Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baari Yoosuf suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has suspended Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baari Yoosuf, informing him to not to report for work until it makes a final decision on his position.

JSC media official Hassan Zaheen confirmed to Minivan News that the judge had been suspended from Wednesday (February 6) onwards, but refused to provide any details. Local newspaper Haveeru reported that Baari Yoosuf was suspended over a disciplinary problem.

“The judge has been asked to not to report to work until further notice from JSC. The matter is being investigated by the JSC, so no additional information can be provided at the moment,” Zaheen said.

Local media outlet CNM reported that the suspension followed a case filed by a female lawyer from the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, who alleged that Baari Yoosuf had sexually assaulted her.

However, the JSC media official refused to confirm the allegations to Minivan News.

Judge Abdul Baari Yoosuf has looked into many high profile criminal trials including murder and drug offences.

High profile cases he has overseen include the murder case of Police Lance Corporal Adam Haleem, a murder of an expatriate that took place in Shaviyani Atoll and trials concerning drug kingpin Adam Naseer Aboobakuru and Abdul Latheef Mohamed.

Baari Yoosuf sentenced the murderer of Police Lance Corporal Adam Haleem, Ahmed Samah, to death after heirs of the murdered man demanded the death penalty instead of blood money.

In July 2012, Adam Haleem was stabbed to death on Kaashidhoo in Kaafu Atoll Island by Mohamed Samah while Haleem was on his way to report for duty.

He also acquitted Adam Naseer Aboobakuru, whom the former government of President Mohamed Nasheed had labelled one of the country’s ‘top six’ drug dealers.

In June 2009, police found over MVR 6 million (US$461,500) in cash and a tin containing drugs outside Naseer’s house during a raid on his home in Addu Atoll.

He was again arrested in July 2009 in Addu Atoll, but “he wasn’t in prison the whole time,” explained then President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair. “On several occasions, the court has delayed his imprisonment until the hearing.”

In his verdict, Judge Baari Yousuf said there was not enough evidence to prove the money had come from dealing drugs. He added that the drugs could have been placed outside Naseer’s house by anyone and did not necessarily belong to him.

In 2011, Baari made another controversial decision by ordering the release of another drug lord, Abdul Latheef of Fuvamulah in Gnaviyani Atoll, suspected to be involved with a high profile drug cartel.

Despite initially ordering Latheef be kept in detention, in a letter sent to police at the time, the Criminal Court changed its first decision and demanded that police switch Latheef’s detention to house arrest.

Latheef was arrested in December 2010, as he was about to drive away in his car after loading some vegetables into the vehicle’s trunk.

Police officers who stopped his car unpacked the loaded items in his presence and discovered 1083.42 grams of illegal narcotics containing the substance tetrahydrocannabinol (found in cannabis).

The country’s judiciary is currently being subjected to questions over its lack of impartiality and failure to deliver justice.

A substantial amount of criticism is also being levied against the JSC, which is mandated to oversee the functioning of the judiciary.

Several international experts and organisations including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have expressed concern over the state of the judiciary and the JSC.

In February 2011, the ICJ claimed that the Maldives legal system is failing to serve its citizens despite many “positive developments” that have been made in an effort to depoliticise the courts, with many judges found to be lacking qualifications and independence.

Former director of the ICJ’s Asia Pacific operation’s Roger Normand at the time said he did not believe that the Maldives had an “independent judiciary capable of resolving problems”.

A similar report by Professor Paul H Robinson observed that “persons with little or no legal training can hardly be expected to know how to conduct a fair and effective trial.”

“Serious efforts must be made to provide substantial training to current judges in order to insure that all have the background they need in both law and Shari’a. Perhaps more importantly, no judge should be hired who does not already have the needed training,” he further wrote.

The spokesperson of the Criminal Court was not responding to calls at time of press.