted that the “serious issues of conflict of interest were prevalent in the case” with two of the three judges presiding over the case having provided statements during the investigation.

“These procedural irregularities raise serious questions about the fairness, transparency and independence of the judicial process followed and the provision of the accused’s inalienable right to a fair trial,” read a TM statement today.

TM called upon state actors to “uphold democratic principles and international conventions”, while urging the public and law enforcement agencies to “exercise restraint and calm in order to mitigate further deterioration of the security situation in the Maldives.”

Knaul had previously expressed concern over lack of due process in a 2012 trial in which Nasheed had been charged with “arbitrarily detaining” Judge Abdulla at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court.

Knaul questioned the constitutionality of the magistrate court and the appointment of the three-judge panel, “which seems to have been set up in arbitrary manner, without following procedures set by law.”

“It is indeed difficult to understand why one former President is being tired for an act he took outside his prerogative, while another has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years,” wrote Knaul, in her report to the UN Human Rights council following her mission in Maldives in February 2013.

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin in February withdrew the lesser charges and re-prosecuted Nasheed on harsher terror charges.

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International said Nasheed’s sentencing “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court

US, EU, and UK concerned over lack of due process in Nasheed trial

Nasheed trial “not free or fair,” says Maldivian Democracy Network

Former President Nasheed appears in court with arm in makeshift sling


Removal of Supreme Court judges will have “chilling effect” on work of judiciary: UN special rapporteur

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul has expressed serious concern about the removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Judge Muthasim Adnan.

“This decision seriously undermines the independence of the judiciary in the country and will have a chilling effect on the work of the judiciary at all levels,” said Knaul.

The rapporteur called for a reconsideration of the pair’s removal, noting that it had been characterised by a “lack of transparency and due process”.

Removal of the judges followed amendments to the Judicature Act made in the People’s Majlis, which called for the reduction of the Supreme Court bench from seven to five.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) promptly selected Faiz and Adnan for dismissal, though the reasons for their selection were not shared with MPs who subsequently voted to dismiss both on December 14.

“The fact that the grounds for removal were not publicized is particularly unacceptable,” added Knaul in a statement released yesterday (December 22).

Knaul has joined numerous local and international organisations in condemning the move, while the political fallout in the Maldives has seen the expulsion of Majlis Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Moosa was one of six MDP MPs who failed to attend the December 14 vote, despite a three-line whip being issued by the party.


The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has rounded on critics of the dismissals, with the party accusing Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim of attempting to deceive the public when stating that the Maldives had received international censure.

Similarly, PPM Parliamentary Group leader Ahmed Nihan this week accused the US of hypocrisy after the State Department suggested the Maldives still has “issues” regarding judicial independence.

Local opponents to the move have included the opposition MDP and civil society groups, while the Civil Court bench passed a resolution stating that the Majlis had “forced” the JSC to deem Faiz and Adnan unfit for the Supreme Court bench.

Faiz himself has described his dismissal as raising doubts over the separation of powers and the continuation of judicial independence in the Maldives.

“Today will be written down as a black day in the constitutional history of the Maldives. I state this is a black day for the constitution. Taking such a vote against the constitution is, I believe, disrespectful to the constitution,” he told local media immediately after his removal.

Elsewhere, the International Commission of Jurists have called the decision an “astonishingly arbitrary” one which has “effectively decapitated the country’s judiciary”, while Commonwealth groups have expressed fears that the rule of law has been “severely jeopardised”.


In her own statement, Knaul noted that under both Maldivian and international norms judges could only be removed on grounds of incompetence or misconduct.

Knaul’s 2013 report into the the state of the Maldivian judiciary called for drastic reform, noting that the appointment of the current Supreme Court bench in 2010 had “no legal or constitutional basis” and that the JSC was unanimously regarded as “inadequate and politicised”.

“Since my visit to the Maldives in February 2013 I have been closely following a series of developments in the country that point at a serious deterioration of respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” she warned yesterday.

UN special rapporteurs are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Knaul was appointed to the position in 2009 after having worked as a judge in Brazil for over a decade.

Knaul’s 2013 report was welcomed by the Maldivian government – despite some suggestions that the country’s sovereignty was being undermined. The Supreme Court, however, has dismissed the findings.

After the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) used recommendations from Knaul’s report in its submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review this year, the Supreme Court initiated ‘suo moto’ proceedings against the commission in September.

The (ongoing) case against the HRCM followed similar charges against the Elections Commission (EC) in February, which resulted in the removal of the EC’s chair and deputy chair just weeks before the Majlis elections. The EC case was linked to the presidential election in 2013, in which the court was accused of “subverting the democratic process” by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Following the HRCM case, former Justice Minister Ahmed ‘Seena’ Zahir suggested the country was facing a “judicial dictatorship”, calling for immediate reform to end misinterpretation of the constitution.

Pro-government MPs have suggested the removal of the two judges is a move towards reform of the courts.

Attempts to obtain comment from officials at the President’s Office and the PPM were unsuccessful at the time of publication.

Related to this story

Majlis removes Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, Justice Muthasim Adnan from Supreme Court

A justice system in crisis: UN Special Rapporteur’s report

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