JSC votes not to accept resignations of sex tape probe members

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has reportedly refused to accept the recommendations of two members of the subcommittee investigating the leaked sex tapes of Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed.

According to local media, the JSC refused to accept the resignation of the watchdog body’s deputy president Abdulla Didi and presidential representative Latheefa Gasim.

Their resignations followed the JSC voting to disregard the subcommittee’s recommendation to suspend the judge pending investigation.

According to local media, the commission voted not to accept the resignations. Media officer Hassan Zaheen told Haveeru the two members would resume their duties following the vote.


Former President Nasheed promises to reform Judicial Service Commission within 68 days

Former President and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Presidential Candidate Mohamed Nasheed has said that he and his party will reform the state’s judicial watchdog the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) within the remaining 68 days before the scheduled presidential elections.

Speaking during a press conference on Monday, Nasheed said issues coming up recently concerning judges significantly threatened the dignity and credibility of the entire judiciary.

“The Maldives has set standards for judges established through its constitution. We are witnessing a time where those standards are being grossly ignored by the state institution concerned with judicial oversight and accountability,” he said.

Recalling his decision to arrest Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, which eventually led to the ousting of his government on February 2012, Nasheed said that there had been 12 cases filed against the judge in JSC but the commission had failed take any action.

“Eventually, I raised the concerns to the police commissioner, the Defense Minister and the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF). When they took the action which they all believed was the best decision, you all witnessed what happened next,” Nasheed said.

Apart from the fall of his government, the dire repercussions of the arrest of the judge included a criminal prosecution of Nasheed and senior officials of his government at the Hulhumale Magistrate Court, in what he and his party contended was a politically-motivated attempt to scuttle his re-election bid.

A stay order from High Court led to the temporary suspension of the trials, and the suspension of the Chief Judge of the High Court by the JSC on year-old charges of misconduct.

Nasheed claimed other judges had begun displaying similar behaviour as that of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, and said as yet state institutions including the JSC had failed to take adequate measures.

He also said that there are disputes within the JSC which had to be resolved through parliament.

Among these disputes included the recent stand made by the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, warning the JSC Chair that he would boycott the commission meetings should Hassan Fahmy – the Chair of Civil Service Commission who was deposed by parliament but reinstated by a Supreme Court ruling –  continue to take part in its meetings.

In a letter sent in early June to the JSC Chair, the Speaker of Parliament – who is by virtue of his position a member of the JSC – stressed that even though the chair of the CSC is also by virtue of his position a member of JSC, Fahmy cannot sit in the JSC because he had been deposed from his position by parliament.

“Therefore we need to take measures to find a way Speaker Shahid can sit in the commission, by deciding the matter of Fahmy. Therefore, in the 68 days left before the elections, we need to reform the judiciary. That is fairly easy for us now and I am confident that we can do that,” Nasheed said this morning.

Among the much needed reforms, the former President said the JSC must re-establish its credibility by making decisions in a transparent and informed manner.

“On the other hand, a presidential candidate currently sits in the JSC. We need to find another way where such anomalies are not present in the commission,” Nasheed said, referring to Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, who sits in the commission as parliament’s representative.

Speaking about the current composition of the JSC, Nasheed said  there was no specific model for an organisation such as the JSC.

“In some constitutions, parliamentarians are vested with the duty to oversee the judiciary while in others there have been cases where judges have looked into the cases of other judges. There have been committees appointed by heads of states that have looked into such cases,” he said.

Therefore, the question was not about the composition of the judges but rather the personal integrity of members sitting on such commissions, he said.

Nasheed emphasised the need for transparency, calling for the media to be allowed to cover JSC meetings and report on matters that take place within the commission.

Highlighting recent video footage that appeared on social media depicting Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed and a local businessman discussing the political affiliations of the judiciary, Nasheed claimed that while every individual was entitled to right of private life, such videos of judges must be investigated even police investigated those who were trying to use them for blackmail.

Nasheed also expressed concern over a possible hand in the government over the leaking of the videos involving judges after a senior council member of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) was arrested trying to sell explicit sex videos featuring a judge.

Nasheed also expressed his frustration over MPs from former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), alleging they lacked any commitment towards judicial reform.

“PPM members do not see the need to take action against disciplinary issues of the judges, they do not see that the JSC needs reforms, they do not see that there are problems with the Supreme Court and they do not see the need to investigate pornographic videos of judges. Instead they say they those who shot the videos should be held culpable,” he claimed.

Nasheed said that his party had a 90-point legislative agenda to reform the judiciary once elected, but said this would require a sizable majority for his party in the parliamentary elections early next year.

“This legislation will cover most of the reform we are seeking. Before we embark upon this, we need to have a majority in parliament and without this it would be fairly difficult for us to implement these reforms,” he said.

He noted that after the elections the new government would face a period of a limbo until the parliamentary elections in May, but said he was “very confident” his government would overcome this.


MDP demands Supreme Court bench be replaced, inclusion of educated foreign judges

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s National Council has passed a motion calling on its parliamentary group to seek to abolish the existing Supreme Court bench and replace it with a new panel of judges, including foreign judges.

The call was made following the Supreme Court’s controversial rulings on Thursday overturning decisions made by parliament.

The Supreme Court had overturned parliament’s removal of Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan on sexual harassment charges, and a decision to conduct no-confidence votes through secret ballot.

During an emergency national council meeting held on Sunday evening, the proposal by MDP national council member Mohamed ‘Sanco’ Shareef received unanimous support from all attending members, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

“The Supreme Court is acting in such a fashion that it has now begun overtaking the powers of the parliament and in the process undermining the constitution of this country. [Therefore] this motion calls on MDP’s parliamentary group to make formal requests to parliament to immediately abolish the current bench of Supreme Court and establish a new bench that consists of honest judges.

“Also as the Maldives Constitution does not bar the Supreme Court having foreign judges, [this motion also calls] to seek qualified and educated judges from abroad,” read the motion (Dhivehi).

During the debate on the motion, MDP’s Parliamentary Group and Parliament’s Majority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih described the day of the verdicts as the darkest day of Maldives’ 80 year long parliamentary history.

Solih said the Supreme Court had significantly undermined the legislative power of the state by openly challenging parliament’s power to decide on its own affairs and the bills passed by the parliament.

The Hinnavaru Constituency MP assured the council that the party’s parliamentary group under his leadership would do everything at its hand to ensure the dissolution of the existing Supreme Court bench.

“Shocking verdicts”

Speaking during the debate, former President Mohamed Nasheed expressed his support for the motion claiming that it was time to change the Supreme Court bench, as it was delivering “shocking” verdicts.

Nasheed recalled several controversial decisions made by the Supreme Court, such as its decision that eight of former President Gayoom’s political appointees be paid MVR 500,000 (US$32,425) each in compensation after Nasheed replaced them.

The Supreme Court also ruled in favour of the legitimacy of Hulhumale Magistrate Court, created by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), after the JSC’s head – Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed – made the casting vote.

“It is more important that we have justice established in this country rather than myself being elected as the President. To reform the judiciary and bring the justice system of this country into the right course is something I must do,” he said.

“We will come out to the streets, we will protest. I will not take a single step back until the bench is replaced with better judges,” Nasheed vowed.

Nasheed claimed that Supreme Court had attempted to silence lawyers, by forcing them to sign a declaration which requires them to not to comment on court rulings if they want to keep their licenses to practice law.

The former President also alleged the Supreme Court was employing deceitful tactics by tempering its own verdicts before these were being made available to public.

“We know how they issue the verdict and we know how different it is on the paper to that which is made available to the public. The two versions of the verdict differ significantly. This is something I am very concerned about,” he said.

Nasheed – who has written books on the country’s history – said that Maldives had followed a “tradition” in which “the people come out to sort the problems within the court when judges go out of line in sentencing”.

Spokespersons for the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) were not responding to calls at time of press.

Controversial rulings

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was convicted at court following his dismissal by parliament (double jeopardy). Following the judgment, Fahmy would be reinstated and compensated for lost wages since December 2012.

Delivering the judgment, Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Saeed said that a person should be considered innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law and was entitled to protect his reputation and dignity.

Fahmy was alleged to have to have said to a female CSC employee that “it is not appealing when unmarried girls like you get fat”, whilst touching her on the stomach.

In November last year, parliament voted 38 – 32 to remove the CSC chair after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated a complaint of sexual harassment lodged by a female employee of the CSC.

On Thursday in its ruling on the secret ballot, the majority of the judges contended that the move contravened article 85 of the constitution as well as parliamentary principles and norms of free and democratic societies.

Article 85 stipulates that meetings of the Parliament and its committees must be open to the public.

Dissenting opinion

Meanwhile, Justice Ahmed Muthasim Adnan – the only Supreme Court justice with a background in common law – issued dissenting opinions in both cases.

On the constitutionality of the secret ballot, Justice Adnan noted that article 101(f) of the constitution states that “the regulations governing the functioning of the People’s Majlis shall specify the principles and procedures concerning a resolution to remove the President or Vice President from office as provided in this Constitution.”

Unless a clause added to the regulation was explicitly in violation of the constitution, Justice Adnan said that he believed it “could not be challenged in any court in the Maldives.”

He further noted that while article 85 of the constitution requires parliamentary proceedings to be open to the public, 85(b) states that a majority of MPs present and voting could decide to exclude the public or press “if there is a compelling need to do so in the interest of public order or national security.”

Moreover, article 85(c) states, “Article (b) does not prevent the People’s Majlis from specifying additional reasons for excluding the public from all or any part of a committee meeting of the People’s Majlis.”

He added that the secret ballot would be taken at a sitting open to the public.

In the case submitted by Fahmy contesting his dismissal, Justice Adnan’s dissenting opinion noted that article 187(a) of the constitution authorised parliament to remove members of the CSC “on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.”

Article 187(b) meanwhile states, “a finding to that effect by a committee of the People’s Majlis pursuant to article (a), and upon the approval of such finding by the People’s Majlis by a majority of those present and voting, calling for the member’s removal from office, such member shall be deemed removed from office.”

Justice Adnan argued that an inquiry by a parliamentary committee into alleged misconduct would not be a criminal investigation. Therefore, he added, the oversight committee would not be required to prove guilt to the extent required at trial before making a decision.

He further noted that parliament’s dismissal under the authority of article 187 and a possible conviction at a late date could not be considered meting out two punishments for the same offence.


Judicial Services Commission subject to “external influence”: UN Special Rapporteur

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, has raised concerns over the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

As part of a wider review of the Maldives justice system, Knaul claimed that the JSC – mandated with the appointment, transfer and removal of judges – was unable to perform its constitutional duty adequately in its current form.

Her comment was among a number of preliminary observations on the Maldives’ judiciary and wider legal ecosystem, following an eight day fact-finding mission concluded today.

Knaul is an independent expert appointed to deliver recommendations on potential areas of reform to the Maldives’ legal system, at the 23rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in May, 2013.

As well as recommendations to address what she said were minimal levels of public “trust” in the nation’s judicial system, Knaul also addressed matters such as the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed is currently facing trial for his detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court last year, charges he claims are politically motivated to prevent him from contesting presidential elections later this year.

Knaul maintained that the former president, like every other Maldivian citizen, should be guaranteed a free and independent trial.

The three branches of the state should be equal in their importance, with no branch exercising power over any other, Knaul said.

A “power struggle” ensuing from a “lack of understanding in the delimitation of the respective competences” of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state had “serious implications on the effective realisation of the rule of law in the Maldives.”

Politics in the JSC

Knaul’s key concerns included the politicisation of the JSC.

The JSC created the Hulhumale Magistrate Court in which former President Mohamed Nasheed is currently being tried, and appointed the three-member panel of judges overseeing the case. JSC head Adam Mohamed – also a Supreme Court judge – cast the deciding vote in a Supreme Court ruling on the court’s legitimacy.

“I have heard from numerous sources that the current composition of the JSC is inadequate and politicised. Because of this politicisation, the Commission has been subjected to all sorts of external influence and consequently has been unable to function properly,” Knaul stated.

Knaul said she believed it best for such a body to be composed of retired or sitting judges. She added that it may be advisable for some representation of the legal profession or academics to be included.

However, she maintained that no political representation at all should be allowed in a commission such as the JSC.

“I believe that an appointment body acting independently from both the executive and legislative branches of government should be established with the view to countering any politicization in the appointment of judges and their potential improper allegiance to interests other than those of fair and impartial justice,” Knaul added.

The JSC is currently comprised of Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed, Lower Court Judge Abdulla Didi and MP and government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader and presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim.

Also on the commission is the member appointed from the public, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, President’s Appointee Mohamed Saleem, lawyer Ahmed Rasheed and Attorney General Aishath Azima Shukoor.

Judicial independence

Knaul stated that upon conclusion of her mission meetings, she had found that the concept of independence of the judiciary has been “misconstrued and misinterpreted” by all actors, including the judiciary itself, in the Maldives.

“The requirement of independence and impartiality does not aim at benefiting the judges themselves, but rather the court users, as part of their inalienable right to a fair trial,” Knaul stated, while emphasising the important role of integrity and accountability in judicial independence, and hence its role in the implementation of the rule of law.

Stating that it is vital to establish mechanisms of accountability for judges, prosecutors and court staff, Knaul said: “Such mechanisms must guarantee that the investigation of any actor in the judicial system safeguards the person’s right to a fair hearing. Investigations should be based on objective criteria, the process should respect the basic principles of a fair trial and an independent review of all decisions should be available.”

Transparency and accountability

“When selection criteria [of judges] used by such a body [as the JSC] are objective, clear, based on merit, transparent and well publicised, public understanding of the process and the basis for the appointment of judges increases, and the perception of unfair selection of appointments can be avoided,” Knaul said.

Knaul also spoke of the lack of transparency in the assignment of cases, the constitution of benches in all courts, including the Supreme Court.

“When cases are assigned in a subjective manner, the system becomes much more vulnerable to manipulation, corruption, and external pressure. Information on the assignment of cases should be clearly available to the public in order to counter suspicions of malpractice and corruption,” she observed.

Knaul stated that while transparency is public administration is an obligatory requirement in a democracy, transparency remains a challenge for the Maldivian judiciary.

Furthermore, Knaul highlighted the absence of some fundamental legislation – including the Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act – in the Maldives, adding that this posed huge challenges to upholding the rule of law.

Empowerment of the law community

Knaul spoke of the importance of establishing an independent self-regulating bar association, and of ensuring lawyers remain free from external pressures and influence.

The special rapporteur commented on the practice in the Maldives of the attorney general having the powers of issuing legal practice licenses and of taking disciplinary action against practicing lawyers, terming it “contrary to the basic principles of the independence of lawyers,” and adding that such powers should not rest with the executive branch of the state.

“I further deem that the enforcement of compulsory registration of lawyers to appear before the courts by the courts themselves is unacceptable,” Knaul continued.

“The regulation of disciplinary action against lawyers fall outside the prerogative of the judiciary and contradicts the principle of independence of the legal profession.”

The rapporteur also commented on recent cases of lawyers being charged with ‘contempt of court’ for voicing criticisms, terming this “threats to muzzle the freedom of expression of lawyers.”

“Lawyers, like other citizens, are entitled to freedom of expression, and in particular they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the protection and promotion of human rights, without suffering professional restrictions.”

Other issues that Knaul highlighted included the relatively low number of sitting female judges, the lack of education and training possibilities for persons in the judicial sector, and the lack of trust the general public has in the country’s judiciary.

“I was struck to hear how little trust the public has in the justice system in the Maldives. Justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to be done, and judges must not only be actually impartial they have to appear impartial to the public. The mind-sets of the public and the authorities, including judicial authorities, have not evolved as quickly as the changes were made to the Constitution and the laws of the Maldives. This created a disconnection between the promises of the 2008 Constitution and people’s expectations, and the reality of how justice is delivered and the separation of powers implemented,” she stated.

Knaul is an independent expert who is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) whose position is pro bono. She reports to, and advises, the UNHRC and the UN General Assembly.

Knaul’s statement in full:

“Members of the press, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very happy to be here with you today and share my preliminary observations at the end of my 8-day official mission to the Republic of Maldives.

I should underline from the outset that today I will confine myself to a few remarks. These issues, along with others, will be explored in a more detailed manner in the written report that I will prepare and in which I will also formulate recommendations. I will present this report at the 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the end of May in Geneva.

I wish to stress that I am an independent expert who reports to, and advises, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. Although appointed by the Human Rights Council, I am not employed by the United Nations and the position I hold is pro bono. As an independent expert, I exercise my professional assessment and expertise and report directly to the Member States of the United Nations.

Let me begin by warmly thanking the Government of the Maldives for inviting me to conduct this official mission and for facilitating a rich and interesting programme of meetings and visits in Malé and Addu city while respecting the independence of my mandate. I also wish to note that the previous administration and President had also extended an invitation for me to conduct an official visit in 2012, which could not be realized for a combination of factors, including my own availability.

The purpose of this mission was to understand, in the spirit of co-operation and constructive dialogue, the situation regarding different aspects related to my mandate, and in particular how the Maldives endeavours to ensure the independence of the judiciary, prosecutors and lawyers, their protection, as well as their accountability, and the obstacles encountered which may impede actors of the judicial system to discharge their functions effectively, adequately and appropriately and deliver justice.

During my visit, I had the privilege to meet the President, His Excellency Dr Mohamed Waheed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Dr Abdul Samad Abdullah, as well as other Government officials, including the attorney general. I also held meetings with the chief justice, the Supreme Court, a number of judges from superior and magistrates’ courts, the prosecutor general, members of the legal profession, members of the People’s Majlis, as well as representatives from various political parties, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have dedicated some of their time to present their informed opinions and perspectives to me.

I would like to commend the Maldives’ efforts in establishing a democracy based on the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers. The principle of separation of powers, which is enshrined in the Constitution of 2008, is the bedrock upon which the requirements of judicial independence and impartiality are founded and represents an essential requirement of the proper administration of justice. Understanding of, and respect for, this principle is a sine qua non for a democratic State.

I have heard of positive changes carried out in the last years, which have improved the independence of the judiciary. Transitions, however, always come with challenges, and very often more challenges are encountered along the way. There is always room for improvement. In the Maldives, many challenges to the independence of judges, prosecutors, court officials and lawyers remain, and these directly affect the delivery of justice. Those challenges should be assessed and addressed as a matter of urgency within the parameters laid down by the Constitution and international human rights standards. In the longer-term, the Maldivian people should consider reforms to the Constitution, with the view to improving the tools and measures at the disposal of the State to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the delivery of fair and impartial justice.

Measures to address challenges will only be effective and bring consolidated changes if de-politicized dialogue is prioritized in the Maldives. Measures will have to be inclusive of different views and opinions and be generated through broad consensus. Otherwise, implementation will not be possible. Both short-term and long-term measures have to be combined in order to consolidate the democratic transition and strengthen all the institutions of the State. The Maldives have to continue in its efforts to move forward.

All branches of the State are equally important and none should be above the other. All institutions have a role to play and responsibilities regarding the consolidation of democracy. I am under the impression that the Parliament, the Government and the judiciary, created in the Constitution of 2008, have been testing the limits of their competences, sometimes encroaching on principles established in the Constitution. The lack of understanding in the delimitation of the respective competences and the ensuing power struggle that I have witnessed during my mission have serious implications on the effective realization of the rule of law in the Maldives.

Positive as well as negative recent developments should be recognized and everyone should take its responsibilities and avoid blaming the other branch, the other institution or the other political party for the difficulties faced by the Maldives. Dialogue, respect for the Constitution, transparency and access to information, and accountability are key to a better and more coherent functioning of the institutions of the State, which will serve the people of the Maldives.

I further believe that the concept of independence of the judiciary has been misconstrued and misinterpreted in the Maldives, including among judicial actors. The requirement of independence and impartiality does not aim at benefitting the judges themselves, but rather the court users, as part of their inalienable right to a fair trial. Integrity and accountability are therefore essential elements of judicial independence and are intrinsically linked to the implementation of the rule of law.

In this context the establishment of mechanisms of accountability for judges, prosecutors and court staff is imperative. Such mechanisms must guarantee that the investigation of any actor in the judicial system safeguards the person’s right to a fair hearing. Investigations should be based on objective criteria, the process should respect the basic principles of a fair trial and an independent review of all decisions should be available.

Serious concerns were expressed to me regarding the system of appointment of judges. I believe that an appointment body acting independently from both the executive and legislative branches of Government should be established with the view to countering any politicization in the appointment of judges and their potential improper allegiance to interests other than those of fair and impartial justice. When selection criteria used by such a body are objective, clear, based on merit, transparent and well-publicized, public understanding of the process and the basis for the appointment of judges increases, and the perception of unfair selection or appointments can be avoided.

I have heard from numerous sources that the current composition of the Judicial Services Commission, the body in charge of the appointment, transfer, and removal of judges, is inadequate and politicized. Because of this politicization the Commission has been subjected to all sorts of external influence and consequently has been unable to function properly. While I believe that usually such a body should preferably be composed entirely of judges, retired or sitting, some representation of the legal profession or academics could be advisable. No political representation should be permitted.

I have heard concerns about the apparent lack of transparency in the assignment of cases, as well as in the constitution of benches, within all courts, including the Supreme Court. When cases are assigned in a subjective manner, the system becomes much more vulnerable to manipulation, corruption and external pressure. Information on the assignment of cases should be clearly available to the public in order to counter suspicions of malpractice and corruption.

I further believe that transparency in public administration is not an option, but a statutory and obligatory requirement that is fundamental to a democracy. Yet, transparency remains a challenge for the judiciary in the Maldives, like in many other parts of the world.

One major challenge for the fair, impartial and consistent delivery of justice is the lack of some basic pieces of legislation, such as the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Civil Procedure Code, or the Evidence Act. As a result, judges have had to rely on laws and acts that were passed before the Constitution of 2008 and may contradict it, as well as on principles of Islamic Shari’ah, which is not codified and may be subject to different interpretations. This lack of legislation creates ambiguity and represents a real challenge for enforcing the rule of law and respecting the principle of legality.

I believe that a uniform legal system respecting the principles enshrined in the Constitution is necessary to create consistency in the administration of justice, avoiding difficulties for litigators to seek justice and judges to render decisions that are impartial and fair. When essential legislation is lacking it is also almost impossible to monitor the quality and consistency of justice delivery. Passing laws is imperative to implement the Constitution and the People’s Majlis should bear in mind how their actions or inaction affects the establishment of the rule of law. The Government too should show strong leadership to move the development and adoption of essential legislation forward and ensure that their contents are in line with the promotion and protection of human rights.

Coming to the legal profession, I would like to note that while lawyers are not expected to be impartial in the same way as judges, they must be as free from external pressures and interferences as judges are. When guarantees are not in place to enable lawyers to discharge their duties in an independent manner, the door is open to all sorts of pressure and interference, whether from public or private actors, including judges, who seek to have an impact on or control judicial proceedings.

I have serious concerns about the absence of an independent self-regulating Bar association or council that oversees the process of admitting candidates to the legal profession, provides for a uniform code of ethics and conduct, and enforces disciplinary measures, including disbarment. Such an organization would not only provide an umbrella of protection for its members against undue interference in their legal work, but also monitor and report on their members’ conduct and apply disciplinary measures in a fair and consistent manner.

It is contrary to the basic principles of the independence of lawyers that licences to practice law, as well as disciplinary measures, lay in the hands of the executive, in the case of the Maldives, the Attorney General. I further deem that the enforcement of compulsory registration of lawyers to appear before the courts by the courts themselves is unacceptable. Further, the regulation of disciplinary measures against lawyers falls outside of the prerogative of the judiciary and contradicts the principle of independence of the legal profession. I am also concerned about reports regarding threats of contempt of court used to muzzle the freedom of expression of lawyers. Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, and in particular they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matter concerning the law, the administration of justice and the protection and promotion of human rights, without suffering professional restrictions.

I always pay particular attention to the integration of a gender perspective and women’s rights in the justice system, and I have done so during my mission in the Maldives. I am concerned that there are currently no women sitting on the Supreme Court and only eight women sitting in the High Court, the Superior Courts and the Magistrate Courts. It seems to me that these women reached their positions through sheer determination and dedication since there is no policy or strategy to increase women’s representation on the bench.

In addition, all members of the justice system should be sensitized to gender equality and women’s rights to make access to justice a reality for women in the Maldives. Similarly, access to justice for other members of society who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, such as children, migrant workers, or persons with disabilities, should be enhanced, and the judiciary should take into account the specific challenges and obstacles they face.

I was struck to hear how little trust the public has in the justice system in the Maldives. Justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to be done and judges must not only be actually impartial they have to appear impartial to the public. The mind-sets of the public and the authorities, including judicial authorities, have not evolved as quickly as the changes were made to the Constitution and the laws of the Maldives. This created a disconnection between the promises of the 2008 Constitution and people’s expectations, and the reality of how justice is delivered and the separation of powers implemented.

Finally, I am seriously concerned about the lack or inadequacy of education and training possibilities for all actors of the justice system in the Maldives, especially lack of training on international principles, the nature of judicial independence, responsibility and integrity, international human rights law, the Constitution and new legislation passed. Professional trainings also seem to be lacking. Judges, prosecutors and lawyers should have access to a wide-range of legal literature in the official language, Dhivehi, and quality continuing education, including specialized training on gender equality and women’s rights, international human rights law, and the human rights mechanism. Such trainings must be accessible to all judicial actors, regardless of the level at which they operate.

In addition, all actors in the justice system, in particular judges, prosecutors and lawyers must be properly educated and trained with regard to their respective codes of ethics and standards of conduct. Available, accessible, appropriate and quality education and training can over the longer-term significantly change attitudes that would otherwise be susceptible to corrupt conduct, unfair trial and the improper application of the law, and pave the way for strengthening both the integrity of the justice system and its independence.

Let me conclude by calling upon the international community, including foreign partners, United Nations agencies and other international and non-governmental organizations, to strengthen their engagement in the Maldives and continue contributing to the consolidation of the justice sector and the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession with concrete and sustainable programmes, whose implementation can be monitored and assessed.

Thank you for your attention.”


Former President Nasheed’s trial politically motivated: Bar Human Rights Committee

The trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed on charges of illegally detaining a judge appears to be a politically motivated attempt to bar the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate from the 2013 presidential election, the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) concluded in a report launched on Thursday (December 13).

The report was compiled by Stephen Cragg on behalf of the BHRC, the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales, following a visit to the Maldives from November 3 to 6 to observe hearings of former President Nasheed’s trial.

“BHRC notes that Mr Nasheed’s lawyers have petitioned the prosecutor-general to review whether the prosecution of Mr Nasheed is in the public interest, and it seems to BHRC that this is an application worthy of very serious consideration,” the report stated.

“BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives.”

According to a press release by the BHRC, the report was based on “an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the trial of ex-President Mohamed Nasheed.” The BHRC observer, Stephen Cragg, is a member of the bar and barrister at Doughty Street Chambers.

Former President Nasheed faces criminal charges for the military’s controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed on January 16 this year.

Home Minister Hassan Afeef sought to justify the arrest at the time on the grounds that the judge was a national security threat after he blocked investigation of his misconduct by the judicial watchdog and quashed a police summons for him.

The judge had “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist,” Afeef said, accusing Abdulla Mohamed of obstructing high-profile corruption casesreleasing murder suspects, colluding with drug traffickers, and barring media from corruption trials.

Judge Abdulla “hijacked the whole court” by deciding that he alone could issue search warrants, Afeef contended, and had arbitrarily suspended court officers.

In the conclusions of the BHRC report, the author observed that the detention of the judge was “not a simple case of abuse of power.”

“Rather, the underlying narrative of the situation is that of a president desperate to bring change to a new democracy after decades of oppression, and finding himself thwarted by the inability of the organs of state set up by the constitution to deliver much needed  reform,” the report stated.

Referring to “the large number of international reports” that have found the Maldivian judiciary to be flawed, the BHRC noted that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) “failed in its twin tasks of ensuring that the judiciary has the appropriate experience and qualifications, and in bringing to book the judges who fail to fully and fairly implement the rule of law.”

“Implicit in these criticisms is that Mr Nasheed cannot be guaranteed a fair trial,” the report concluded.

The BHRC also expressed concern with the “deterioration of human rights protection in the Maldives since the transfer of power in February 2012” as reported by Amnesty International and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

“Again, a failure to comply with human rights standards by the Maldivian authorities is a grave threat to the democracy so recently achieved,” the report stated.

“How the Maldives deals with this prosecution and trial (if it goes ahead) may well decide the course of its government for years to come.”

Back in September, the government criticised Amnesty International’s report, “The Other side of Paradise: A Human Rights Crisis in the Maldives”, as being “one sided”.

The BHRC is a UK-based independent body “concerned with protecting the rights of advocates, judges and human rights defenders around the world.”

JSC and failure of oversight

The BHRC report also noted that article 285 of the constitution mandated the JSC to determine whether or not the judges on the bench possessed “the educational qualifications, experience and recognized competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a judge, [and] high moral character.”

“However, the JSC  failed to bring in any standards in the two years allowed and in August 2010 almost all judges, good and bad, were re-instated in post at that point amidst much controversy,” the report observed.

It added that the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) expressed concern with the JSC’s failure to “fulfil its constitutional mandate of proper vetting and reappointment of judges.”

“The JSC (made up of politicians, lawyers and judges) has also been criticised as ineffective in its other role of overseeing  complaints about judges. Complaints about the worst judges built up and were not investigated. A large number of complaints were made about the head of the criminal court in Malé, Judge Abdulla Mohamed,” the BHRC report explained.

“In an open letter to parliament in March 2011, former President Nasheed’s member on the JSC and outspoken whistle-blower, Aishath Velezinee, claimed that the politically-manipulated JSC was protecting Judge Abdulla.

She claimed this protection was provided despite the existence of “reasonable proof to show that Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was systematically committing the atrocity of setting free dangerous criminals and declaring them innocent with complete disregard to the evidence [presented at court].”

Despite Judge Abdulla having been sentenced for a criminal offence, Velezinee wrote that Speaker Abdulla Shahid pushed for his reappointment and later “bequeathed the Criminal Court to Abdulla Mohamed until 2026″ under the Judges Act, which was passed hastily during the constitutional crisis period in July-August 2010.

Velezinee meanwhile told the author of the BHRC report that it was “the State’s duty to remove [Judge Abdulla] from the judiciary”.

“She has written a remarkable memoir of her time on the JSC, describing the machinations and tribulations of the Committee, and its failure to establish ethical or moral standards for judges,” the report noted.

Meanwhile, on January 16, 2012, “frustrated by an inability to remove allegedly bad judges, President Nasheed (or one of his ministers, it is still not entirely clear) ordered the detention of Judge Abdulla,” the BHRC report continued.

“He was taken to an island and kept there for almost three weeks, despite the protests of lawyers and judges. It does not seem that he was badly treated, and the government emphasised the lack of other effective powers to justify its actions.”

It added that the Supreme Court demanded the immediate release of the judge “as he was arrested not in conformity with the laws and regulations, and the acts of MNDF [Maldives National Defence Force] was outside its mandatory power.”

The trial

Former President Nasheed’s trial is set to resume after the Supreme Court on December 5 decided in a 4-3 ruling that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court hearing the case was legitimate.

The BHRC report noted that Nasheed was charged under article 81 of the penal code, which states: “It shall be an offence for any public servant to use the authority of his office to intentionally arrest or detain any innocent person in a manner contrary to law. A person guilty of this offence shall be punished with exile or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding MVR 2,000.”

The former President’s legal team informed the author that “a range of defences will be advanced” in his trial.

“For example, is the President a public servant to whom the Article applies? Does the Article relate only to the person who, in fact, takes a person into custody or directly orders an arrest? What effect does the term ‘innocent’ have in the Article?” the report explained.

“The team is to request that the Prosecutor General reconsiders whether the prosecution against Mr Nasheed should proceed, arguing that it is not in the public interest that it should do so. It was explained that if Mr Nasheed is sentenced to more than a year in custody then (even if he is immediately pardoned) he will be excluded from running in the 2013 elections.”

The author of the report also spoke to a number of lawyers, politicians and the Prosecutor General during their visit, and “almost all criticised the failure of the JSC to bring about reform of the judiciary in the way expected by the new constitution.”

“Opinion was split between those who thought there was no option  but to prosecute Nasheed, and those who wanted the wider context to be taken into account by the prosecutor,” the report noted.

“There was a strong  feeling amongst some that the politicians of the old regime had escaped prosecution for much worse abuses of power. The foreign government representatives I spoke to clearly see Nasheed as a force for good in the region and desperately want a solution  to the current proceedings which will allow him to stand in the election next year.”

Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, chair of parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee, meanwhile explained that the absence of powers to replace members of the JSC “severely restricted” the parliamentary committee from ensuring that the JSC was functioning effectively.

Nasheed also criticised the Supreme Court for overturning Acts of Parliament that “purported to legislate for the justice system” as part of its stance that “anything to do with the administration of justice was a matter for the [Supreme] Court.”

Former MP Ibrahim Ismail ‘Ibra’, chair of the constitution drafting committee of the Special Majlis, meanwhile contended that the President “had no choice but to arrest Judge Abdulla” as the only option to “remove a rogue judge from the criminal justice system.”

Ibra explained that the “backdrop to President Nasheed taking or authorising the action he did against the judge” was the JSC’s failure to investigate serious complaints, some dating back to 2005.

“However, when the JSC did adjudicate against Judge Abdulla in one case, the Judge went to the civil court and obtained an injunction against the JSC to stop them taking action against the judge. Essentially the system had ground to a halt,” the BHRC report stated.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz however insisted that “it was right that Mr Nasheed should face trial and that even before Mr Nasheed had lost power it was considered the right thing to do.”

“I asked him whether there was a code of practice which governed prosecution decisions. He said that there was but that it was not in the public domain. He said that it was possible for prosecution decisions to take into account the public interest, but was a little vague as to how this was actually done,” the report stated.

“He mentioned that when Mr Nasheed had been president there had been a decision in the public interest not to pursue him in relation to fairly minor electoral offences. He did say that it was possible for the prosecutors to reconsider, following charge, whether a prosecution should continue.”


MDP gathering calls for judicial reform ahead of Nasheed trial

Maldivian Democratic Party on Tuesday night held a march around the capital island Male’ calling for judicial reform ahead of the next hearing of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial, scheduled for November 4.

Over 500 protesters marched around Male’ with banners and placards displaying messages on the importance of judicial independence and holding the judiciary accountable.

A number of leading MDP figures joined the march, including former Minister of Environment and Housing Mohamed Aslam, MP Ilyas Labeeb, former Ministers of Education Shifa Mohamed and Musthafa Lutfi, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem and former Minister of Home Affairs Hassan Afeef.

Some of the messages on the banners observed by Minivan News said: “Do not destroy justice for the sake of political gain” and “No one will benefit through spoiling the judiciary.”

The protest march began in front of the MDP office on Sosun Magu and protesters walked on the streets of Male’ despite the rainy weather. The march stopped at some street junctions where party leaders gave speeches to the gathered crowds. Speakers included Musthafa Lutfi and Shifa Mohamed.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said that a main focus of the protest was asserting that the judiciary too must be held accountable.

The three judges presiding over the Nasheed case have continued to refuse to attend parliament committee meeting despite repeated summons.

Trial against Nasheed

On October 9, the police presented Nasheed to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court for the first hearing on the case concerning his arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

He was arrested on the island of FaresMathoda on the previous day and held in the Dhoonidhoo Detention Facility until the hearing, prompting protests by hundreds of his supporters.

After the first hearing, Nasheed was released from custody, though they maintained the previously imposed travel ban, requiring him to get a special permission from the courts prior to any travelling.

Nasheed alleged that the Prosecutor General’s sole purpose was to bar him from contesting in the upcoming presidential elections, stating, “If, as the President of the Maldives I arrested the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, then it is not as small a crime as is stated in Article 81 (of the Penal Code). The Prosecutor General’s only objective is to ensure that I cannot contest in the next presidential elections. To do so, he has identified an article which would provide just the required period of detention to cancel my candidacy.”

Nasheed’s legal team has previously raised concerns about the trial, stating that case proceedings were against laws and norms. They raised questions about the legality of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and procedural issues with the three judge panel presiding over the case.

While the next hearing has been scheduled for November 4, two among Nasheed’s lawyers have been barred from court.

Meanwhile, following an application for a temporary injunction by Nasheed’s legal team, the High Court has declared that it will hold the next hearing of the injunction case on the same day coinciding with Nasheed’s next hearing at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.


“Government cannot be hijacked by taking over army headquarters”: MDP protest enters day five

The government of the Maldives can no longer be “hijacked” by taking over the army headquarters and arresting or assassinating the incumbent ruler as in centuries past, deposed President Mohamed Nasheed said on Sunday night.

Addressing supporters on the third night of the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ‘Journey to Justice’ protest, Nasheed explained that “the days when this country was ruled by the might of the forearm has been relegated to the past.”

“What we are seeing today is that the Maldivian people will not idly sit by and watch the flame of freedom flicker out,” he said.

He added that taking control of the army headquarters to assume executive power was “an outdated and antiquated way of thinking” in the 21st century.

“The secret or essence behind this is that the government of this country is not the property of the ruler,” he continued. “The government of this country belongs to its people. It can only be stolen from the people after arresting all of them or when there are no longer any people left in this country.”

A Maldivian government could no longer rule over the populace without their consent and respect, he added.

“The days when the Maldivian people could be beaten into submission with electric batons, pepper spray or sticks are long past,” he asserted, adding that “most Maldivians value freedom and despise brutality.”

Nasheed expressed concern with the continued arrest and detention of elected councillors and MDP supporters across the country.

In contrast to fiery speeches by MDP MPs threatening to march the crowd to “reclaim what was stolen,” Nasheed insisted that violent confrontations or the use of force would not be necessary.

He went on to congratulate the protesters for “showing an example to the world” of a peaceful demonstration.

“Shedding a single drop of blood from any Maldivian” would be unacceptable, he added, advising protesters to act “with wisdom and patience.”

Nasheed also urged speakers who take the stage to not abuse the right to free expression by using indecent or “obscene language” or resorting to personal attacks.

Day four

On the following night, former TV presenter Miqdad Adam hosted a panel discussion with former ministers Hassan Latheef and Hassan Afeef along with lawyer Ahmed Abdulla Afeef focusing on the legal issues surrounding the transfer of power.

Hassan Afeef,  former home minister, explained that the coup started with “rebelling or mutinying officers” refusing to obey orders from the former Commissioner of Police and his deputies on the night of February 6.

Shortly before beginning their protest at the Republic Square in the early hours of February 7, a rogue group of riot police attacked the MDP Haruge (headquarters), assaulted former State Minister for Home Affairs, Mohamed ‘Monaza’ Naeem and ransacked the place.

According to eyewitnesses, a police officer hit an elderly man on the head with a chair. Haruge was attacked for a second time after a group of soldiers and police assisted by gang members took over the state broadcaster.

Afeef added that a number of army officers also refused to obey orders from either the Commander-in-Chief or Chief of Defence Forces Brigadier General Moosa Ali Jaleel.

If police officers believed they were given an unlawful order, Afeef continued, they should complain through the proper channels.

Afeef noted that current Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ had “no legal status” to enter army barracks, negotiate on behalf of the mutinying police or relay demands to President Nasheed.

Local media reported on the morning of February 7, between 10am and 11am, ex-Colonel Nazim addressing the crowd and informing them that President Nasheed had been told to “immediately and unconditionally resign” before 1.30pm.

Afeef claimed that Nazim told President Nasheed that “his life could be in danger” if he refused to comply with demands from mutinying police and army officers.

Former Youth Minister Hassan Latheef referred to opposition politicians meeting then-Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed at 1:00am at his official residence following a night of roving protests.  He added that Dr Waheed evaded questions from cabinet members the next day.

Lawyer Ahmed Abdulla Afeef meanwhile criticised Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz for administering the oath of office on February 7 without looking into whether President Nasheed resigned under duress or not.

Ahmed also noted that the resignation letter was snatched by “the three men with no legal status” who entered the President’s Office with a number of army officers and took the letter to parliament.

Calling for an independent inquiry, Ahmed argued that compromising President Nasheed’s volition or discretion at any point of the process would render the resignation unlawful.

The former ministers also contended that opposition parties resorted to a violent takeover because they were convinced MDP would have won the 2013 presidential election based on delivery of campaign pledges, such as free universal healthcare, housing programmes and a nationwide transport network.


Q&A: “Silent coup has become the armed coup” – Aishath Velezinee

Aishath Velezinee was formerly the President’s Member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the watchdog body assigned to appoint and investigate complaints against judges. Two years ago she turned whistleblower and alleged the JSC was complicit in protecting judges appointed under the Gayoom’s government, and was colluding with parliament to ensure legal impunity for senior opposition supporters. In January 2011 she was stabbed twice in the back in broad daylight.

JJ Robinson: What do you think of the international community’s initial reaction to the events of February 7?

Aishath Velezinee: I think they fail to see the dynamics behind this country – it is all very personal and based on individuals.

[Maldivians] have a very deep understanding of this – the actors involved. The international community does not. So the international community is taking much at face value, and they are measuring what they see against the standards they hold.

These are not our standards – what I’ve seen in the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) is far below the standards of what you would expect from ordinary people in any democracy. An ordinary person would not act like the duty bearers here have done. It is absolutely unbelievable.

JJ: You have often spoken about a ‘silent coup’ – a collusion between the judiciary, the JSC and opposition-aligned members of parliament to preserve the pliability of the judiciary as it was under former Justice Ministry and President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. What do you mean when you said ‘the silent coup has become the armed coup’?

AV: The heart of the silent coup was the Criminal Court. The former regime wanted to maintain their influence on the criminal court.

You can see that a number of powerful and influential politicians and businessmen – and businessmen who are politicians – have cases pending against them. This gives reason as to why they would want to keep a hold on the criminal court.

Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was the man facilitating them to carry on with that, giving cover to the very serious corruption that has been continuing for a number of years in this country. This is highly entrenched corruption – state corruption.

When Abdulla Mohamed went missing – as they say – I believe the opposition feared they were losing control over the judiciary, and that is why they came out on the streets. If you look at the so called public protests, it was opposition leaders and gang members. We did not see the so-called public joining them – they were a public nuisance really.

For nearly three weeks they were going around destroying public property and creating disturbances. It wasn’t a people thing – we can say that. We locals – we know who was there on the streets. There is footage and evidence available of it. We’ve seen the destruction they were causing in Male’ every day.

To the international community it’s a crowd of people – and to them that’s the public. It’s a public protest to them. But it was not.

Then we need to consider who was involved in the free Abdulla Mohamed campaign. These are the same people I have previously accused of covering up and being conspirators in the silent coup. Amongst them was Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed – currently the chair of the parliamentary oversight committee on independent commissions – who has a duty to investigate the JSC.

On 6 February 2012, I finally got in writing from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) their response to my complaints about the JSC in May 2010.

They said that the matter of Article 285 and the JSC’s high treason was forwarded to Parliament for further investigation on 9 September, 2010.

Where is it? We haven’t heard anything of it. So why was MP Nasheed not doing his duty and investigating this? Why was he out on the street campaigning to free Abdulla Mohamed when this question is before him and he needs to look into it? Why was MP Abdul Raheem bragging on VTV – immediately after the national security committee meeting – that he had deliberately disrupted the meeting to prevent me from speaking? It’s a huge cover up.

JJ: Why do you think the international community is unaware of this?

AV: The international community is not fluent in the Dhivehi language. And all of the evidence I have – on tape – is in Dhivehi. I cannot get them to listen to that. All they hear is me talking, and as you know, nobody else has dared to come out publicly and take this up.

JJ: Where does this place you now? Considering you have all this evidence you must have some concern for your safety?

AV: All I have is with the police, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), the ACC, and with parliament. So I don’t know. They could easily destroy it. It’s not being shared with the parliament. I have asked MPs in the independent commissions committee if they are aware of this letter from the ACC – they are not. Since 2010 we have been working with the judiciary whose legitimacy is actually in question.

The issue was not taken up by anybody. The issue of Article 285 and JSC’s high treason was taken up by myself, as a sitting member under oath, and I think that should be enough reason for them to investigate. But the only response I get from people is: “There were 10 people in there. Why just you?”

In a conspiracy where a majority of the people join together to commit a crime, why would they come out and speak about it? High treason was committed in the JSC with the confidence that there would be no investigation.

I believe the Speaker sitting there has been the cover for the JSC to cater to their old masters. They are very confident that the silent coup will remain uninvestigated.

JJ: On paper, the reappointment of the judges in 2010 occurred before parliament had passed the requisite legislation determining the educational, moral and ethical criteria for a judge? Does that not undermine the legitimacy of all verdicts issued after that period?

AV: Article 285 is not tied to any law. It is to prevent politicisation of the judiciary. The JSC is supposed to be working independently as an institution, and although it includes people from various parties – MPs and the Attorney General – each of us had a conduct of conduct under which we were supposed to be impartial. But that’s not how the JSC was functioning.

Everyone assumes because I was appointed by the President that I was colluding with the President. But if anyone bothered to look at the evidence – the recordings of the meetings – they would find the reality is different.

JJ: This evidence you have – are people just not bothering to look at it, or are they unable to do so because of the language barrier?

AV: Nobody has looked at the evidence. It has all been based on weight – nine to one. Woman to nine men. I feel very insulted.

JJ: Some of the visiting media expressed an interest in the situation with the judge and the lead up to the judicial crisis which precipitated these events. But how can you explain that in a two minute soundbite?

AV: You can’t. It is too complex. All of this is very complex and we can’t take anything at face value. We need to access available documentation, and we need people to access the other evidence available. But all the fact finding missions and investigation teams are based on just talking to people.

If you just talk to people, the story you get depends on who you talk to. The facts are the evidence.

People have asked me why I did not take it up with groups like HRCM. There is no place I have not taken it to – and I could not access the international community when I did not even have an office. I was under oath as a JSC member, but the commission put me out on the street to work. I was working like an activist – and alone.

JJ: On the bright side many people must be feeling they should have listened to you a long time ago?

AV: Yes. But it seems we missed the chance to fix it – to fix Article 285.

Now it’s politics that will solve this. In 1957 we had a constitution for seven months. Now we have had one for three years and failed again. We have to do what we failed to do and focus on strengthening judiciary. But when a serious national security issue being examined in parliamentary committee is disrupted and it ceases to continue with investigation, what does it say?

The Maldivian Democratic Party needs to focus on 285. They need to start talking constitution, about how they got into this. They need to back me – I submitted these cases and President Nasheed was still waiting for a response. You can’t run a state without a judiciary – and the judiciary is still under the control of the former regime

JJ: Even if early elections are called, that would not help the judicary?

AV: There is no judiciary as guaranteed to the people under this constitution.

JJ: What do you make of the new Attorney General, Azima Shukoor?

AV: I know her from primary school. We were in the same class until grade 10. I know her quite well – and I also know what she’s been doing in recent years.

I also know Gayoom’s government because I worked in that government for 19 years and six months. I know all of the individual players in this game, very, very well.

Gayoom had this practice of moving around people he found difficult, so I had the opportunity to work in a number of government departments and ministries, and to get to know quite a lot of powerful players in the opposition today. I know how they operate – their modus operandi. I know how they function.

My mistake was to trust. I trusted members of the JSC to uphold the constitution. I trusted the Speaker to uphold the constitution. And where I saw they were acting against the constitution I found it really hard to comprehend. It was happening every day. But I couldn’t believe it until the last moment.

JJ: Where to from here? What do you think happens now?

AV: Article 285 is going to be buried in history. I do not think we have the willingness or capacity in any of the state institutions to fully investigate exactly what happened in the JSC.

But what happened in the JSC must be haunting some of its members, if, months after I was stabbed, they are still discussing in a recorded sitting about how to silence me. On 17 Janurary 2011, two weeks after I was stabbed, MP Dr Afrashim Ali said I was “dangerous”, and the high court appointee was saying “We have to think about our future, our security. We have to silence her.” I have audios clips of that meeting on the 17th. I have the whole 1.5 hour recording – it’s there, you can hear it. A friend helped me do cuts and I have circulated it on Facebook. I put it on YouTube (Part one, two, three).

They fear an investigation because if there is an investigation, what I have said will be proven. All they are betting on is using their political weight to prevent an investigation.

JJ: You are making copies of the evidence?

AV: When Nasheed resigned I put everything away – I have nothing in my home any more. These are probably the only copies we have now.

Considering that the JSC actually tampered with and edited the audio recordings when they submitted them to parliament in 2010, they have shown they will destroy the evidence.

I have copies of audio tapes of proceedings in the JSC during Article 285 – and after. As well as from when their focus was on covering it up.

JJ: It is interesting that they continued to record the meetings, given all the other procedures not followed.

AV: They were not recording meetings when I initially joined the commission. They were working completely unconstitutionally.

The JSC refused technical assistance from the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) and others. Instead they were themselves talking about strengthening the judiciary. What judiciary was there to strengthen when it was unconstitutionally appointed? It’s actually the people who have lost, not President Nasheed or the so-called President Waheed. The people have lost.

JJ: What do you make of Dr Waheed? Given his UN background and benign demeanour, he seems an unlikely leader of a coup d’état.

AV: He might have thought it was a power grab and that he was the man who was going to lead this. But he may be realising that he too is being played, is a tool of the opposition – of Gayoom’s family. I think he found out too late. He’s either an idiot or a tyrant. Right now it looks like both.

Let’s say President Nasheed did resign under duress. Is it the man who resigns, or is it the government who resigns? If it is the government, then Dr Waheed should be walking out with the President. Then it is the Speaker who takes over for the interim period.

This national unity government should be formed with the Speaker leading it. You can’t have a politician from a party that does not have a single seat in parliament or in a Council, heading a national unity government.

If he would step aside and permit the Speaker to form a national unity government, that would have more credibility. That would also bring this whole situation back into alignment with the constitution.

Right now we seem to be in a gap. We have a man who was put there by the police and military to lead a national unity government. We haven’t seen the public supporters – the so-called people behind him – anywhere. So what national unity government are we talking of here? Just because the cabinet seats a shared across a number of parties, is it a national unity government? No.

I think it is time the Speaker took charge and led a national unity government, and organised elections, and let the people speak again. Just because the international community is upset with Nasheed’s behaviour, doesn’t mean that they should legitimise a government that the people do not support.

We are talking about the government of the Maldives. And that government should be one that the people of the Maldives want and trust.

JJ: There is a lot of public baiting of police officers at the moment. How helpful is this?

AV: Waheed’s first public statement was to praise the police mutineers. How could he?

What happened on February 8 – that peaceful walk – that was absolutely uncalled for. And we haven’t seen anybody talking about it. Not Waheed, nobody. Why was that? What was the reason for such a violent and brutal attack by the police? Why were they picking on certain people? Why did they chase me saying they would kill me? Why?

JJ: The police chased you?

AV: The police, yes. Why did they spray me at close range?

JJ: They pepper sprayed you?

AV: My eyes – I could not open them – it took me 24 hours to clean myself of it. There was a police commander – I was walking in the middle of the crowd. When they chased us I ran with the people. There was this lane – I went in and I think President Nasheed was there. I pulled him by the shirt, then I ran in front and his men came and surrounded him. I passed the shop where he had gone in for cover. Then I came face to face with the police. There was a commander – he screamed out: “That’s the bitch, kill her!”.

Someone stepped in front of me and pepper sprayed me. I grabbed someone running away and said “I’m blinded, they’re going to kill me. Take me, take me.”

Somebody helped me across the street and took me to a safe place.

JJ: Are you concerned for your safety now?

AV: I’m very scared. You have seen their whole approach to my allegations. To deny it – not by arguing over the substance, but by slandering me, and ignoring it. They either slander or ignore.

I’m afraid that considering their approach, they are not going to make a big deal of taking me to court and trying me. They will find other ways of silencing me. It was scary.

This is not about Nasheed or Waheed. It is about the constitution. I really wish the international community would see beyond the obvious. What the opposition is afraid of is separation of powers, and the institutuion of a democracy. It is not Nasheed – Nasheed they can defeat in an election, if they have the people power. But they are afraid of a democratic system where they cannot carry on high level corruption, where they cannot control the judiciary or the independent commissions – and the media. That they fear.

A lot of the younger politicians who have played different roles in covering this up I don’t think are aware of the depth and dirtiness of this coup. It sounds like a conspiracy novel – but it is reality. And people are finding it hard to believe becasue of that.

JJ: To what extent is this about people power? What happens if police or the army are given an order they don’t want to comply with?

AV: I don’t think Waheed is controlling them. We’re seeing [Defence Minister Mohamed] Nazim – Nazim is from the National Security Service (NSS) of before [under Gayoom]. The police and the military were separated in 2005. Nazim is pre-2005. Nazim probably controls the police though [Police Commissioner] Abdulla Riyaz, while he controls the MNDF. Jameel’s role, as Home Minister, is the judiciary. He is the former justice minister. He knows individually all the sitting judges – he wrote the handouts they learned from.

JJ: Do you think people played politics too long with the judiciary – including the MDP side? People are asking why, if this was the issue, Nasheed did not act earlier?

AV: He would know. For one thing I think it was very difficult for him when his own Attorney General [Husnu Suood] was not taking up the matter. Suood was sitting in the JSC with me. But it was only me and Sheikh Shuaib Rahman – the member appointed from among the general public – who went to the ACC.

The Attorney General removed himself from the JSC at the time. I think he realised the politics of it, and took the safe road.

I put myself in danger, taking this up, knowing quite well the politics behind this. But I didn’t feel I had a choice. I was required as an office bearer under oath to work in the interest of the people and the constitution. And my interest in bringing it out to the public was to give them a chance to get their judiciary.

JJ: Will things get worse when the international media and the diplomatic community move on?

AV: Everyone is going about their daily business and to the outside world it looks normal. But the moment they leave, I believe we are in danger.

It is scary – the hatred. These men – the men in action on the 8th – it was their emotions that came out. This was something they carry inside. The hatred. What I fear is that it seems like the police, since their mutiny, can act with impunity. Individual police officers can take up their own greviances against individuals with impunity.

JJ: Do you think the military is in a similar situation?

AV: No, I think the military have largely managed to keep themselves outside the politics. But the leadership of today – which we see has not gone according to rank – is politicised, and part of the conspiracy.

JJ: Have you considered moving somewhere safer?

AV: I don’t see a real solution to this. I think I owe it to people to write this down. I should seriously sit down and write. But it is too heavy at the moment; being amongst events here and the people, fearing for my own safety, I cannot comfortably sit down. But I need to write the story of the silent coup – of how the constitution has been killed without changing a single letter. They have managed to commit high treason under the cover of the constitution.

Today we are in a far more dangerous situation than we were pre-constitution 2008. Then everyone knew it was autocracy, and that all the powers of the state were constitutionally given to one man. Today it is taken at face value that there are separation of powers.

I have policemen bragging on my Facebook page: “We brought down this government. Next time we see you in a rally we are going to kill you.”

Policemen on Facebook. They don’t seem to mind doing it publicly. Before they might have been more subtle – now there seems to be no order at all.

JJ: While the new government is seeking to establish its legitimacy – and the resorts are losing money – do you think there is risk of further crackdowns?

AV: There is no public support for government. And the international community wants to legitimise it. I would like to see Dr Waheed hold a rally, with his 12 parties. Let’s count numbers.


MDP appeals for international assistance over “intolerable situation” of judiciary

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has appealed for assistance from the international community over the “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary – most of whom were appointed by Gayoom during his thirty years of power.”

In a statement by the MDP forwarded to diplomatic missions and United Nations offices by the Foreign Ministry concerning the events of October 20, the ruling party explained that a protest was launched against “an ongoing, highly-politicised Supreme Court case” contesting the eligibility of MP Mohamed Musthafa for the May 2009 parliamentary elections.

“The Supreme Court case is the latest installment of an ongoing attempt by Gayoom to secure a parliamentary seat for his son, Gassan Maumoon,” the statement alleged, noting that Gassan was defeated by the MDP MP for Thimarafushi constituency.

The High Court however ordered a re-vote after Gassan challenged the result, which was won again by Musthafa.

“Having lost two votes – both recognised as free and fair by the independent Elections Commission (EC) – the Gayoom family again turned to the courts for help,” the statement continues.

“Umar Naseer, a senior member of Gayoom’s political party [Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)], lodged a case at the Supreme Court claiming that Musthafa had not been eligible to run for parliament because of an outstanding debt owed to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) – a bank which became insolvent and had its loans and debts taken over by the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).”

Musthafa at Supreme Court

After the MMA clarified to Musthafa that he did not have an outstanding debt, the EC decided that he was eligible to stand for the Thimarafushi seat.

However, Umar Naseer told Minivan News in May 2010 that Musthafa “has to pay US$31,231.66 (Rf401,326.83)” to the MMA and that the Civil Court ruled on August 28, 1997 that the debt should be paid by MP Musthafa and his company Seafood International Private Limited.

“We raised the issue at the Elections Commission (EC) during the parliamentary elections and the former president of EC said that there was no debt which should be paid by Mustafa,” Umar said.”That’s why I took it to the Supreme Court.”

Before Musthafa was summoned to court last Thursday – which prompted the MDP national council to pass a resolution to launch a protest – the Supreme Court last conducted a hearing on the case on March 17 this year.

At last Thursday’s hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz said the apex court wished to “clarify a few points after reviewing the case.”

The Supreme Court Justices asked Musthafa a number of questions regarding the case, including if he had issued a personal guarantee for the loan.

Musthafa said he had not given any personal guarantee and insisted that the loan was issued to Seafood International Pvt Ltd.


Following the MDP’s protest alleging that the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) were subject to political manipulation by the opposition and members of the former government, opposition parties accused the ruling party of attempting to exert undue influence over the judiciary by “intimidating judges,” warning of “dangerous” consequences for the nation.

The MDP statement meanwhile contended that Musthafa’s case “fits a pattern whereby cases filed against MDP supporters and those who sympathise with the MDP are fast-tracked while more serious cases against family and friends of Gayoom never reach court.”

On August 29, Independent MP Ismail Abdul Hameed was abruptly summoned to the Criminal Court and sentenced to one year and six months banishment about 30 minutes before a crucial vote on the government’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation. The Kaashidhoo MP had been voting with the ruling party on the economic reform bills.

The statement also referred to the corruption trial of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim, charged with multiple counts of defrauding the former Atolls Ministry, which remains “indefinitely delayed.”

In the statement, MDP Chairman ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik accused senior judges of being “intent on defending the political and economic interests of their erstwhile friends and former paymasters from the regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.”

In May this year, the JSC, the watchdog body charged with overseeing the judiciary, abolished its Complaints Committee citing “efficiency”, with complaints against judges subsequently forwarded for review by the legal section and Chair Adam Mohamed Abdulla, a Supreme Court Justice.

Last year the JSC received 143 complaints concerning the conduct of judges. By its own statistics none were tabled in the commission, and only five were ever replied to. Chair of the former complaints commission, Aishath Velezinee, was meanwhile stabbed in the street in January this year.

The JSC also failed to table or even acknowledge receipt of a report on the judiciary produced by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which questioned whether the JSC’s possessed the technical ability and knowledge to investigate complaints and hold the judiciary accountable, as well as its independence.

Moosa went on to accuse the judiciary of “using the sanctity of judicial independence to protect the status quo and to remain unreformed. Nearly every judge appointed by Gayoom has retained his place on the bench – despite the fact that many of them have no legal qualifications whatsover.”

“We therefore look to our friends in the international community to help us address this difficult situation, and to support efforts to secure that which we all want – a strong, independent, professional judiciary, responsible to the needs of the society it serves,” the statement concludes.

Meanwhile in a statement released yesterday, the party revealed that its Councillor AbuBakr Fulhu “was unexpectedly called to the High Court for sentencing in a case originally brought in 2009 under Article 88(a) which contended that he had encouraged his brother to argue with a magistrate.

“The Criminal Court originally acquitted him, however, the local MP (an ally of Gayoom) has been pressing for a review by the High Court. Today, two years after the last hearing on the case, the High Court has suddenly summoned Aboo Bakr Fulhu for sentencing.”

The ruling party contended that the move was “clearly part of a concerted campaign, and we thus call on the international community to be vigilant. For example, senior members of Gayoom’s party, such as Umar Naseer, are informing the public about the outcome of cases against MDP supporters – before the verdicts have even been handed down, and are publicly predicting that many more MDP MPs will be brought before the courts and will be stripped of their seats”.