High Court Judge Yoosuf Hussain retires

High Court judge Yoosuf Hussain has retired today, with sources close to the court telling Minivan News the decision was made on grounds of ill-health.

According to a statement on the court’s website in Dhivehi, Judge Yoosuf served on the bench of the interim Supreme Court between 2008 and 2010, before being appointed to the High Court.

He had previously served as the chief judge at the Family Court, as a judge at Court No.1, and and as a legal officer of the now-defunct Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs.

Although this is the first time a High Court judge has retired, Ahmed Shareef – initially appointed as the court’s chief judge – was demoted to the Juvenile Court in August 2014 by the Judicial Service Commission.


JSC demotes High Court Chief Judge Shareef to Juvenile Court

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has transferred High Court Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef to the Juvenile Court as a disciplinary measure more than one year and two months after he was indefinitely suspended.

The judicial watchdog revealed in a press statement yesterday (August 6) that Shareef was found guilty of ethical misconduct following an investigation of a complaint filed by seven of his colleagues on the High Court bench.

The JSC did not divulge any details regarding the allegations.

However, in June 2012, the Anti-Corruption Commission was asked to investigate allegations that Chief Judge Shareef met officials of Malaysian mobile security firm Nexbis in Bangkok, Thailand while a case concerning the firm’s controversial border control project was scheduled at the High Court.

Hulhumalé magistrate court

Shareef was suspended on May 29, 2013 while he was presiding over a case filed by former President Mohamed Nasheed contesting the legitimacy of the JSC’s appointment of a three-judge panel at the Hulhumalé magistrate court.

The judges were appointed to preside over the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party presidential candidate’s trial concerning the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

In April 2013, the High Court had suspended the trial pending a ruling on the legitimacy of the magistrate court bench.

However, the High Court case has remained stalled since Shareef’s suspension the following month – more than a year after the complaint was filed against him.

JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla insisted at the time that the suspension was not related to the ongoing High Court case concerning Nasheed’s trial.

The suspension came shortly after the cancellation of a hearing in the Nasheed case which was scheduled at the High Court on the same day.

After voting against suspending Shareef, public representative on the JSC Shuaib Abdul Rahman told local media that the decision was made in violation of due process and JSC procedures as a report regarding the allegations was not presented to the commission’s members.

Shareef then challenged the JSC decision at the Civil Court contending that the suspension was unlawful. The court subsequently upheld the JSC decision in October 2013.


In addition to Nasheed’s case, a number of high-profile cases over which Shareef was presiding have remained stalled since his suspension, including an appeal by Fathmath Hana, 18, who was sentenced to death for the murder of prominent lawyer Ahmed Najeeb.

Shareef was also among the panel of judges hearing appeals from the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office over the acquittals of President Abdulla Yameen’s brother Abdulla Algeen on corruption charges and suspected drug kingpin Mohamed Hussain Manik.

According to the Judicature Act, the chief judge of a court has the administrative authority to appoint judges to preside over cases and make changes to panels. The Supreme Court had also ruled that acting chief judges do not have the authority to make such changes.

In June, the JSC appointed Judge Abdulla Hameed to head the High Court for a period of six months.

Meanwhile, in April, Nasheed asked the High Court to expedite the case concerning the legitimacy of the magistrate court bench.

Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef told Minivan News at the time that the former president did not wish to have pending criminal charges. Nasheed had previously said he was  “prepared” to justify the reasons for the arrest of Judge Abdulla and defend the decision at court.

In June, the High Court summoned members of Nasheed’s legal team to sign statements given at previous hearings.

Two of the three judges appointed to the magistrate court to preside over Nasheed’s trial have meanwhile been transferred to other courts. Judge Shujau Usman was transferred to the Criminal Court and Judge Hussain Mazeed to the Civil Court.

Meanwhile, according to the JSC’s annual report for 2013, the commission has yet to conclude investigations or make a decision regarding 106 cases, which were pending at the end of last year, including one complaint dating back to 2008 and four complaints from 2009.

In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, observed that a lack of transparency concerning the JSC’s proceedings “nourishes serious allegations of selectivity in the management of complaints.”


JSC defends handling of judge investigations in face of criticism

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has maintained that it is following procedures in ongoing investigations, after criticism from both President Abdulla Yameen and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

President Yameen has called on the JSC to expedite disciplinary cases against judges, specifically highlighting the case against the Chief Judge of the High Court Ahmed Shareef.

“It is now exceeding over a year since the case was submitted. [Judge Shareef] is not required to report to work, he is under suspension. However, he is still getting paid. How can we accept this?” Yameen said earlier this week in Addu atoll.

Meanwhile, the MDP yesterday released a statement expressing concern about the delays in pursuing the cases against Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed, following the police’s recent announcement that investigations into Hameed’s alleged appearance in a series of sex tapes had been suspended.

JSC Spokesperson Hassan Zaheen told Minivan News that the commission was currently working on both cases.

“We are continuing to work in the investigation process of the case against Judge Ahmed Shareef,” he explained.

“Even in Judge Ali Hameed’s case, the JSC is doing what is necessary in the investigation stages. We are doing what is required of the JSC. It is none of our concern that the police have decided to file the matter,” he said.

He refused to comment further on the criticism levied against the commission.

Commission criticism

Speaking in Addu, Yameen highlighted the importance of JSC members being independent and able to review cases justly.

Adding that the law does not allow for any persons to be “kidnapped” or kept under forceful banishment, the president stated that “it is a deeply saddening journey to be forced to stay away from one’s job for 12 months and still continue to be paid”.

A High Court Judge is entitled to monthly pay and allowances summing up to MVR56,300 (US$3,651). Judge Ahmed Shareef continues to receive the full salary despite his suspension.

Shareef’s suspension came as he presided over a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench, which was handpicked by the JSC to oversee the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed for the January 2012 detention of Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Judge Ahmed Shareef was suspended by the JSC in May last year, more than 12 months after the initial submission of complaints in relation to potential corruption.

JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla at the time claimed the suspension was unrelated to the Nasheed/Hulhumalé case.

The JSC subsequently contested the High Court’s jurisdiction to hear the case into the legality of the magistrate court – no hearings have been held in the Nasheed trial for over 12 months.

Nasheed’s legal team sent a letter to the High Court late last month, requesting the case be continued immediately.

Yesterday, the MDP said that the failure to proceed with the cases against Ali Hameed demonstrated the current state of the Maldivian justice system.

A statement released by the party noted that police had filed the cases into Ali Hameed’s alleged appearance in sex tapes, the JSC’s halting of the investigation into complaints against the same judge, and alleged destruction of  papers concerning a corruption case against Hameed being destroyed in a coffee spill.

“We therefore note that the criminal justice system of this country is one that has failed to deliver justice. That the cases against Ali Hameed fail to be investigated, and the surprising events that unfold if a case against him is filed at the courts clearly demonstrate the status of this country’s criminal justice system.”

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali refused to comment on the allegations today, stating “this government does not see it as necessary to comment on everything that the opposition MDP has to say”.


JSC suspends Chief Judge of the High Court

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has indefinitely suspended Chief Judge of the High Court, Ahmed Shareef, over a complaint filed against the judge last year.

JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla insisted at a press conference today that the disciplinary action had no relation to the ongoing High Court case filed by former President Mohamed Nasheed contesting the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench appointed by the commission.

The suspension was a “precautionary” measure while investigation of the complaint was proceeding, he claimed.

“There are no legal grounds to stop looking into a complaint submitted [to the commission] or halt proceedings,” he said, adding that ongoing court cases and disciplinary proceedings at the JSC were “two completely different systems.”

High Court Chief Judge Shareef was summoned to the JSC earlier this month almost a year after the complaint was lodged.

Meanwhile, a hearing of Nasheed’s case scheduled at the High Court today was cancelled after one of the judges took a leave of absence.

The chief judge – who is among the three judges presiding over the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate’s case – was suspended over a complaint filed by seven other High Court judges, Justice Adam Mohamed revealed.

The decision was approved at a JSC meeting today with three votes in favour and one against.

According to local media, Attorney General Aishath Bisham, President’s Member Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem and Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi voted in favour while Public Member Shuaib Abdul Rahman voted against the motion.

Lawyers’ Representative Ahmed Rasheed and Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan reportedly abstained while High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed did not participate in the vote.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Majlis Member MP Gasim Ibrahim did not attend the meeting.

Shuaib told private broadcaster Raajje TV following the meeting that the decision was made in violation of due process and JSC procedures as a report regarding the allegations against the chief judge was not presented to the commission members.

The motion or petition to suspend Shareef was proposed by Attorney General Bisham, who is yet to receive parliamentary consent for her appointment.

Meanwhile, at the press conference this evening, Justice Adam Mohamed refused to reveal either the details of the vote or the members in attendance despite repeated queries from reporters.

He also refused to state which High Court judge would take over the chief judge’s administrative functions.

In June 2012, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was asked to investigate allegations that Chief Judge Shareef met officials of Nexbis in Bangkok, Thailand while a case concerning the controversial border control project awarded to the Malaysian mobile security firm was scheduled at the High Court.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Shareef had applied for a leave of absence from May 30 to July 1 before the JSC made its decision today.

The local daily also reported that today’s hearing of the former president’s case was cancelled after Judge Abbas Shareef took a last minute leave.

Former President Nasheed’s office said in a statement today that the hearing was “unexpectedly cancelled three hours prior” to the scheduled time.

“We condemn the actions of the Maldivian courts, which violate the electoral rights of nearly 50,000 Maldivian Democratic Party members. Today’s disruption to President Nasheed’s campaign trip to Raa atoll is an unnecessary, politically motivated challenge. The JSC continues to try and cover up the unconstitutional manner in which they appointed the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench through attempts at influencing the judiciary, while the Courts create logistical challenges such as today’s.  However, it does not stop affect the spirit of President Nasheed’s campaign,” MP Mariya Ahmed Didi, Nasheed’s spokeswoman, said after the cancellation.

Nasheed meanwhile returned to Raa Atoll today to resume his presidential campaign.

“Undue influence”

The MDP organised a march against the JSC on Saturday (May 25) to protest JSC Chair Adam Mohamed’s alleged attempts to unduly influence the trial of former President Nasheed.

The party contended that Justice Adam Mohamed was abusing his power and authority as head of the judicial watchdog body to intimidate judges on the High Court bench.

On April 1, the High Court ordered the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to suspend Nasheed’s trial pending a ruling on the legitimacy of the panel of judges appointed by the JSC to preside over the case.

In the first hearing of the High Court case, the JSC contested the High Court’s jurisdiction to rule on the legality of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench constituted by the commission.

The JSC has sent letters to the High Court requesting expedition of Nasheed’s case, the party noted in a press release.

The MDP objected to the judicial oversight body summoning the Chief Judge of the High Court for questioning over a complaint filed a year ago.

The move amounted to intimidation of judges and undue influence on judicial processes, the party contended, calling on the JSC to cease its “dirty and cowardly” efforts as the commission was the adverse party or respondent in the High Court case.

“Actions such as these are seen as thinly veiled attempts at influencing the Judiciary,” the former president’s office said today.

The JSC responded to the protest march with a statement of its own the following day, appealing against “obstruction” of the commission’s constitutional and legal responsibilities.

The JSC noted that the constitution and Judicial Service Commission Act of 2008 mandated the commission to investigate complaints against judges and enforce disciplinary measures.

The commission was entrusted with powers to summon and question persons and take witness testimonies, the JSC stated.

There were “no legal or constitutional grounds” to interpret carrying out the commission’s legal responsibilities as intimidation or exerting undue influence on judges, the statement added.

The JSC statement concluded by calling on all parties to “not commit any act or participate in any activity that could obstruct the constitutional and legal responsibilities and duties of the commission.”

Meanwhile, in her report to the United Nations Human Rights Council following a visit to the Maldives in February 2013, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul wrote that “the trial of the former President raises serious concerns regarding the fairness of proceedings.”

Knaul questioned the constitutionality of the Hulhumale’ Court and the appointment of the three-member panel of judges, “which seems to have been set up in an arbitrary manner, without following procedures set by law.”

She also expressed concern with “the significant backlog of complaints with the Judicial Service Commission that are not dealt with or at least are perceived as not being dealt with. Some judges that have several complaints and cases for misconduct against them are still sitting.”

Moreover, Knaul wrote that according to several judges, “disciplinary procedures before the Commission lead to public humiliation and damages to their reputation.”

“Some even said that, when summoned by the Commission, the principle of presumption of innocence is not respected and they do not have appropriate time and access to information to prepare for their cases. Judges are also often not told for what allegations they are being investigated. It is common that, after an appearance before the Commission, judges are not informed if their case was dropped, if a decision was taken, or if it is still pending,” Knaul wrote.

“The Special Rapporteur is worried that disciplinary proceedings before the Judicial Services Commission are not in line with international law and principles, and may sometimes be used to expose and question the integrity of judges and magistrates before the media and the general public before the conclusion of a proper investigation into the allegations. She wishes to underline that, according to the Basic Principles on the independence of the judiciary, judges are entitled to a fair hearing under an appropriate procedure, which should be subject to an independent review.”

Among a number of recommendations to reform the Maldivian justice system, Knaul suggested taking “appropriate measures to enforce the code of conduct of judges in a transparent and consistent manner, with full respect for the fundamental guarantees of fair hearing and bearing in mind the importance of the reputation of judges and magistrates.”