Suood to investigate Justice Ali Hameed’s ‘sex tapes’

Former Attorney General Husnu Suood has been appointed to a Judicial Services Commission (JSC) committee to investigate Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed’s alleged involvement in a series of leaked sex tapes.

The JSC set up a five member sub committee in July following the circulation of several videos in which an individual believed to be Judge Ali Hameed has sex with several unidentified foreign women in a Colombo Hotel room.

Suood was appointed to the seat previously occupied by Mohamed Anil who resigned from the committee following his appointment as the state’s Attorney General.

The remaining members on the committee are JSC Vice President Abdulla Didi, President’s representative to the JSC Latheefa Gasim and lawyers Ahmed Rasheed and Hussain Siraj.

The committee in July recommended the suspension of Ali Hameed, but the JSC decided against any action citing lack of evidence and asked the committee to conduct further investigations into the case.

Abdull Didi and Latheefa Gasim then tendered their resignation from the committee, but the JSC voted not to accept their resignations.

The Supreme Court suspended Suood in September for alleged contempt of court.


Chief Justice pleads ignorance over Supreme Court’s injunction blocking CSC appointment

The Chief Justice of the Maldives Supreme Court has accused his court of issuing an injunction without his knowledge, following parliament’s appointment of a replacement for Civil Service Commission (CSC) chief Mohamed Fahmy Hassan.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain told local media that the decision to block the swearing in of Fahmy’s replacement was made without the knowledge of three of the court’s seven judges. Such a move would contravene the country’s constitution which mandates an uneven number of judges be present for all Supreme Court decisions.

The Supreme Court told local media yesterday that their earlier invalidation of the Majlis’s decision to dismiss Fahmy rendered the decision to replace him redundant. The statement alleged that Faiz had rejected a request to attend an emergency meeting to address the issue.

Aishath Velazinee, former member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on which the chair of the CSC automatically serves, has described the incident as a “mutiny in the Supreme Court.”

Fahmy’s replacement Fathimath Reenee Abdulsathar was reportedly on the verge of taking the oath of office in the President’s Office on Thursday when the ceremony was halted with news of the injunction.

The People’s Majlis had earlier in the week voted overwhelmingly to replace former CSC head Fahmy after allegations of sexual harassment. The Supreme Court had previously ruled parliament’s decision to dismiss Fahmy as unconstitutional.

The Majlis Independent Institutions Committee launched an investigation into Fahmy’s alleged misconduct in June 2012. Velazinee argued that the Majlis does have the authority to appoint and dismiss CSC members after an amendment made to the CSC Act in 2010.

The Supreme Court told local media yesterday that their earlier invalidation of the Majlis’s decision to dismiss Fahmy rendered the decision to replace him redundant.

Velazinee compared the incident to the manoeuvres of the High Court bench in 2010, which she described as “the first of many mutinies that had eventually led to the coup of February 7, 2012.”

She notes that it was the same judges involved in circumscribing the powers of the JSC for political ends in 2010 who were behind this new “mutiny”. A full account of the events surrounding the self-appointment of the Supreme Court at the end of the constitutional transitional period were documented in Velazinee’s 2012 book ‘The Failed Silent Coup: In Defeat, They Reached for the Gun’.

In her assessment of judicial independence in the Maldives earlier this year, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul described this decision to retain all five interim Supreme Court judges as having “no legal or constitutional basis.”

The JSC eventually opted to interpret Article 285 of the country’s new constitution as purely symbolic, waiving the need to remove any sitting judges who failed to meet clearly defined educational and ethical standards.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation from office followed his detention of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Nasheed’s decision to detain the judge came after he filed a successful injunction in the Civil Court preventing his further investigation by the court’s own watchdog body, the JSC.


State Finance Minister requests Supreme Court review legitimacy of 11 opposition MPs

State Finance Minister Abbas Adil Riza has asked the Supreme Court to determine the legitimacy of 11 opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs he alleges are in breach of the constitution.

Citing clause 74 of the constitution, Abbas told Minivan News he had filed a case invoking the Supreme Court’s authority to decide on the legitimacy of the opposition MPs, claiming that there was evidence to support allegations they had breached it.

The nature of the 11 MP’s alleged offences remain unknown, with Abbas declining to detail the exact charges at time of press.

The MDP today said that it had not been informed of the case against the MPs, but stressed concern over what it called the “fundamental problems” with the independence of the country’s courts and legal watchdog, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

A number of international institutions including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, and the UK’s Bar Human Rights Commission, have recently expressed concern about the politicisation of the JSC and the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court it created to overhear a trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Knaul herself also concluded as part of preliminary findings from an eight day fact-finding mission to the country this year that the judiciary has been “misconstrued and misinterpreted” by all actors including the courts themselves.

Judicial legitimacy

However, Abbas said he “did not regard” claims by UN Special Special Rapporteur Knaul or the MDP on the judiciary as legitimate, rejecting allegations of political bias in the country’s courts.

“Whenever the MDP has a trial go in their favour, the judiciary is legitimate. For rulings against them, it is bad,” he said. “Here in the Maldives, the constitution is our rule book.”

Abbas, who is also a spokesperson for President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP), added that as there was “clear evidence” the 11 MDP MPs mentioned in the case had breached the constitution, the Supreme Court was duty bound to investigate.

However, he said that the names and alleged misdemeanors of the 11 MPs would only be revealed during the course of the case.

According to Abbas, the case was hugely important for the country owing to a lack of “moral guidelines” outlining behaviour of MPs.

MDP response

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said he had not been informed of the case filed by Abbas at time of press, but guessed that those targeted would be MDP members who presently had cases filed against them either in the country’s courts or with the Maldives Police Service.

“Police right now have cases against against a third of the MDP’s MPs,” he said. “Eleven sounds like the number of MPs who have been charged for taking part in protests and things like that.”

Hamid added that the party was particularly concerned about the case concerning “fundamental problems” it held with the country’s judiciary – pointing specifically at the JSC’s failure to follow article 285 of the constitution regarding the reappointment and vetting of judges appointed by former President Gayoom. He added that the party was also concerned about the JSC’s composition and conduct.

Hamid added that as a member of parliament’s Independent Oversight Committee charged with investigating the nation’s judiciary, there would be a further conflict of interest should he himself be among the 11 MPs charged.

Hamid was arrested in November last year during a special operations carried out by police on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

Police at the time said they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol upon searching the island with a court warrant.

Also among those arrested during the raid was MP Adbulla Jabir, formerly of the JP, who has since rejoined the MDP.

No confidence motion

Earlier on Monday, a no-confidence vote was suspended against Jumhoree Party (JP) MP and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s position on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

MP Gasim is to stand as a direct rival against former President Mohamed Nasheed in elections scheduled for later this year

The JSC itself appointed three judges to oversee the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed on charges that he illegally detained a senior judge during his presidency. All trials over the judge’s detention were suspended earlier this month pending a High Court ruling on the legitimacy of the bench of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court conducting Nasheed’s trial.


“Difficult” to consider elections credible unless Nasheed is allowed to contest: European Union

The European Union (EU) has declared that it would be “difficult” to consider the Maldives’ upcoming presidential elections credible unless former President Mohamed Nasheed is allowed to contest.

Nasheed is currently being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court over his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.

His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent Nasheed from contesting elections in September, and have condemned the former President’s repeated arrest on the court’s order by squads of masked special operations police.

A number of international institutions including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, and the UK’s Bar Human Rights Commission, have recently expressed concern about the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court it created, and its appointment of the three member panel of judges overhearing the Nasheed trial.

The JSC’s members include several of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including rival presidential candidate, resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim.

Last week, several members of the JSC also testified to parliament’s independent commissions oversight committee that the creation of the court and appointment of the judges were politically suspect.

JSC Member appointed by the public, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, last week revealed that the JSC had openly discussed their intent to eliminate Nasheed from the upcoming elections.

Chair of the Commission, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed, had abused his post and powers as the chair to try and eliminate Nasheed from contesting the elections, said Shuaib, alleging that Adam Mohamed had “used the commission as a political tool”.

“The politics of the majority control the commission, hence the rule of law, due process and due diligence do not exist in the JSC,” Sheikh Rahman stated. “The commission has no amount of respect for constitutional principles.”

“It is common now to hear a lot of MDP and Nasheed bashing in commission meetings. This was not how things usually were before. I believe politically biased comments like this have increased since Gasim joined the JSC as a representative of the parliament,” Sheikh Rahman said.

In a statement on Thursday, the European Union said it “reiterates its view that the participation of the preferred candidates from all political formations in the Maldives is essential to ensuring the success of the forthcoming elections; it would be difficult to consider them credible and inclusive if Mr Nasheed and his party were to be prevented from standing or campaigning.”

“The EU takes note of the acceptance by the prosecution of a defence request to defer the trial until after the upcoming presidential elections in September and hopes that this would offer the means to ensure that ex-President Nasheed is able to participate in the electoral campaign, under the same conditions as other candidates,” stated EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.

In the statement, the EU also reminded Maldivian authorities of their “commitment to ensuring [Nasheed’s] personal safety and security.”

“The EU encourages all parties to exercise restraint, to act responsibly, and to work together to ensure that the outcome of these elections fully reflects the wishes of the Maldivian people, so safeguarding the Maldives’ democratic institutions and enabling its next government to confront the serious economic, social and environmental challenges which the country faces,” the statement concluded.

Following the EU’s comments, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad tweeted on Saturday (March 16) that “it’s not proper for governments to discredit the independence and integrity of our judiciary. Doing so is undermining Democracy in Maldives.”

Masood added that the 2013 elections would be free, fair and exclusive, but would be “exclusive” of individuals who did not meet the legal criteria.

Nasheed’s trial is meanwhile due to resume on April 4 following a four week recess granted by the court.  The hearing has been scheduled despite the state prosecution stating it had no objection to delaying the trial until after the September 7 elections.


“The quality of services delivered by the judiciary remains disappointingly gloomy”: Home Minister

“Our judiciary has some bright minds, but that does not exempt it from scrutiny; judiciary in the Maldives, with the exception of few courts and judges, the judiciary as a whole has earned a deservedly bad reputation for its inconsistent judgments, lack of leadership, lack of competency and being out of touch with modern laws and views of the society.”

So says Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the current Minister of Home Affairs, writing in Haveeru today.

“Holders of the judiciary were given security of tenure through the appointment of Magistrates and judges by an independent commission. Supreme Court justices recommended by Judicial Service Commission and nominated by the President were appointed by the Parliament.

Holders of the office of the judiciary were further secured with the provision that they could only be removed by a two third vote of the Parliament. The legislatures pinned their hopes of establishing an independent judiciary.

It was the desire of the nation to see not only an independent judiciary but also competent professionals leading it, and who are able to fulfill the expectation of a nation on the verge of embracing new found democracy, and whose inhabitants have over the years acquired knowledge and skills in various professions.”

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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.


JSC appeals Civil Court injunction against investigation of Abdulla Mohamed

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has said that all complaints filed against  judges are now being investigated, after it appealed the Civil Court’s injunction preventing the commission from taking action against Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed at the High Court on Tuesday.

Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, on Tuesday told Minivan News that if the judicial watchdog “can be overruled by a judge sitting in some court somewhere, then it’s dysfunctional. But that’s what has been happening.”

In a press statement issued this week, JSC – which is mandated to appoint and investigate complaints against judges – refuted allegations that it was defunct, claiming it has been “working hard” to finish investigating complaints submitted to the commission.

Out of the 336 complaints submitted so far, 208 have been completed and 38 cases under investigation, the JSC claimed, while commission is working to finish the 128 complaints remaining. Investigation committees had been set up within the commission to “expedite the process”, JSC claims, adding that complaints concerned different judges, not only Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

The statement comes despite the JSC’s abolishing its complaints committee in May 2011. It did not clarify the outcome of any of the complaints it said it had investigated.

The JSC explained in the statement that the commission has been unable to pursue the case against Chief Judge as the Civil Court had ordered the JSC on November 17 to take no action against the judge until the court reached a verdict in the case filed against him.

The JSC requested the High Court to terminate the injunction citing that the commission’s decision cannot be overruled by the civil court.

Abdulla Mohamed filed the suit against the JSC after it completed a report into misconduct allegations against the cheif judge. According to the report, which the JSC has not yet publicly released, the judge violated the Judge’s Code of Conduct by making a politically biased statement in an interview he gave to private broadcaster DhiTV.

The injunction was first appealed by the JSC at the Supreme Court, which ordered it to be submitted to the High court on January 19 – three days after chief judge was detained by the military, after he had opened the court outside normal hours a night ago, to order the immmmediate release of Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, deputy leader of the minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) who was arrested after President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

In this week’s statement JSC reiterates its stance that neither police or Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) have the “constitutional authority” to detain a judge, citing that the commission reserves the right to investigate complaints about judges and submit to the parliament in case a judge has to be removed from the bench under the section 159 of the constitution and Judicial Service Commission Act.

However, the government continues to legally justify the military detention of the judge amid spiralling political tensions.

In a televised statement on MNBC One on Junary 17, Home Minister Hassan Afeef said military assistance was sought for “fear of loss of public order and safety and national security” on account of Judge Abdulla, who has “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”.

Afeef listed 14 cases of obstruction of police duty by Judge Abdulla, including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.

Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, and barring media from corruption trials.

Afeef said the judge also ordered the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintained “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.

The judge also released a murder suspect “in the name of holding ministers accountable”, who went on to kill another victim.

Afeef also alleged that the judge actively undermined cases against drug trafficking suspects and had allowed them opportunity to “fabricate false evidence after hearings had concluded”.

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

The chief judge “twisted and interpreted laws so they could not be enforced against certain politicians” and stood accused of “accepting bribes to release convicts.”

However, opposition continues to contend that the judge’s “abduction” by the military and its refusal to release him or present him in court, despite being ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, represents a constitutional violation by the government.


Political tensions flare amid constitutional crisis over judiciary

Male’ is bracing for further protests after a weekend of violent demonstrations involving several hundred opposition supporters, as political tensions spiral over the military’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

Eight opposition-aligned political parties held a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon calling on the public to join their series of protests “to defend the Maldivian constitution” and “bring the government back into legal bounds”.

Police said in a statement that five officers were “seriously injured” in protests that evening after opposition supporters in front of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) building attempted to break through the police blockade.

A number of other police officers sustained minor injuries while a window of the MMA building was smashed and three police vehicles, one MNDF vehicle and the car of Civil Service Commission (CSC) head Mohamed Fahmy Hassan were damaged.

Opposition protesters also broke into the home of Youth Minister Hassan Latheef and vandalised his living room, while his wife and children were in the house. The homes of other ministers were also vandalised from the outside, and palm trees lining the main roads of Male’ were uprooted.

The Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) claimed that six of its reporters were attacked on Thursday evening by the opposition protesters, including a cameraman who had paving stones and oil thrown at him, and a camera woman who had an unknown substance sprayed in her eyes as demonstrators attempted to take her video camera.

A group of male demonstrators also reportedly surrounded a female MNBC journalist and threatened to kill her and dump her body into the sea, before she was rescued by other reporters in the area.

Protesters also attempted to gather outside the MNBC premises and threw rocks and other objects at the walls.

Police arrested 43 people over the weekend, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahlouf, Adhaalath Party President Imran Abdulla, and spokesperson for the coalition of NGOs campaigning against the government’s religious policy, Abdulla Mohamed.

Charges included disrupting peace, damaging public and private property, including youth minister’s residence, breaking police lines, and inciting violence.

The Criminal Court today however ruled the arrests were unlawful and ordered the release of all those arrested.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) meanwhile called on the protesters to be mindful of the rights of others and to exercise their right to free assembly responsibly.

The commission observed that as a result of the manner of speech heard at such protests, “inducing anger, hatred and fear in people’s hearts”, public order and peace was “being very adversely affected.”

“As a consequence of such actions, the country’s social fabric is weakened and the trust and respect we should have towards one another are lost, forming numerous obstacles to establishing an environment that fully guarantees rights,” the commission said.

Hundreds of supporters of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile gathered at a heated rally near the tsunami monument on Saturday afternoon. The ruling party launched a campaign earlier this month dubbed “You can’t say that anymore” against the opposition’s “use of religion as a weapon for political purposes.”

Today’s rally at the tsunami memorial area was part of the campaign, which has seen eight rallies held at the party’s Haruge headquarters in past weeks.

Detained Judge

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed is at the centre of the constitutional impasse currently being played out in the Maldives. The opposition contends that the judge’s “abduction” by the military last week and its refusal to release him or present him in court, despite being ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, represents a constitutional violation by the government.

The government – and former whistleblower on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee – present Abdulla Mohamed as the corrupt heart of a “silent coup” by the former government to assume control of the judicary, “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” and ensuring legal impunity for key opposition figures.

Presented with a litany of allegations against the judge, the JSC, as the watchdog body charged with overseeing the judiciary, formed a complaints committee to investigate the cases against the judge in December 2009.

However in November 2011 the Civil Court ordered the judicial watchdog to take no action against Abdulla Mohamed, despite a report by the JSC claiming that he had violated the Judge’s Code of Conduct by making  statements favouring the opposition in an interview he gave to private broadcaster DhiTV.

The government’s decision to take action against the judge followed his opening of the court outside normal hours, to order the immediate release of Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, deputy leader of the minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

Police had attempted to arrested two senior members of the party on charges of slander and hate speech after they published a pamphlet alleging, among other claims, that the government was plotting with “Jews and Christian priests” to undermine Islam in the Maldives.

The Chief Judge was first summoned by police for questioning on January 16, but did not appear.

Instead, he filed a case at the High Court requesting the summons be cancelled on the grounds that it was illegal. The High Court then issued an injunction ordering police to halt enforcement of the summons pending a ruling.

Police subsequently requested the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) take Abdulla Mohamed into custody, as “the Criminal Court was not cooperating with police and that as a consequence of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed obstructing police work, the country’s internal security was threatened and police were unable to maintain public order and safety.”

The judge was taken to the MNDF training island of Girifushi, where he currently remains.

“In good health”

HRCM in an “emergency” press conference yesterday stated that it had visited the judge and that he was in good health and being well treated, with the ability to freely roam the island. He had been granted, but had refused, access to his family, HRCM said.

In response to HRCM’s comments, the opposition accused the human rights body of “backing down” from its responsibilities. Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Ibrahim Shareef, attacked the statement as “tame” and “mellow”, claiming that the “kidnapping” of the judge was inhumane.


The detention of the Chief Judge has polarised Maldivian society – and the government – even amid the country’s already intense political divide.

In an especially dramatic tangent, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan declared on his blog that he was “ashamed and totally devastated by the fact that this is happening in a government in which I am the elected the Vice President.”

“Besides all the international legal obligations, the government of the Maldives is bound by the Maldives Constitution 1988 which prohibits arbitrary arrest and forced disappearance. We have just witnessed the first possible violation since the dawn of democracy in our country. I cannot understand why this is not an issue for everyone in this country,” Dr Waheed said.

“Those of us who have struggled for freedom in this country for over 30 years, are wondering whether we have wasted our efforts.”

The European Union Heads of Mission issued a statement expressing “concern at recent developments in [the Maldives], including the arrest of a criminal court judge by members of the security forces.”

“EU Heads of Mission reiterate their support for the process of democratic transition in the Maldives and note the importance of the principles underlying that transition, including respect for the constitution, due process, independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and freedom of expression are central to this process,” the statement read.

“EU Heads of Mission call on all parties in the Maldives to act in accordance with these principles and to refrain from inflammatory language or other action which could incite hatred.”

Secretary General of SAARC, Diyana Saeed, the youngest person and first woman to be appointed to the post, today confirmed her resignation following her public criticism of the executive’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court order to release the judge, during a press conference on VTV.

“[The Chief Judge’s detention] is a violation of individual human rights, a violation of the independence of the judiciary, and the violation of the constitution,” she told Minivan News on Thursday.

The government’s ignoring of a Supreme Court order is not without precedent in the Maldives.

Prior to the appointment of the new Supreme Court in August 2010 on conclusion of the constitution’s interim period, the existing bench sent a letter to the President declaring themselves permanent.

The letter was ignored, and the MNDF confiscated the keys to the Supreme Court until the new bench was eventually appointed by parliament – a process of intense and rapid backroom political compromise that was at the time hailed as a rare cross-party success for the institution.

Breaking the impasse

A government legal source told Minivan News that the JSC itself had found evidence of “gross misconduct” by Abdulla Mohamed, but was blocked from proceeding on the matter as the chief judge “has undue influence over at least one other judge of the Civil Court who issued a court order against the JSC and prevented it from performing its constitutional role.”

“The allegations levelled against him are of serious concern to the Maldivian government and community. It is apparent that both the Maldivian High Court and the Supreme Court remained silent on the matter,” the source stated.

“This is tacit acceptance of a ploy to prevent the JSC from exercising its powers under the constitution, and the JSC’s acceptance of the Civil Court order is an indication of the extent of undue influence that members of the judiciary have over the JSC.”

The government was, the source said, “taking appropriate action in extraordinary circumstances involving allegations of serious corruption and gross misconduct by a senior judge. Public statements seeking to define his detention as a human rights issue are part of the web of protection which surrounds Judge Abdulla Mohamed.”

Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed told Minivan News that the arrest of the judge could legally only have been ordered by the High Court.

“We have the security of the constitution, but while the print may be there it is evident that it doesn’t matter very much. If I am going to be arrested I deserve to expect certain rights. The arrest of Judge Mohamed should have been made on the order of the High Court,” he said.

He noted that Parliament had a standing committee, which had in turn formed a sub-committee, to investigate the JSC.

The hearings and interviews have been concluded at the sub-committee level said Nasheed, a member of that sub-committee and chair of the Independent Institutions Committee, and the information was to be compiled into a report and forwarded to the full committee.

“It’s possible we will have the investigation addressed within the first session of parliament this year,” Nasheed said.

He said the sub-committee had considered a reformation of the JSC.

“It’s the one institution that has not really taken off. It’s been bogged down with personality issues and procedural issues. Bring in a change of membership, some new blood, and give it a new chance,” he speculated, although adding that this would require bodies such as the Supreme Court to each revoke their own representatives on the commission.

The constitution also includes provision for the appointment of foreign judges from other Islamic countries, he noted.

Foreign judges may sit on court benches during the first 15 years of the constitution “only because we would like some technical assistance and expertise during the transition. This provision is the only area in which Maldivian citizenship is not required of a judge,” Nasheed said.


AG appeals Criminal Court ruling on arrest of Gassan Maumoon

The Attorney General’s (AG) Office has appealed the Criminal Court’s ruling that the arrest of Gassan Maumoon was unconstitutional.

The AG’s Office told local media that it appealed because the court’s ruling contained “legal issues” and was delivered in a case that the police had not filed.

Gassan Maumoon, son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was arrested on Monday, October 23 for allegedly throwing a wooden plank that struck and critically injured a 17-year-old boy during a protest outside of the family’s household, Endherimaage.

The protest was held by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on October 20. Gassan was subsequently summoned twice by police, and later taken to Dhoonidhoo prison for further enquiry.

The Criminal Court however released Gassan under the claim that his arrest violated procedures established by the Supreme Court for operating article 46 of the constitution.

The ruling came after Gassan’s lawyers applied for a writ of ‘habeas corpus’, or release from unlawful detention. They argued that due process was violated as the circumstances of his arrest did not fall under exceptions provided for in the constitution where police could arrest suspects without an arrest warrant.

Article 46 states that, “No person shall be arrested or detained for an offence unless the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, or under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by the court.”

President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair added that the court had cited a precedent set by the Supreme Court on a similar case, stating that a suspect should be arrested at the scene of the crime. Otherwise, said Zuhair, a suspect should be arrested at the scene where evidence is found.

Zuhair observed that the court’s policy on article 46 restricts the due course of justice.

“The police had investigated the case and detained Gassan when they thought they had enough evidence. They submitted the evidence to the court and followed the procedures in place. What other procedures should they use, especially in a time-sensitive case such as a case of violence?” he said.

Zuhair added that if the court’s claim against the police’s arrest procedures went undisputed, all individuals arrested during the protest would have to be released.

Police Superintendent Mohamed Jinah insisted at the time of the court’s ruling that the arrest was lawful as police had reasonable grounds to suspect Gassan had committed a crime and were prepared to submit early evidence.

If Gassan’s arrest was unlawful, said Jinah, “everyone police have arrested and brought before the court [for extension of detention] was arrested in violation of the constitution.”

On October 26, police released 11 suspects who had been arrested without a warrant on suspicion of having committed an offence.

When asked if the appeal was expected to overturn the court’s ruling against the police. Zuhair was optimistic.

There are two key points of argument, he said. “How was a private member of Gayoom’s family able to launch a case in the Criminal Court without first going through the Civil Court, as is the usual course of action, and secondly, how else were the police supposed to submit their evidence, other than the procedure in place, which they used?”

Gassan’s case involves another first: after the police were allegedly summoned to and “thrown out” of the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, the PG publicly stated that it was seeking legal advice from the Supreme Court. “This is unprecedented, usually these cases are appealed to the High Court,” Zuhair said.

“I hope this is resolved quickly because there is a growing concern among a wide section of society over the impartiality of the judiciary,” he concluded.

Recently, MDP requested international assistance in overcoming the “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary.”

The request was made in relation to a Supreme Court case in which Gassan has contested MP Mohamed Musthafa’s election to parliament in May 2009.

“The Supreme Court case is the latest installment of an ongoing attempt by Gayoom to secure a parliamentary seat for his son, Gassan Maumoon,” a statement sent by MDP and subsequently forwarded to diplomatic missions and United Nations offices by the Foreign Ministry alleged.

Recent actions in the judicial system have indicated a deep and tangled history of politically biased judicial rulings.

The Judicial Services Commission (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 possessed the technical ability and knowledge to investigate complaints and hold the judiciary accountable, as well as its independence.

In the wake of these developments, Zuhair said lawyers have begun forums to openly discuss allegations against the judicial system. “They are active and getting a fair amount of media coverage, I think they may formulate reforms for two laws concerning judges and the judiciary,” he said.

The laws involve the process of appointing judges to the Supreme Court, and the qualifications required of a Supreme Court judge.