JSC appoints judges to Criminal Court and the Civil Court

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has appointed judges to both the Criminal Court and the Civil Court.

According to a statement on the commission’s website, the JSC decided to appoint one judge to the Criminal Court and four judges to the Civil Court in a meeting held last night (February 16).

Ahmed Rasheed of Hulhumalé 14-06 was appointed to the Criminal Court while Hassan Faheem Ibrahim from Haa Dhaalu Maukunudhoo, Ali Abdulla (Galolhu ward, Malé), Abdula Naseer Shafeeq (Lhavyani Kurendhoo), and Mohamed Haleem (Noonu Velidhoo) were appointed to the Civil Court.

An announcement was made for the application of interested candidates to the vacant positions on the benches of High Court, Criminal Court, and the Civil Court on Feburary 1, 2015.

The commission is yet to decide on the appointment of a judge to the High Court bench after the resignation of Judge Yoosuf Hussain – reportedly for health reasons – in early February.

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Civil Court rejects Nasheed stay order on Hulhumalé Court bench changes

The Civil Court has decided “there are no grounds” to grant a stay order asking the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to halt the process of reappointment of the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court.

The order was requested by former President and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohamed Nasheed, who is challenging the assembly of the bench tasked with trying him for the detention of judge Abdulla Mohamed while in office.

In the hearing held yesterday (February 15) at 4pm, the presiding judge stated that the stay order cannot be granted as the court has not found that the JSC is bringing changes to the Hulhumalé Court bench.

Meanwhile the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) has expressed concern over the “sudden resumption” of Nasheed’s trial, noting that the committee is closely monitoring the developments.

The BHRC said it had closely followed the case for almost two years. Previous observation of the case led the committee to describe the Hulhumalé court bench as “cherrypicked to convict”, prompting calls for “fundamental reform of the judiciary and its administration in the Maldives”.

In answering Nasheed’s stay order request, the JSC has previously denied that it is bringing any changes to the court, also claiming that it does not currently exist as the two out of three of the magistrates first appointed have now been promoted to superior courts.

Saturday’s trial saw the JSC raise a procedural issue, stating that while the commission has the authority and power to allocate and transfer judges, the Civil Court does not have the jurisdiction to deliberate on the legality of the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench as the bench was appointed on the Supreme Court’s advice.

The JSC lawyers also contended that the decision was not made by the Judicial Council as claimed by Nasheed’s lawyers, as the responsibilities and authority of the council have been taken over the Supreme Court.

Procedural issues

Nasheed’s lawyers asked whether the JSC is claiming that the Civil Court cannot deliberate on the matter because the commission interprets the Supreme Court’s advice on appointing the bench as a court ruling or because the JSC does not believe Civil Court has jurisdiction on the matter.

The JSC lawyers responded by stating that the “procedural issue is based on Supreme Court’s decision”.

In Nasheed’s challenge at the High Court regarding the legality of the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench, the JSC raised a similar jurisdictional issue, with the High Court deciding that it did not have jurisdiction to look into the matter, saying it could only deliberate on decisions taken by lower courts.

In reply, Hisaan Hussain from Nasheed’s legal team explained that Article 43 (C) of the Constitution afforded every citizen the right to appeal against any administrative decision and that “therefore we are appealing JSC’s administrative decision to convene the magistrates panel”.

Subsequently, the JSC clarified that the procedural issue was based not on jurisdictional grounds but because the commission believes that the Supreme Court’s advice on appointing the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench is the court’s ruling.

At that point, the presiding judge stated that the Supreme Court had issued a circular that “changes the composition of the Civil Court by 12am tonight (by 15th February)”, explaining that “I cannot assure you that I will be sitting on this appeal after the said changes; therefore I cannot give out court summons for the next hearing.

Nasheed’s legal team also requested more time to discuss the case with the legal team and lawyers based outside Maldives.

The controversial court was formed specifically to oversee Nasheed’s trial for the January 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Legal challenges to the court have seen the case stalled since April 2013.

Nasheed’s lawyers have previously challenged – unsuccessfully – the establishment of a magistrates court in the Malé suburb, arguing that Hulhumalé is considered to be part of Malé City under the Decentralisation Act and therefore does not require a separate court.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul has also noted that the “appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws”.



Related to this story

High Court cannot deliberate on Hulhumalé court bench

Nasheed’s request for halt to Hulhumalé court appointments denied

Nasheed requests reappointments to Hulhumalé court be stopped

Nasheed trial part of drive to eliminate President’s opponents, says MDP

Fair trial for Nasheed “difficult to see” when judicial bench “cherrypicked to convict”: BHRC trial observers

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Nasheed requests reappointments to Hulhumalé court be stopped

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team have requested that the appointment of new judges to the vacant positions on the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench be halted.

The stay order was submitted at today’s High Court hearing in Nasheed’s case against the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) over the legality of the appointment process to the magistrates court.

Despite Nasheed’s representatives insisting that the court consider the request during the hearing, presiding judges asked that it be submitted in writing, saying that the court will deliberate on the issue in a timely manner.

Responding to the request, JSC lawyer Hussain Ibrahim said he was unable to respond as he was unaware that the process of appointing new judges to the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench was underway.

Nasheed’s lawyers attempted to add new points to the original case, but the judges again asked that the new point to be submitted in writing, in spite of further protests.

“This hearing will only take arguments from both sides regarding the procedural issue raised by JSC. We will only allow this trial to be conducted as scheduled”, stated Abbas Shareef, the presiding judge.

The case was first raised in 2012, and challenges the legality of the bench, which was assembled to try the opposition leader for the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his presidency.

JSC’s procedural issue

The JSC lawyer stated that he had no points to add to the arguments made prior to the case’s suspension in April 2013. These included claims that the Hulhumalé bench had been appointed on the orders of the Supreme Court, meaning that the High Court could not deliberate on the decision.

Ahmed Abdulla, member of Nasheed’s team, noted that the letter regarding the appointment of the bench was sent by the Supreme Court in the capacity of the Judicial Council, despite it having been written under a Supreme Court letterhead.

Therefore Nasheed’s lawyers contested that the decision cannot be interpreted as a Supreme Court ruling but must be regarded “an administrative decision by an administrative body”, which would enable the High Court to deliberate on its legality.

The Judicial Council was created under the 2010 Judicature Act to oversee administration of the courts, but its duties were soon absorbed by the Supreme Court in what has been described as a centralising of judicial power.

Hisaan Hussain and Abdulla Shairu also spoke on behalf of Nasheed today, while Hassan Latheef also represented the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader in court.

Conclusion

The hearing was concluded after a brief statement by Nasheed in which he requested that the High Court grant him the permission to travel freely during the period in between hearings.

Nasheed also expressed his hope that the court had not expedited his case because “we are moving towards the shade of the new penal code, which does not include the article under which I have been charged”.

The presiding judge ended the session with the announcement that a hearing will be held next week in which the court will deliver its verdict on the procedural issues raised by the JSC, explaining to Nasheed that he will be granted permission to leave Malé after making requests in writing.

The MDP yesterday described Nasheed’s trial as the government’s attempt to eliminate President Abdulla Yameen’s political opponents and to prevent them from contesting in the 2018 presidential elections.

Nasheed’s lawyers have previously challenged – unsuccessfully – the establishment of a magistrates court in the Malé suburb, arguing that Hulhumalé is considered to be part of Malé City under the Decentralisation Act and therefore does not require a separate court.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul has previously noted that the “appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws”.

(PHOTO: MINIVAN NEWS ARCHIVE)



Related to this story

Nasheed trial part of drive to eliminate President’s opponents, says MDP

High Court to rule in appeal on Hulhumale’ court legitimacy

Hulhumale’ Court rejects case against former President Nasheed

High Court invalidates Hulhumale’ court’s rejection of case against former president

Supreme Court declares Hulhumale Magistrate Court legitimate

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JSC taking applications for six Judgeships

The Judicial Service Commission has opened applications for the vacant positions on the benches of the High Court, Civil Court, and Criminal Court.

In an announcement made today, the commission stated that applications will be open from today till 3pm on February 10, 2015, for one High Court judge, four Civil Court judges, and one Criminal Court judge. The application forms will be available on www.jsc.gov.mv.

High Court Judge Yoosuf Hussain retired from the bench today, reportedly due to poor health, while Civil Court judge Aishath Shujoon – one of the first female judges in the Maldives, resigned in late December of last year.

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High Court Judge Yoosuf Hussain retires

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

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

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

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

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New beginnings – The Weekly Review

June 21st – 27th

This week saw a number of fresh starts – in particular for Supreme Court judge Ali Hameed who was cleared of misconduct charges.

With the police’s investigation of the judge in relation to his alleged appearance in multiple sex tapes already suspended, the Judicial Services Commission’s decision appeared to close all investigations into the issue.

JSC members past and present called the decision a contravention of Islamic principles, suggesting that the commission had clear grounds to remove the controversial judge.

The Supreme Court this week also ruled that sitting judges can vote in the appointment of a lawyer to the vacant position on the JSC – overruling current regulations prohibiting their involvement.

After a previous request from the Supreme Court, the Home Ministry this week dissolved the Maldives Bar Association – the single largest lawyers’ group – for failing to change its name.

Meanwhile, the government’s legislative agenda seems poised to begin in earnest after the People’s Majlis reached a compromise on the composition of standing committees this week – an agenda that will no doubt be assisted by the defection of another opposition MP to the government’s camp.

Elsewhere in the Majlis, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz was called to answer questions regarding developing plans for Addu City.

Speaking with Minivan News this week, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb defended the government’s first legislative proposal – the special economic zones bill – against accusations that it will do little to alleviate regional disparities in development.

Adeeb argued that giving the government flexibility in negotiating relaxed regulations for new investors would be the best way to bring quick developments to the atolls.

The government also promised a new options for the tourism sector, with the launch of the country’s first guest house island – though critics questioned the real benefit of the scheme to local communities.

The enactment of anti human-trafficking legislation was acknowledged this week as the US removed the Maldives from its watch list, while local employers of undocumented workers in Laamu Gan were also given a second chance as the government’s removal of illegal migrants continued.

As the administration announced its intention to seek US$600 million from China or Japan for assistance with the new start for Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the Maldivian Democratic Party revealed its decision to sue former President Dr Mohamed Waheed for his role in the termination of the previous development deal.

While Sri Lankan leader Mahinda Rajapaksa made an official visit this week – offering assistance in a number of areas – former President Mohamed Nasheed suggested India ought to assist Maldivians by helping the MDP remove the current government.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy suggested that sometime government ally Gasim Ibrahim’s candor regarding judicial and security service pressure in his political decisions further supported the MDP’s coup theories.

Theories of a health service in crisis were given additional support this week by the death of a 31-year-old pneumonia patient en route to Malé as well as angry protests outside Kulhudhuffushi Regional Hospital.

Finally, Malé City Council this week revealed the extent of the littering problem blighting the streets of the capital, while experts revealed hopes for resurrection of the country’s reefs after in the face of a potentially devastation el nino.

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JSC decision on Judge Ali Hameed’s sex tape scandal “an insult to Islam”

The Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) decision to clear Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed of misconduct in a sex tape scandal is “an insult to Islam,” and against principles of Islamic jurisprudence, critics have said.

The judicial watchdog yesterday ruled Hameed innocent, claiming it can only take disciplinary action if there is sufficient evidence to indict Hameed in a court as per the Islamic Shariah and Maldivian law.

The JSC justified its ruling on a police decision to close investigations after failing to gain new evidence.

The JSC member representing the public Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman said the JSC had contravened Islamic principles in its decision.

“This is a misconduct case. Not a criminal case. Under Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence), misconduct complaints require less evidence than criminal and civil complaints. Judges can be dismissed if there’s too many public complaints against him,” he said.

“I believe there is enough evidence to take action,” he added.

Meanwhile, former JSC member and whistleblower Aishath Velezinee characterized the JSC decision as “the ultimate insult to Islam and Maldivian society.”

“This is a judiciary that sentences underage rape victims to be flogged. When they decide a Supreme Court judge, after being seen in a video that has gone viral, having illicit sex with multiple women, is not guilty of misconduct, what more can we say?”

Velezinee called on the public to protest, stating the decision shows the judiciary does not understand the law or the Shariah. Public silence on the matter will only allow the judiciary to “make a scandal of justice,” she added.

“To allow the Supreme Court, without protest, to decide any matter that affects you is to accept Ali Hameed has a right to judge for you. Protest!”

Ali Hameed is also accused of several counts of corruption and has been implicated in a separate tape where he appears to admit to a role in the fall of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Criminal

Several lawyers have echoed Shuaib’s concerns arguing the JSC does not have to follow the stringent standards used in a criminal trial in a case of misconduct.

“The JSC inquiry is not a criminal trial. They do not have to prove it by the standards employed in criminal proceedings. Their task is not to see if a judge is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The JSC inquiry is about misconduct, it is a disciplinary issue,” lawyer and former Minister of Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef said.

UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, in a 2013 report, also said disciplinary or administrative investigations entail different penalties than those arising from criminal procedures.

“Judges and magistrates, as well as other actors of the justice system are criminally accountable for their actions. Criminal actions entail consequences and penalties that are different from those resulting from disciplinary or administrative investigations,” said Knaul.

Latheef said judges must have public confidence, and Ali Hameed should have voluntarily resigned when the tapes were first leaked on social media in 2013.

“Islamic Sharia says all judges must have public confidence. Anyone who is perceived otherwise, cannot be a judge. A judge cannot be open to blackmail,” he added.

Latheef also called on the police to continue with investigations and said the police’s decision to file the case must be looked into.

According to local media, the investigation had stalled after the Criminal Court refused to provide a warrant to obtain a facial photograph of Ali Hameed and another to search his residence.

Political decision

Former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood also said the JSC had not complied with procedures in its conclusion and accused the commission of political bias.

Suood was appointed to a JSC subcommittee to investigate the case in December, but was expelled in January after the Supreme Court called for his removal after finding him guilty of contempt of court.

“I don’t think JSC has complied with existing procedures when they concluded this matter. This is a decision that needs to be revisited when the JSC is free from executive and judicial influence,” he said.

“JSC is under the full control of the executive. It doesn’t function independently, as envisaged in the constitution,” he added.

In Knaul’s report, she stated there was near unanimous consensus during her visit that the composition of the JSC – which draws members from sources outside the judiciary, such as the parliament, lawyers, and civil service commission – was “inadequate and politicized.”

“Because of this politicization, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” said Knaul.

Suood claimed President Abdulla Yameen is at present working to fix the JSC membership in the coming term.

Opposition MP Ahmed Hamza was removed from the JSC in January after he announced his decision to run for the March parliamentary polls.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court this week ruled any individual licensed as a lawyer, including judges and MPs, can vote to elect a member from the lawyer community to the commission.

Lawyers have spoken against the matter, arguing the decision compromised the independence of the legal profession.

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Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed cleared of misconduct in sex tape scandal

The Judicial Services Commission has today cleared Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed of misconduct charges, citing lack of evidence to indict him in a court for alleged appearance in three sex tapes involving three different foreign women.

The accused must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, said the judicial watchdog, which claimed it cannot take disciplinary action against a judge without “enough evidence.”

The JSC also cited the police’s Forensic Service Directorate’s failure to confirm the identity of the man involved in the sex tapes in its decision to clear Hameed of charges.

In it’s ruling, the JSC noted the following:

  • The police had closed investigations until new evidence emerged
  • The police had collected the sex tapes during an investigation into an attempt to blackmail a judge
  • 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
  • Supreme Court’s ruling on former Civil Service Commission President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan states disciplinary action can only be taken with sufficient evidence

Sex scandal

The Maldives Police Services formally launched an investigation in July 2013 after still images of the sex tape, alleged to show the judge committing adultery with an unidentified foreign woman, began circulating on social media.

At the time, the JSC voted not to suspend Hameed, citing lack of evidence.

Shortly afterwards, two more videos appearing to show Hameed engaging in sexual relations with two more foreign women were leaked on social media.

Business tycoon and former JSC member Gasim Ibrahim in July dismissed the sex tape as fake and an attempt at blackmail.

Gasim placed third in the first round of presidential polls in September and asked the High Court to annul the first round of polls.

The Supreme Court took over the case and ordered a revote claiming widespread vote fraud,with Hameed one of the four judges forming the majority verdict.

Images and symbols depicting scenes from the sex-tape formed a prominent part of protests against the court’s repeated interference in the subsequent round of polls.

Hameed also voted to unseat two opposition MPs over a case of decreed debt, and voted to remove Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and his deputy Ahmed Fayaz for alleged contempt of court.

Systematic failure

In December, Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz said police investigation had stalled as police were unable to ascertain the identity of the man in the sex tapes.

At the time, local media Haveeru suggested the police had been unable to proceed with investigations due to the Criminal Court’s refusal to provide two key warrants in September.

The warrants reportedly include a warrant to take a facial photograph of Hameed and another to search his residence.

A second JSC sub-committee to investigate the matter asked for the judge’s suspension, but JSC President Adam Mohamed refused to put the suspension to a commission vote.

The now defunct Maldives Bar Association in April also called for the suspension of Hameed until investigations were complete.

“Given the serious nature of allegations against Ali Hameed, that the judge continues to hold trial contravenes norms of justice, conduct of judges, and established norms by which free and democratic societies deal with cases of this nature,” the statement read.

In May, the police closed investigations and said it would only open the case if it receives new information.

“Yameen’s back-up”

The room and date stamp in the sex tapes appear to be the same as that in previously leaked footage of Hameed meeting a local businessman Mohamed Saeed, the director of ‘Golden Lane’.

In that video, Hameed asserts that he was one of then Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen’s “back-ups”, and that his stand was “to do things the way Yameen wants”.

Yameen narrowly won the presidential election with Gasim’s backing.

“Even [ex Speaker of Parliament] Abdulla Shahid will know very well that my stand is to do things the way Yameen wants. That the fall of this government was brought with our participation,” he appears to add, although the audio quality is poor (01:49).

One of the men claims to have heard plans to “kill off” leader of former Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and refers to a “second person to be killed,” however, due to the unclear audio it is not clear what the parties are referring to, or the context of the “killing”.

The person believed to be Hameed then promises, “If it comes into my hands, I will kill him off.”

Corruption charges

The Prosecutor General’s Office in April also filed corruption charges against Hameed over illegal transfer of credit from his state- funded mobile phone in 2010.

However, the Criminal Court in May claimed case files had been destroyed in a coffee spill.

The case against Justice Hameed – accused of abuse of authority to benefit a third party – was sent to the PG office in July 2013 by the Anti-Corruption Commission after investigating allegations in the 2010 audit report of the Department of Judicial Administration.

Auditors found MVR2,223 (US$144) was transferred Justice Hameed’s state-funded mobile phone on different occasions during 2010.

Other cases

Meanwhile, the 2010 audit also discovered that MVR13,200 (US$856) was spent out of the apex court’s budget to repair a state-owned car used by an unnamed Supreme Court Justice, later revealed in the media to be Justice Hameed.

According to the police report cited by auditors, the driver of the justice’s car was responsible for the accident, which occurred on January 23, 2011.

However, the official driver insisted the car was undamaged when he parked and left it the previous night.

Despite the findings of the audit report, in March 2011 the Supreme Court dismissed allegations of corruption reported in local media regarding phone allowances and use of court funds to repair Justice Hameed’s car.

Moreover, in September 2011, the ACC began investigating allegations that over MVR50,000 (US$3,200) of state funds was spent on plane tickets for Justice Hameed’s official visit to China in December 2010.

The complainant alleged that Hameed also visited Sri Lanka and Malaysia both before and after his trip to China to attend a conference by the International Council of Jurists. A return ticket on a direct flight from Malé to Beijing at time cost MVR16,686 (US$1,080).

Furthermore, in May 2012, the ACC revealed that Justice Hameed was among three sitting judges illegally occupying state-owned apartments.

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Maldives’ criminal justice system no longer delivers justice, says MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said the criminal justice system in the Maldives has stopped delivering justice, expressing concern over the “awe-inspiring things” that are happening to cases involving Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed

In a statement issued today, the party said that investigators and the court are acting in a bizarre way when dealing with the accusations concerning Judge Hameed being blackmailed, and engaging in sexual misconduct with prostitutes.

The MDP highlighted the fact that the police have suspended investigations in to Hameed’s sexual misconduct, his potential blackmail and his suspected sex videos, and that Judicial Service Commission had stopped pursuing all cases against the judge.

It was also noted that the criminal corruption case against him is on hold after a coffee spill over the case documents.

The statement said that these incidents of failing to investigate or prosecute Judge Hameed were a clear indication of the status of the Maldives’ criminal justice system.

“Such a judge sitting on the supreme court bench is not recognised by any judicial or legal system in the world. And surely it is the general public who are facing injustice because of this,” MDP has said.

Images and symbols depicting scenes from the sex-tape formed a prominent part of protests against the court’s repeated interference in the presidential election of 2013, serving to further undermine the court’s public credibility.

In the statement the party accused the President Abdulla Yameen’s government of desiring to keep a “blackmailed judge” on the Supreme Court bench as a tool to legitimise coup d’etats, unlawful activity carried out by the government and to cancel legitimate elections.

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