Maldives defers decision on UPR recommendations for judicial reform

The Maldives has deferred accepting or rejecting recommendations put forth at the UN human rights council on judicial reform and protection of human rights defenders, pending “national level consultation”.

Of the 258 recommendations from UN member states, the government accepted 132 and rejected 49 due to constitutional constraints. The Maldives said it will examine the remaining 77 recommendations and “provide responses in due time” before the 30th session of the Human Rights Council in September or October 2015.

The recommendations under review include calls to ensure the impartiality and independence of the judiciary, reform the Judicial Service Commission, and provide training to judges.

The “politicised” judiciary came under fire from countries across the world during last week’s UPR session, which took place amidst heightened international scrutiny and political turbulence triggered by the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The UK recommended steps to “ensure the administration of justice is fully consistent with international human rights standards and seek international technical assistance.”

“Strengthen the independence of the judiciary by reforming the Judicial Services Commission’s process for selecting and appointing judges,” recommended the US.

Canada advised the formation of an independent bar association while several countries recommended steps to ensure the separation of powers.

Ireland recommended providing “adequate training for judges, including human rights training, to ensure all judicial proceedings conform to international fair trial standards”.

New Zealand recommended accepting “a follow up visit by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and accept the outstanding request of a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the situations of human rights defenders.”

The Netherlands advised fully implementing the special rapporteurs’ recommendations, including a constitutional review of the composition of the JSC.

Responding to criticism of the judiciary at the working group session, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said the Maldives is training and building capacity of judges and has formulated a judicial sector strategic action plan to increase effectiveness, efficiency and public confidence.

The 49 recommendations Maldives rejected include allowing freedom of religion, ensuring the rights of homosexuals, banning the death penalty, and decriminalising consensual sexual relations.

The rejected recommendations also included removing a requirement that prevents non-Muslims from being members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM).

The Maldives constitutional assembly had declared Islam to be the state religion and the basis of all laws enacted in the country, and requires judges to refer to Islamic law, legal secretary Aishath Bisham said last week.

Other rejected recommendations included calls from Norway and Canada to release ex-president Nasheed and other “political prisoners.”

The US also called for an end to “politically-motivated prosecutions and court proceedings” against HRCM members and Nasheed, who was “convicted and imprisoned without minimum fair trial guarantees”.

Human rights defenders

Several countries also recommended taking steps to ensure the safety of human rights defenders, civil society actors and journalists against attacks and reprisals, calling for investigation and prosecution of individuals behind threats and intimidation.

The independence of the HRCM should also be assured, its members protected from reprisals, and the HRCM law brought in line with Paris Principles, reads the recommendations under review.

During the review, many countries expressed alarm over the Supreme Court’s suo moto case against the human rights watchdog over its UPR submission.

Denmark meanwhile noted that the Maldives’ initial report to the UN Committee against Torture is overdue since 2005.

“Bring an end to arbitrary detentions, particularly on the grounds of political opinion; investigate allegations of torture and ill treatment in prisons and bring those responsible to justice,” recommended France.

Other recommendations included ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and the optional protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Germany and Portugal recommended the Maldives accede to Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Other countries recommended signing the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education and the Protocol to the Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime.


MDN to seek court order compelling JSC to reconsider Judge Hameed decision

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) is considering seeking a court order to compel the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to reconsider its decision to clear Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed of misconduct over his alleged appearance in three sex tapes.

Citing lack of evidence and the police’s failure to identify the individual in the sex tapes, the judicial watchdog decided last week that disciplinary action could not be taken against Justice Hameed.

In a press release today, MDN expressed “surprise” at the JSC investigating the case as a criminal offence as the commission’s constitutional mandate was investigating complaints involving ethical misconduct.

MDN noted that the evidentiary requirements or standards applied for establishing guilt in a criminal case differed from cases of alleged ethical misconduct.

The JSC’s “confusion” on this legal principle “offers room for the public to question the competence of the commission,” the MDN stated, calling on the oversight body to reconsider the case.

In a press statement explaining its decision, the JSC had noted that the police had closed investigations until new evidence emerged and that the sex tapes had been collected during an investigation into an attempt to blackmail a judge.

Moreover, the tape may constitute an act of espionage as it appears to have been filmed by an unauthorised body and it is against the constitution to obtain evidence by unlawful means, the commission noted.

The JSC – chaired by Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla – also referred to a contentious Supreme Court’s ruling on former Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, which stated that disciplinary action could only be taken with sufficient evidence.

Local media has since reported that the decision to clear Justice Hameed was reached unanimously by six members on the 10-member commission after Shuaib Abdul Rahman – public representative on the JSC – walked out.

The six members were Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi, High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed, president’s member Mohamed Faisal and lawyers’ representative Ahmed Rasheed.

The two remaining members – CSC Chair Dr Mohamed Latheef and Attorney General Mohamed Anil – were reportedly on holiday.

“Permanent stain”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) also put out a statement yesterday (June 29) condemning the JSC decision, characterising it as a “permanent stain” symbolising “serious wrongdoing”.

With the JSC decision, the statement added, Maldivian citizens expecting judicial reform have “lost all hope” along with any confidence in the judiciary.

The JSC decision has set a precedent suggesting that engaging in sexual relations with prostitutes, which is then made public in a sex tape, “is not a problem at all,” the opposition party stated.

“Therefore, we note with serious concern that this country’s judiciary would henceforth be shaped by those standards.”

The MDP statement also referred to a JSC subcommittee recommending suspending Ali Hameed, which the party stated was wilfully disregarded by the commission, as well as documents of a corruption case against the apex court judge being destroyed in a coffee spill.

The JSC had strayed from the standards established for investigating ethical misconduct, stalled the investigation for over a year, and “sacrificed the independence of the judiciary and the constitution” for the sake of protecting Justice Hameed, the statement continued.

The Maldivian judiciary should learn that disgraced judges accused of corruption and blackmail should be suspended pending the outcome of a swift investigation, the party stated.

The presence of a disgraced judge on the Supreme Court – who most citizens believe has lost his integrity – threatens the independence of the apex court, adversely affects decisions of lower courts, and robs Maldivian citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed right to a free and fair trial, concluded the party.


Chief Justice Faiz previously alleged bribery in interim Supreme Court: Nasheed

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz alleged in 2010 that judges on the interim Supreme Court “openly accepted bribes”, advising then-President Mohamed Nasheed to “bring the interim court to a halt,” Nasheed has claimed at a campaign rally in Male’ last night.

In 2010, then-interim Supreme Court Justice Faiz requested an audience with the president, Nasheed explained, noting that it was the first time he had met with a sitting judge.

“Faiz came and said the judges on the interim Supreme Court were openly accepting bribes and that Faiz knew of it,” Nasheed said.

He named the judges who were accepting bribes, Nasheed added.

“Faiz told me that the work that went on in the interim Supreme Court was not establishing justice but buying and selling. He said the court must be brought to a halt,” he continued.

Faiz advised the president that he was obliged to rein in the interim court, Nasheed said.

Interim bench

Nasheed referred to the five-member interim Supreme Court – headed by interim Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed – declaring that it was permanent ahead of the constitutional deadline for the interim period on August 7, 2010.

Apart from Faiz, the interim bench sworn in on September 18, 2008 consisted of Justice Abdulla Saeed, Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, Justice Abdulla Areef, and Justice Yousuf Hussain.

Nasheed noted that the then-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) did not have a majority in the People’s Majlis, through which the permanent Supreme Court was to be instituted.

Referring to Justice Ali Hameed’s sex tape scandal, the former president revealed that his first seven nominees to the apex court did not include “disgraced judges.”

The original candidates included sitting MPs and a relative of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, he added.

Nasheed alleged that Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim offered an unlimited amount of money to MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in exchange for confirming Ali Hameed to the Supreme Court bench.

On August 7, 2010, when the constitutional interim period expired, President Nasheed ordered the military to confiscate the keys of the Supreme Court after the interim court declared itself permanent.

Three days later, parliament hastily passed the Judges Act and approved Nasheed’s nominees to the new Supreme Court bench in a deal reached with the then-opposition parties who controlled parliament.

The president’s member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee, described Faiz at the time as “a well-respected man amongst the judges. I have never heard anybody question his independence or impartiality. He is a learned man and amongst all the politicking and hanky-panky going on, he has maintained his integrity.”

Nasheed meanwhile went on to severely criticise Faiz for issuing a harshly worded statement condemning international partners who expressed concern with the Supreme Court’s controversial removal of the Elections Commission’s chair and deputy chair.

The Supreme Court was “destroying the future of generations to come,” he said.


MDP majority will reform Supreme Court and JSC, says Nasheed

President Mohamed Nasheed has said that Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will change the number of judges in the Supreme Court and strive to bring their thinking closer to that of the people, and closer to justice.

“We can never accept the level of political influence and the ugly money of corruption that has entered most courts of Maldives. We have to reform these courts. Development for the Maldives can only be achieved if the people Maldives are able to get justice and equality.”

Speaking at a parliamentary campaign rally in Thinadhoo, Gaafu Dhaalu atoll, Nasheed said that the judicial watchdog will also be reformed by amending the Judicial Services Commission Act.

He said that the MDP’s priority was judicial reform, and that nothing else could be carried out in the Maldives without such reform.

Nasheed said that society does not accept the offering and taking of bribes by judges or their meddling in political affairs.

“We cannot accept the judiciary’s meddling with the Elections Commission under the parliament’s guardianship. With a Maldivian Democratic Party majority in the 18th People’s Majlis, we will – God willing – reform the judiciary,” he said.


Nasheed said the MDP was competing in the parliamentary elections with a promise of obtaining the ownership of local resources for locals.

“We have to empower the councils. As long that power is retrained, we won’t be able to achieve the development we want,” Nasheed said.

Stating the central government in Malé could  not achieve development without decentralisation and the empowerment of local councils, Nasheed said that islands are capable of carrying out their development activities by themselves.

“The wealth of our country is widespread and enormous. Our people have even today started accepting that this is not the rightful amount for the people. Our objective is to get for the people their rightful due,” said the former president.

Referring to the ‘southern rebellion’ of 1959, Nasheed said that it was the same rightful due that the people of Thinadhoo and Huvadhoo hoped and protested for in the past.

“Back then most of us saw the people’s protests as acts against the state. By any modern standard they were protests. Excessive force was used to disperse those protests and many people died.”

“We don’t want to see that, but people will stand up if they these powers are not given to them, and they will work to get their powers,” Nasheed said.

A key objective of the MDP in the parliament was to hold the government accountable as an opposition party, he added, reiterating that the MDP would encourage the fulfillment of government pledges in line with the party policies.

During campaigning for his Progressive Party of Maldives last week, President Abdulla Yameen told party supporters that an MDP majority would seek to oust his government from office.

Indeed, following the local council elections in January, Nasheed pledged that his party would take advantage of any legal means to remove Yameen after what it maintains was a fraudulent presidential election last year.


Supreme Court’s contempt trial against Election Commission “unjust”, says Nasheed

Read this article in Dhivehi

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is “extremely concerned” over the Supreme Court’s contempt of court charges against the Elections Commission (EC), former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.

Speaking at a press conference today, Nasheed said the trial is “unjust” and is against the spirit of the constitution. He pledged to use all means to stop the case.

The Supreme Court on February 12 summoned the four members of the EC to an unannounced contempt of court trial under new ‘Suo motu’ regulations that allow the apex court to initiate trial and act as plaintiff and judge.

“If Election Commission members are removed, then there cannot be a fair election. MDP will not participate in such an election,” Nasheed told the press today.

The Supreme Court has accused the EC of contempt, claiming it had criticised the verdict which annulled the first round of presidential elections held in September 2013, as well as disobeying the court’s orders by dissolving eight political parties earlier this month.

During the second hearing in the case, EC lawyer Hussein Siraj said the commission had not received a document outlining charges and asked the five presiding judges to clarify and specify charges against the commission, but Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz asked the lawyer to respond to the charges to the extent he understood them.

The four commission members denied the charges, and expressed concern over the use of privileged testimony given at the People’s Majlis independent institutions oversight committee as evidence for contempt.

The constitution protects testimony provided at the Majlis unless it contravenes an Islamic tenet. Judge Ahmed Abdulla Didi claimed establishing justice to be an Islamic tenet and said the EC’s testimony at the People’s Majlis obstructed justice.

Nasheed said the if the MDP received a parliamentary majority it will add judges to the Supreme Court bench by amending the Judicature Act. Increasing the number of judges would “dilute harsh ideologies” on the bench, he said.

“Reforming the judiciary is essential for development and to protect Maldives’ sovereignty,” Nasheed said.

If the MDP receives a two-thirds majority, the party could impeach Supreme Court judges, he noted.

The MDP will also revise legislation governing the judicial watchdog body – the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Act – to ensure the organisation’s decisons cannot be reviewed through the courts and to limit the powers of the JSC president.

In 2012, the Civil Court issued an injunction halting disciplinary action against Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Mohamed is a key figure in the events leading up to Nasheed’s ouster in February 2012.

Meanwhile, JSC members have alleged JSC President and Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed had stalled an investigation into Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed’s sex-tape scandal.

In addition to initiating proceedings against EC members, the Supreme Court has in the past ordered police to investigate MDP-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV over a report the station aired comparing the Maldivian justice system to that of ancient Sodom, suspended lawyers for publicly criticising the judiciary, and sought criminal charges against MPs for allegedly defaming the court.

Fair administration of justice was essential for a just society, Nasheed has said previously, pledging to complete the MDP’s ‘journey to justice’ campaign to reform the judiciary.

“Our government was toppled because we began this journey. All the obstacles we are facing is because of this reason. Nonetheless, we will not back down and, God willing, we will succeed in this task,” he said.


MDP will reform the judiciary, pledges Nasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is seeking a parliamentary majority to reform the judiciary, former President Mohamed Nasheed said last night.

Speaking at an event in Vilimalé to launch the campaign of MDP candidate Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed, Nasheed said the Supreme Court feared that the opposition party would secure a majority in the People’s Majlis.

“They have summoned the Elections Commission there and are intimidating [commission members] for one purpose. They know the extent to which Supreme Court judges and other judges are tied to various politicians. They do not want the judiciary to be reformed because they want to remain in their posts, enjoy their undue advantages and keep engaging in corrupt activities for eternity,” Nasheed said.

No other party apart from the MDP would even talk about judicial reform, he added.

“What we will do with a parliament majority is reform the judiciary, reform the Supreme Court, reform the Judicial Service Commission,” he continued.

“You have to believe that none of our political opponents could say that they will reform the judiciary. They like it the way it is. What judges are doing is good [for them], too.”

Other parties and politicians turn a blind eye to injustice and the shortcomings of the judiciary as it served their interests, Nasheed contended.

Fair administration of justice was essential for a just society, Nasheed continued, pledging to complete the MDP’s ‘journey to justice’ campaign to reform the judiciary.

“Our government was toppled because we began this journey. All the obstacles we are facing is because of this reason. Nonetheless, we will not back down and, God willing, we will succeed in this task,” he said.

The former president also called on Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain to stop the apex court’s alleged efforts to “intimidate” members of the EC.

Nasheed concluded by expressing his hope that the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22 would be free, fair and transparent.

Contempt of court

Nasheed’s remarks followed the Supreme Court summoning EC members on Wednesday to a surprise trial on charges of contempt of court.

The apex court contended that the EC had criticised the judgment which annulled the first round of presidential election held in September 2013, and disobeyed a Supreme Court order by dissolving eight political parties earlier this month.

The commission members were summoned under new ‘Sumoto’ or ‘Suo motu’ regulations that allow the Supreme Court to initiate hearings and act as both plaintiff and judge in a trial.

In addition to initiating proceedings against EC members, the apex court has in the past ordered police to investigate MDP-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV over a report the station aired comparing the Maldivian justice system to that of ancient Sodom, suspended lawyers for publicly criticising the judiciary, and sought criminal charges against MPs for allegedly defaming the court.

In late January, the Supreme Court suspended former Attorney General Husnu Suood pending a police investigation, claiming that his criticism of the court’s decisions constituted contempt of court.

Suood told Minivan News that he believed the suspension was related to the sex tape scandal of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed. Suood was a member of the committee investigating Hameed’s alleged appearance in the leaked tapes.

The former AG was also barred from the apex court last year while he was representing the EC.

In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Lawyers and Judges, Gabriela Knaul, expressed concern over “the case of a lawyer who had been indefinitely suspended by the Supreme Court for allegedly criticising one of its judgements in public”.

“Such a suspension leaves no avenue for appeal and review and it represents a violation of the rights of the lawyer. The Special Rapporteur is also concerned about reports regarding threats of contempt of court used to muzzle the freedom of expression of lawyers,” the report stated.


Civil Court judge reveals she was offered US$5 million bribe

Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon has revealed she was offered a bribe of US$5 million by a party to a case she was presiding over.

Appearing on state broadcaster Television Maldives’ (TVM) variety show ‘Heyyambo’ on Friday, Shujoon said that was the only time she was offered a bribe.

“I didn’t accept and raised my voice. So [the person] left,” she said.

Asked if she knew of cases where judges have accepted bribes, Shujoon said she was personally not aware of an instance.


Q&A: MP Ahmed Abdulla – Ihavandhoo constituency

In a series of interviews to lead into the the 2014 parliamentary elections – scheduled for March 22nd – Minivan News will be sitting down with incumbent MPs.

All 77 sitting members have been contacted, from across the political spectrum, to be asked a standardised set of questions with additional topicals. The interviews will be published as and when they are received.

As part of the series, Minivan News talked to MP Ahmed Abdulla.

MP Ahmed Abdulla represents the Ihavandhoo constituency in Haa Alif atoll, and is a member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Ahmed Naish: What made you enter the political arena and how?

Ahmed Abdulla: I entered the political arena at a time when citizens began efforts to make changes to the government after a long autocratic rule. I actually started working in the political arena before political parties were introduced in the country. But back then, we had to work individually or alone and very much in hiding. I got into politics before political parties were formed and started functioning. I was in government but left because of dissatisfaction with how things were back then and started working in politics.

AN: Based on your attendance and work in the last term, how would you judge your performance as an MP?

AA: I believe I have quite adequately fulfilled the responsibility entrusted to me by the people. I have attended Majlis sittings without fail. I took leave for very few sittings. In terms of attendance, I am among the MPs with the best attendance records. If we consider the Majlis’ performance, on every bill or every issue I raised my voice and said what I had to on that issue in the national and public interest. Especially on matters related to my constituency, I worked that way. So I am satisfied with my performance. The public also accepts my performance.  

AN: What are the main committees you were acting on? What particular bills did you focus on?

AA: My work is done mainly on the rules committee. As you know, the rules committee reviews regulations concerning the work of all government institutions and ministries and decides on changes. I have done a lot of hard work especially on regulations about tobacco, children, housing and a number of other regulations. I have chaired the rules committee as well during a lot of meetings. Majlis records will show how our work proceeded in those meetings that I chaired.

The second committee is our independent institutions committee. In that committee as well, I have worked to ensure independence for institutions, facilitate their functioning independent of government influence, and encourage them not to bow to pressure or restrictions from the government. We saw the results of that work. For example, we especially saw with the Elections Commission, as a result of our encouragement to work independently without bowing to the government, that they worked very independently in the last presidential election. That was the work of our committee and I performed my role well.

My biggest concern when I came into the People’s Majlis was the state of the Maldives’ property laws and the mortgage bill as well as various other laws dealing with child sexual abuse and gang crimes. I was the one who submitted the political parties bill. When political parties formed and became active, I believed they did not have the space legally to function optimally. I submitted the political parties bill to the Majlis, in accordance with the views of our party. I also submitted the mortgage bill. The political parties bill has now become law. The mortgage bill is in the process of becoming law. Efforts are also underway to amend the property laws to make citizens landowners, allow them to register their property and get rid of obstacles or difficulties in registering land. That bill has been drafted and, God willing, it will be submitted during the next session.

AN: What would you say are the biggest achievements within your term; in terms of what you have accomplished for your constituency and the country as a whole?

AA: I believe I did a lot of work on the gang crimes and weapons bill as well as on the research part for the child sexual abuse bill, especially regarding punishments for child sex offenders in light of the expert technical assistance we got for the bill. I worked hard to ensure that the punishments would be harsh and could not be reduced. God willing those efforts were successful. As a result, we made significant advances in ensuring legal protection for children. Likewise on the political parties bill, my thinking was to ensure that a party is empowered and able to be active in the political sphere. For that there has to be a sufficient number of people as members of a party. It was my initiative, my proposal, to require a certain number of party members and determine factors to be considered by the state before providing funding. I took the lead with these efforts and communicated with different parties. As a result, I believe the efforts were successful and the bill was passed the way we wanted and in line with our proposals.

AN: What would you say is the biggest mistake or worst step you have taken in your career? Why?

AA: I do not believe I have made a mistake in my work in the Majlis. As I am someone who is always mindful of present circumstances and prioritises progress for citizens, I do not believe I have made a mistake. Neither my constituents nor any others have brought something specific to my attention as a mistake I have made. So I believed I have worked adequately and well enough.

AN: Are you taking the optional committee allowance of an additional MVR 20,000? Why or why not?

AA: I did not support taking the committee allowance. I did not vote for it. However, as you know, the work of the People’s Majlis is concluded by the will of the majority and its decisions are approved by the majority. So when it was decided to provide a committee allowance, I don’t really want to not take it. I take the allowance. However, based on the income I receive from the People’s Majlis and given the way my work is organised, the true benefit [of the committee allowance] will be for the people.

AN: What is your view about parliamentarians and other public servants declaring their financial assets publicly for the electorate to be able to refer to?

AA: I have no problem with [publicly declaring assets]. I have nothing to hide. It is not a problem at all for me for the public to know what I own or do not own.

I believe we are the representatives of the people. I believe the public should know of our affluence or our financial capability and our wealth when we came into Majlis and how much it changed after we [became MPs] – I believe the public has a right to know these things. I don’t believe our affairs should be hidden from the public.

AN: Are you re-contesting in the next elections? What do you hope to accomplish should you be elected for a new term?

AA: Yes, I am contesting for the same constituency. I have received cooperation and assistance from my constituents and I believe I have their support as well.

In truth, I want to see Maldivian citizens enjoy complete domestic or internal independence. I do not believe our citizens have proper domestic independence or freedom at present. We have to do a lot of work to that end. In addition to that, we have work to do to ensure financial independence for citizens. Our economic policy and business policies should be framed to ensure financial independence for citizens and the required legal framework should be completed. If we are unable to work to that end, I do not believe we can save our citizens from financial slavery. I believe as long as citizens are not free from financial or monetary slavery, they will not be able to vote freely the way they want. So I believe we have a lot of hard work to do to achieve this. We have to shape the economy and our policies to ensure positive changes to the standard of living for the people. This is necessary for a free and fair election and ensuring the right to vote freely. So I believe these things need to be done in the country despite the challenges.

AN: What improvements do you feel the 18th parliament will need to make to improve as an institution?

AA: To improve the Majlis as an institution, we need to learn to work professionally. The progress that our citizens want to see is unlikely to be achieved if we cannot learn to work professionally. Under some circumstances, there are certain challenges to working that way. That might be because our democracy is in its infancy or it could be a problem we face because we are not fully ready or mature for democracy. But I believe the 18th Majlis will be one where we work professionally, more actively and with a better discipline than at present.

AN: What are your thoughts on party switching – do you think it undermines the party system?

AA: I believe switching parties is a betrayal of the public. That betrayal is not something we can accept. I certainly do not believe that changing parties is something that could be done. There are lots of reasons. For example, a candidate contests on an MDP ticket for a Majlis seat. A lot of people does a lot of hard work with that person, including the hard work and money of a lot of people who are loyal to the party. We have to respect those people. They would not want to see the result of their hard work being the MP going to another party when he is elected. So I believe there should be legal obstacles to it as well and that discipline must be maintained to respect the public. I do not support changing parties at all. I do not think [MPs] should be able to do it either.

AN: What is your view about the current judiciary and what steps do you believe can be taken to improve it?

AA: The judiciary is an institution that needs to gain public confidence. The public perception of the judiciary today is poor, unfortunate and sad. The public senses that it is a place more likely to commit injustices than provide justice. If this is the case, it’s a loss to the nation in every sense. The lack of the means to establish justice impartially among the people is a serious misfortune. Likewise, if we consider investors, there are problems that arise due to the weakness of the judiciary.

People are reluctant to invest in the Maldives. So considering all this, we need to establish a sound judiciary in the country. To do that, we need to reshape the system to ensure justice. I do not believe there is room to work independently of political influence because of the way the judiciary is organised and because of the composition of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Given the composition of the JSC, there are a number of members who could only remain in the commission with the approval of politicians. So I believe we need to change that situation. There must be a way to work in the JSC without being subject to the influence of politicians.

The parent institution for judges is the JSC. Judges exert strong influence on the JSC, too. If this is the case, they would face obstacles to working independently. We need big changes to the system to reform all this – changes to the rules governing hiring, the appointment and dismissal of judges. We need to make the JSC an institution that can work independently and free of external influences. There is a lot of work to be done to reform the judiciary. It will not be easy. But it is something that has to be done for the future of the country and the prosperity and contentment of future generations. I wish to see the judiciary reformed and functioning properly.


“Murder has to be punished with murder”: Yameen calls for death penalty to be put into practice

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen has called for the death penalty to be put into practice in the Maldives, a day after vowing to reform the judiciary.

The MP, half brother of former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, made the comments while speaking on the program Voice of Maldives on Monday night (July 22).

Yameen explained that although he was not previously an advocate of the death penalty, he now believed it must be implemented to save Maldivian society from murders that have become too commonplace, according to local media reports.

Yameen noted that as a result of the “recent spate of killings” in the Maldives he has had a “change of heart” and now believes “murder has to be punished with murder.”

“It is something that has to be done. We cannot move forward without making our streets safe,” Yameen said.

Yameen explained that a death penalty sentence should only be implemented if upheld by the Supreme Court.

“I now believe, if it can be proven in trial so that the country accepts, if it is proven to a degree accepted by judicial principles, if all the steps are followed, and if the Maldivian people believe, I believe that the death penalty is necessary to save society,” he said.

He also noted that because detailed legislation is necessary to implement the death penalty, the current government recently proposed a death penalty bill in parliament.

Regarding whether he would implement Islamic Sharia law, Yameen’s response to a caller was that “justice is currently delivered in the Maldives through Islamic principles” and that he would act “in accordance with what is laid out by the constitution.”

He pledged that under a PPM government he would “do whatever has to be done” to make the Maldives a peaceful place.

Yameen also denied financing or having links with gangs, claiming these allegations “do not have any basis” and politicians perpetuating such rumors “lack sincerity”.

Such rumors that Yameen has gang ties have “been around a long time”, according to CNM.

During the PPM presidential primary, former candidate and PPM Vice President Umar Naseer publicly accused Yameen of involvement with gangs and the illegal drug trade. However, Yameen denied the “defamatory accusations” calling them “baseless and untrue”.

Yameen further noted during the Voice of Maldives program that a “major part” of the government budget would be spent on youth, including a special rehabilitation program for drug addicts, with more than 900 placements available, if he is elected president.

Last month, Yameen also announced that PPM intended to transform Hulhumale’ into a “Youth City” where enough apartments to accommodate young people would be constructed.

Judicial reform pledge

Meanwhile, a day prior to Yameen’s comments in favor of implementing the death penalty to quell violent crime in the Maldives, the PPM presidential candidate pledged to reform the judiciary, even if it required amending the constitution.

To gain investors’ confidence and bring foreign investments to the Maldives, reforming the judiciary to ensure swift justice and confidence in the institution is necessary, Yameen explained.

“We see the many challenges ahead from every direction. So we are not only competing with other candidates. We are competing against the flailing economy and fading culture and values,” he said.

Yameen told local media that Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain had also noted the judiciary has “problems”.

Faiz has meanwhile urged the public and media to refrain from making statements that would give a negative image of the judiciary, and called for constitutional amendments.

His comment’s follow the Maldives Bar Association (MBA) calling for the suspension of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed pending an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct. Hameed is under investigation by both the police and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over the circulation of at least three sex videos apparently depicting him fornicating with unidentified foreign women.

Earlier this year, Faiz said that the current seven-member bench of the Supreme Court cannot be abolished and will continue to remain as the highest court of the country as long as the Maldives remains a democracy. In July 2012, the Chief Justice also said the death penalty can be executed within the existing justice system of the Maldives.

Death penalty controversy

While the Maldives still issues death sentences, these have traditionally been commuted to life sentences by presidential decree since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954, for the crime of practicing black magic.

Death penalty legislation was presented to parliament in June by government-aligned Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed to implement the death penalty by hanging if the Supreme Court upheld a death sentence passed by a lower court. The legislation was put to a vote to decide whether or not to proceed with the bill at committee stage and was ultimately rejected 26-18 with no abstentions.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP said at the time that the party’s parliamentary group had opted to throw out the bill on the grounds that it would be “irresponsible” to approve such measures with ongoing concerns held by itself and international experts over the functioning of the country’s judiciary.

The party additionally criticised the proposed bill as being irrelevant, arguing that the country’s draft penal code – a recent issue of contention between MPs and certain political parties – already included provisions for the death sentence as outlined under Islamic Sharia.

Recent calls for presidential clemency to be blocked led Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor to draft a bill favouring the implementation of the penalty via lethal injection. It was met with opposition by several religious groups such as the NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, which called for the draft to be amended in favour of beheadings or firing squads.

Minivan News understands that the bill submitted by the AG remains open for comments on potential amendments.

More recently, the state called for a High Court verdict on whether the practice of presidential clemency can be annulled.

Eariler this year, the UN country team in the Maldives issued a statement calling for the abolition of both corporal punishment and the death penalty in the Maldives.

Additionally, the state’s stance to review implementation of death sentences has led to strong criticism from certain human rights-focused NGOs this year.

Speaking to Minivan News immediately following a visit to the Maldives in April 2013, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director Polly Truscott raised concerns about the recent drafting of new bills outlining implementation for executions.

She argued that even in practice, such bills would be deemed as a human rights violation, with the NGO maintaining that there remained no research to support the assertion that executing criminals served as an effective deterrent for serious crimes.

She noted this was a particular concern considering the recent findings of various international experts such as UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, regarding the politicised nature of the country’s judicial system.

“To leave Sharia law to the discretion of individual judges is something we believe would be a bad idea,” she said at the time.

In May this year, Amnesty International condemned the sentencing of two 18 year-olds to death for a murder committed while they were minors, and called on Maldivian government authorities to commute the sentence.

Meanwhile, a survey of the leading criminologists in the United States conducted in 2009 found that 88 percent of the country’s top criminologists “did not believe” that the death penalty is a “proven deterrent to homicide”.

The study, Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, also found that 87 percent of the expert criminologists believe that abolition of the death penalty would not have any significant effect on murder rates.