ICC membership expected to reform Maldivian judicial system

The Maldives has become the 118th country to adopt the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world’s first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, genocide and war crimes.

The Maldives is the third state in South Asia to become an ICC member, following Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It is the ninth in the south asian region alongside Cambodia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste; plans to ratify the statute are advancing in Malaysia and Nepal.

Asia has been slower than other regions in adopting the ICC regulations, allegedly because they maintain the death penalty which is prohibited by the ICC. William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, said the Maldives’ decision to accede to the Rome Statue was a significant step for the region.

“It is vital that the momentum towards increasing respect for the rule of law and accountability for those responsible for the most serious crimes is seized by other states in the Asia-Pacific region, many of whom are close to joining the ICC,” Pace said in a press release. “Joining the Court represents a strong deterrent effect that will contribute toward the prevention of gross human rights violations in the Asia-Pacific region and to the global fight against impunity.”

Acceding to ICC regulations as defined by the Rome Statute has been a long process for the Maldivian government. In 2003, the Maldives took steps to reject its judicial authority.

Wikileaks cables published on 1 September 2011 cite the Maldivian government’s intent to “never turn over a US national to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Maldivian government would not sign the ICC treaty and would not respect its claim to universal jurisdiction.” Other cables indicate that then president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was seeking approval for a visit with then US President George W. Bush, allegedly to improve his chances of re-election.

Speaking to Minivan News today, the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said ratification of the ICC statute highlighted the different values of the current administration.

“For us, it’s transparency that is at the top of our priorities. So right now, our highest priority is to improve the judicial system of this country.”

The ICC covers major crimes which are widespread, systemic and of concern to the international community. The ICC does not deal with small cases, even if the victims may be in the hundreds.

Among the criteria for the ICC to take on a case in the Maldives is doubtful willingness and capacity of the country’s own judiciary to handle the case in question.

Zuhair said it was important for Maldivians to have access to an international judicial system. “Individuals who feel they have a complaint, even against a leader, could refer the complaint to the Maldivian judicial system or to the ICC. This is a big step for a country whose previous leaders have been accused of human rights violations. I believe their cases would be fairly addressed in the ICC,” he said.

Evelyn Balais-Serrano, Asia-Pacific Coordinator for the ICC’s advocacy NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) told Minivan News that ratification would support domestic legal reform, and that heads of state would face new levels of accountability.

“The ICC only deals with the big fish. In the past only the small fish may have been sacrificed to show a semblance of justice – but the ICC targets the highest level of responsibility: the head of state, generals, kings,” she said previously.

The Debate

In October 2010, the debate to join the ICC created sparks in Parliament.

MDP MPs condemned the “unlawful and authoritarian” practices of the previous government. Group Leader “Reeko” Moosa Manik referred to 2009 legislation protecting former presidents who he considered “the worst torturers in the country’s history,” and said the purpose of the international criminal court was to “arrest torturers like Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom], people like Ilyas Ibrahim [brother-in-law of the former president] who stole state property and funds, and Attorney Generals like Hassan Saeed who tried to hide it.”

MPs from opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) said MDP MPs were overlooking the fact that Gayoom had never been reprimanded in a court of law, and accused the current administration of disregarding rules of law. MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom accused the MDP government of formulating policies only to “benefit certain people”, which he argued could be “considered a crime in international courts.”

The question of religion was also inflammatory. DRP MP Dr Afrashim Ali said convention should not be signed if it could lead to “the construction of temples here under the name of religious freedom.” Other MPs pointed out that several Muslim countries had not joined the ICC, and the MPs were concerned that ratification would “shatter Islamic principles” and encourage gay rights.

Shari’a experts in ICC signatories and Muslim countries Afghanistan, Jordan and Malaysia have not found conflict between the Rome Statute and Sharia.

On 14 June this year, Parliament voted almost unanimously to sign the Rome Statute of the ICC.

The Effects

Speaking to Minivan News today, Balais-Serrano pointed out that ratification of the Rome Statute was well-timed.

“As a chair of the SAARC summit, Maldives will have quite an influence on south asian countries attending this year’s event,” she said. “It will certainly be constructive in reviewing human rights, a key point we plan to address at the summit.”

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit is scheduled for Addu City in mid-November this year.

Balais-Serrano also pointed out that by ratifying the Rome Statute, governments are committing to adapt current domestic legislation to meet international standards. She said ICC members could receive “training of local judges and prosecutors and other officials responsible for lawmaking and implementation”, and hoped the Maldives would forward with judicial reform.

“The judicial system in Maldives can benefit from the rules and procedures by which the ICC operates, for example, in the nomination and election of judges, in the protection of witnesses and victims and in ensuring due process,” said Balais-Serrano.

She said that ICC membership would expand Maldivian court procedures. “One of the motivations of joining the ICC is to let go of a commitment to include the domestic judicial system alone. Now, Maldivians can also refer to the ICC provisions and regulations. This is a timely event for the Maldives to review domestic law while making the ICC a reference point.”

As an ICC member, the Maldives will be able to send judges and lawyers abroad for internships and exchange programs in member countries. Balais-Serrano said that all member countries are obliged to send employees to the ICC to learn and assist with proceedings.

International liability

ICC membership could affect international relations. The Maldives recently made news headlines by supporting the Sri Lankan government, which is facing war crimes allegations by international human rights groups. A report from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has raised the likelihood of an investigation by the Human Rights Commission.

A Relationship Agreement between the ICC and the United Nations calls the UN “potentially the most important partner of the ICC on various levels,” and suggests that investigations by the UN are based on the same human rights standards put forth by the ICC.

“The Maldives cannot do anything if the ICC decides to investigate and put into trial the perpetrators of crimes in Sri Lanka,” said Balais-Serrano. “If suspected criminals from Sri Lanka seek refuge in the territory of the Maldives, as a state party to the ICC, the government is obliged to cooperate to the Court by arresting  the criminals.”


Comment: Is the President serious about reforming the judiciary?

Has Anni given up the fight for an independent judiciary?

“We will reform the JSC”, President Nasheed said in May.

“When the powers were separated and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) became the executive we came into a situation where the previous regime had a majority in the parliament.

“But in many minds the situation with the judiciary was far more worrying. Nothing had changed – we had exactly the same people, the same judges, the same manner of thinking and of dispensing justice.”

On Wednesday he appointed as his member at the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Kurendhoo Hussein Ibrahim, a man who first came to public attention during the drafting of the 2008 Constitution as someone vigorously apposed to gender equality.

As a member of the Special Majlis, Hussein Ibrahim was vociferously opposed to the appointment of women as judges, and was particularly vitriolic in his comments against changing the Constitution to allow women to run for office of the President.

“He was very clear about where women should be in society – in a place where they have no say in the running of public affairs,” a senior member of the law community, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Minivan News.

“To be honest, I am very surprised that the President would appoint such an individual as Velezinee’s replacement,” he said.

Aishath Velezinee was the President’s Member at the JSC until 19 May this year, when she was unceremoniously removed from the position. Although there were unconfirmed reports, including in this newspaper, about a backroom deal that made her removal politically advantageous for MDP, neither President Nasheed nor Velezinee have so far spoken publicly about the reasons for her removal.

Hussein Ibrahim’s views are diametrically opposed not just to Velezinee’s, but also that of a President who frequently espouses his commitment to the democratic ideal of equality and non-discrimination.

The President’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said Hussein Ibrahim might have distanced himself from such hard-line views since he sat on the Special Majlis for redrafting the Constitution.

“It is quite possible that he has changed,” Zuhair said. Pressed on the question of whether he knew this for a fact, Zuhair said, “We believe that in accepting the position as the President’s Member, he is entering into a ‘social pact’.”

“It is our hope”, Zuhair said, “that he will work towards the realisation of the President’s goals and to further his views in his new job.”

Even if Hussein Ibrahim, seemingly appointed on a wing and prayer, does show himself capable of leaving behind his misogyny, there is still the question of his professional ability to push a reform agenda.

A misogynist with a sentencing certificate

Hussein Ibrahim has no formal qualifications and is one of the many ‘lawyers’ allowed to sit on the bench on the basis of a Sentencing Certificate – a legacy of the Gayoom era. Having served as a magistrate in two different lower courts, he later did a stint as an ‘Islam Soa’ at Aminiya School.

In other words, he is a member of the very same brigade of “exactly the same people, the same judges, the same manner of thinking and of dispensing justice” President Nasheed said he wanted removed from the judiciary.

Removing unqualified judges was a Constitutional requirement, stipulated by Article 285. Put in charge of carrying out the task, however, the JSC dismissed Article 285 as “symbolic” and allowed all but a handful of the unqualified judges to remain in the judiciary. The President has now appointed just such a man to represent him at the JSC.

Hussein Ibrahim’s presence at the JSC means that female members of the judiciary, few in number but who as a group represent the most qualified judges in the country, now have another man overseeing them who not only thinks they are biologically and intellectually inferior to him, but also knows less about the law than they do.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which in February this year published a highly critical report on the JSC, pointed to members’ lack of technical ability and knowledge as one reason for its inability to do its job of ensuring the judiciary’s ethical and professional standards.

Citing ‘administrative efficiency’, as the reason, the JSC abolished the Complaints Committee in May this year. It was the mechanism by which the JSC was to have investigated complaints against the judiciary.

The JSC’s 2010 annual report shows there are over 200 complaints – some involving judges at the country’s highest courts – that are yet to be investigated. Any attempts to force the JSC to investigate complaints using the courts system have so far been unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, any criticism of the judiciary is becoming increasingly difficult as the courts gag the media, or issue threats against those who speak against its actions – even when they are clearly unconstitutional.

Recent examples include the Criminal Court’s decision to ban the media from Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim’s alleged corruption hearings and the Supreme Court’s reprimanding of President’s Advisor Ibrahim Ismail (Ibra) for urging the public to fight for their right to an independent judiciary.

What is even more shocking is that the JSC convened an emergency meeting to discuss Ibra’s remarks where members agreed to ask ‘relevant authorities’ to investigate Ibra.

The JSC is constitutionally mandated to investigate complaints against the judiciary made by members of the public. It has no authority to investigate complaints against members of the public made by the judiciary.

Clearly the JSC needs someone who, at the very least, knows what its own role is.

As seen in the case of Velezinee, who was stabbed in the back in January this year, fighting for judicial reform is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

Hussein Ibrahim is a religious conservative who thinks women should be covered up and chained to the kitchen sink when they are not occupied with the holy task of breeding. He has no record of pushing a democratic agenda, and has no formal qualifications in any profession. It is hard to imagine him taking on the JSC let alone the judiciary.

Which begs the question: is President Nasheed serious about reforming the judiciary?

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


“Sunlight is the best antiseptic”: the case for an independent judiciary

The structure of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) is compromising its accountability and obstructing the creation of an independent judiciary, says Professor Murray Kellam, a former Australian Supreme Court Justice who has spent several weeks observing the group.

The UNDP brought Kellam to the Maldives to observe the JSC based on a recommendation in a report by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) that suggested the commission be subjected to independent outside oversight.

As well as a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Kellam is the current Chief Commissioner of the Tasmanian Anti-Corruption Commission and also has extensive experience assisting with the development of legal systems in countries such as Burma and Bangladesh.

He has also been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, an award given for distinguished service of a high degree to Australia or humanity at large.

“I think there’s a real problem when you’ve got members of both the executive and the legislative body administering judicial affairs,” Kellam said, on conclusion of his visit to the Maldives.

“You have the Speaker, Attorney General and an MP sitting in judgement on their own recommendations. That situation doesn’t need describing any further.”

Kellam said his observations were not intended to be critical of the members of the JSC, but rather to assist in the development of an independent and respected body.

In other countries it was usual for the Chief Justice to chair the body responsible for judicial accountability, but the members were made up of respected people from the community “rather than those allied to the executive or legislature.”

“The process in your Constitution here is that [in the event of] gross misconduct and gross incompetence, the Majlis (parliament) has the job of dismissing them, and that’s consistent with other places in the world. But the problem is that the body making the recommendation is also the membership.”

Kellam was provided with full access to the JSC’s meetings and files during his visit, however he acknowledged that language was a barrier – most significantly, the lack of official English translations of most legislation.

“The unofficial translation of the Constitution is pretty good, but I have doubts about the accuracy of the translation for the JSC Act. The UNDP assisted, but the [language gap] makes it pretty difficult.”

However, Kellam said that he agreed with the ICJ’s recommendation that parliament should evaluate the JSC “and ensure it operates more transparently.”

“There may be an argument that the appointments and complaints processes [for judges] should be separated,” he said. “At the moment it appears that the expectations of the authors of the constitution are not being met.”

There had been, he noted, a requirement for the JSC to undergo training, ”but that was removed by the Supreme Court and subsequently by the legislature.”

Urgent legislation required

Beyond a review and possible reform of the JSC by parliament, the Majlis needed to urgently pass a Criminal and Civil Code, a Penal Code, and an Evidence Act, as currently, “the courts have no guidance as to the exercise of their powers under the constitution.”

“These legislative enactments ensure consistency on the part of the courts and a proper legal basis for the process of litigation,” he said, adding that under the current circumstances, “I can’t see how the courts can operate. The importance of the legislature passing such legislation cannot be overstated.”

As for oversight, the parliament, he said, was entitled to take an interest in the functioning of the judiciary, as the courts were funded by public expenditure.

However, Kellam did mirror the concerns of the ICJ at the interference of the executive, and particularly, the “the extra-constitutional use of the Maldives National Defence Force and police and defiance of court orders.”

He noted the ICJ’s concerns over public statements of members of government meeting with judges and members of parliament imploring the President to ignore both the courts and the legislature: “Actions such as this brought Hitler to power,” he warned.

Judges needed to be able to make decisions contrary to interests of the executive, and should not be subject to pressure from the politically powerful, commercially powerful or any other specific social interest groups.

“I have in my own career made decisions the government was extremely unhappy with – but they did what they were told in due course, because that’s the way the rule of law operates.”

At the same time, “‘Rule of law’ does not mean ‘rule of judges’. Judges are not free to do as they wish. They are subject to the Constitution and the laws enacted by parliament. It is not their role to make disparaging
remarks about parties, witnesses who appear before them, or to send signals to society at large in order to intimidate and undermine other basic freedoms such as freedom of expression.

“Respect is not gained through coercive use of power. The judiciary earns respect by its performance and its conduct,” Kellam said.

Framework in place

The Maldives’ Constitution provided an excellent model for an independent judiciary, “much better than the ones in many countries I’ve worked in,” Kellam said.

“There was quite clearly a real endeavour to set up accountability mechanisms, such as the JSC, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and provision for an independent prosecutor – a really significant step.

“But having a model is one thing, executing the plan is another. In the end that depends on the calibre and integrity of people who run these organisations. They need to set the gold standard in terms of behaviour, conduct and transparency.”

Paying judges generously was a significant part of the equation, he said, recalling a judge he met in Cambodia who drove taxis at night to avoid having to accept bribes.

Australia, he commented, had never had a judge convicted of bribery.

“Judges misbehave in Australia just like elsewhere, but we do not have corruption. I think that’s a reflection of accountability, but also a significant reflection of the fact that they are well-paid. As a judge in Australia you would have to be extremely silly [to accept a bribe], because the risk of losing your salary and all your pension entitlements is simply too high.”

Transparency trumps nepotism

In both his interview with Minivan News and a lecture held on completion of his visit to the Maldives, Kellam repeatedly emphasised the importance of independence.

It was not, he said, necessarily a obstacle to independence that the Maldives was a small country with myriad family, political and business connections.

“I chair the Anti-Corruption Commission in Tasmania, a state with a population of 500,000 people,” he said. “Many families have been living there a very long time, and everyone knows everyone else which is a reason why they brought an outsider like me to chair their Anti-Corruption Commission.

Transparency, he said, was the answer to the problem, and was as much a defence for those drafting contracts with those they knew as a means of mitigation corruption.

“There should be a declaration at the start of meetings, where interests should be stated,” he said.

“If you are awarding a contract to your brother-in-law, which can happen in Tasmania, it must be on the table. The person awarding contract should make the declaration. It must be a similar problem for judges in island courts here – judges here know the islanders, but you can’t have them disqualifying themselves.

“We have a jury system in Australia, and in a town with a population of 20,000 the jury will know all the victims and the witnesses. The important thing is that there is transparency and it is on the stable.

“Sunlight is the best antiseptic. The real problem of perception happens when these things are not out in the open – when they are done under the table, and somebody says ‘Hang on, he’s related or they had dinner the other week.’ If it is in public, decisions can be made impartially. If it’s disclosed you can look at the tender process and say ‘Not withstanding that this person is the uncle of the person delivering on the contract, on the face of it this is transparent.’ That’s entirely different to somebody awarding a contract to a relative behind closed doors.”

Rulings had to also be open to public scrutiny, and actively published and subjected to public analysis. Judges and their verdicts were open to scrutiny and criticism, Kellam said, and in Australia it was understood that judges did not pursue cases of defamation against them.

The economic case for justice

An impartial judicial system was a key factor in encouraging foreign investment, Kellam said, and could have a direct and significant impact on the economy.

This was something that Singapore recognised 15 years ago, he said.

“They understood the value of a civil system that is incorruptible and competent. They spent a lot of money on their judiciary and Transparency International now rates their civil legal system as one of the best in the world.

“Singapore realised that one of the best ways to attract investment was to have a system whereby international investors knew they would get a fair go in domestic courts. If you look at the circumstances in other parts of the world where investors have no confidence in the judiciary, that deters investment and takes it offshore. They’ll go somewhere else.

Citing Adam Smith, considered one of the founders of modern capitalism, Kellam observed that “Commerce and manufacturers can seldom flourish long in any state which does not enjoy a regular administration of justice, in which people do not feel themselves secure in possession of their property, in which the faith of contracts is not supported by law.”

As a foreign investor, Kellam said, “you want to know that contact you enter into with domestic partners will be understood and enforced by courts if there is a breach. You want courts to judge you impartially – you don’t want to be discriminated against because you are a foreigner.”

“Secondly, it’s no good getting judgement if no there is enforcement – which is a major factor in developing countries. Sure you can get a judgement, but it’s not worth the paper it’s written on because there is no process for getting it enforced, and you can’t turn judgements into anything productive.”

Singapore had recognised this, and become not only a hub for foreign investment but also a regional hub for commercial arbitration.

“People from around the region will use Singapore as a place of law and business,” Kellam observed.

“The constitution sets up [an independent judiciary] for principled reasons. But there are not only good arguments for these in terms of principle, there are very good economic arguments. But the judges have got to understand that, and they’ve got to build it.”

Perhaps tellingly, President’s Member of the JSC Aishath Velezinee observed on her blog that “not a single member of the Judicial Service Commission (except for myself) or staff attended Professor Kellum’s lecture.

“What cannot be ignored is that neither the JSC nor the judges have the willingness and interest or the knowledge and capacity to reform the judiciary in accordance with the Constitution, despite the rhetoric.”


Leaked audio: JSC secretly thinks Supreme Court was better with “uneducated judges” on bench

Supreme Court rulings were far superior under “supposedly uneducated judges” during the interim period compared to those delivered by the current bench, some members of the JSC have said.

JSC members MP Afraasheem Ali, High Court Chief Judge Abdul Ghanee Mohamed, Judge Abdullah Didi and Lawyer Ahmed Rasheed also agree that arbitrary powers of the Supreme Court have increased while the standards of its rulings have fallen since the interim period ended.

The JSC members’ scandalous criticism of the country’s highest court comes at a time when it is facing legal action in the Supreme Court over its handling of recent appointments to the High Court.

The remarks were made at a secret meeting on February 6 to discuss who should represent JSC at the Supreme Court, and came to light after an audio recording of the meeting was leaked to the public via YouTube by a source calling itself ‘dhikileaks‘.

Discussing recent Supreme Court rulings during the lead up to the local council elections, Rasheed, who represents the law community at the JSC, said some of the actions would not have been possible “even under the Blue Constitution” of the “former President”.

“Not even then was such a thing [as the Supreme Court ruling on Addu City] possible,” Justice Ghanee is heard saying to general laughter among the men.

MP Afraasheem, agreeing with Justice Ghanee, is heard responding that, “One very prominent judge has told me that things have reached an embarrassing state.”

“The court’s jurisdiction has changed now with the Justice Act”, Rasheed says. MP Afraasheem agrees, “They are stronger… it is always the voice of the Supreme Court now, isn’t it?”

“When these five judges get together, anything goes,” Rasheed is heard replying. MP Afraasheem is heard pointing out that two dissenting opinions were expressed in the particular Supreme Court ruling they were discussing.

“Yes, but this type of powers…” Justice Ghanee is heard saying. The decision, he adds, was made by “consensus of the majority.” Something, he further adds, “Cannot even be seen in Arabic, an Arab nation”.

Laughing, MP Afraasheem is heard responding, “If it’s a majority decision it means there was no consensus… majority is always unanimous… things that are said!”

“That is just to make things as confusing as possible”, Rasheed adds to Abdullah Didi’s agreement.

He also says that, “during the transition period, when it was being said that judges on the bench did not have an education –the rulings they made were far superior.”

“Mujey [Interim Supreme Court Justice and former JSC Chair Mujthaz Fahmy] and them, their rulings were far superior,” Rasheed continues. MP Afraasheem Ali is heard agreeing with him, laughing, and adding that “Yes, things are far more odd now.”

Colluding to commit perjury

Throughout the conversation, the men – with the help of Acting Secretary General Abdul Faththah Abdul Ghafoor – are heard making phone calls to certain members of the JSC to solicit their approval for appointing MP Afraasheem as the JSC’s official representative at the Supreme Court.

MP Afraasheem, who is the Deputy Chair of the JSC, is successful in ringing JSC Public Member Shu’aib Abdul Rahman and Mohamed Fahmy Hassan and getting their approval to appoint him as JSC’s representative to the Supreme Court.

“The Commission majority is not present here … see the way we arrange things on the phone when that happens?” MP Afraasheem is heard saying on the phone to Shu’aib. Shu’aib confirms that he knows of this procedure, and consents to give his approval.

MP Afraasheem expresses his gratitude, and tells Shu’aib the Commission will send a written copy of the decision for him to sign.

“You don’t have a problem with that, Usthaz Shu’aib. That’s okay?” Afraasheem asks. “Yes, yes, yes”, Shu’aib is heard replying.

Once the phone call to Shu’aib is over, Afraasheem, Ghanee and Rasheed are heard discussing whom they should phone next. Ghanee is heard rejecting a suggestion by one of the men to phone Attorney General Sawad, “That will not be so good.”

The careful selection of which JSC members to phone suggests the calls were being made only to those perceived as likely to approve Afraasheem’s appointment; and to those who were unlikely to object to granting their approval on the phone – an act that directly contravenes the Constitution and JSC regulations.

Article 163 of the Constitution states that any meeting of the JSC should be attended by a majority of its 10 members, and that any decision taken by JSC should be by a majority vote cast by members present.

Only five members of the JSC had signed in as present at the meeting on February 6.

JSC interim Secretary General Abdul Faththah has told Minivan News that while there “should be quorum”, in time-sensitive matters such as court summons members sometimes had to make decisions outside formal meetings, with the approval of other members.

“This is not a matter so important to take a decision with the discussion of the members,” he said.

Forging documents for the Supreme Court

The JSC sent a letter to the Supreme Court, with the same date, saying that “a majority decision had been taken by members who participated in the meeting on February 6” to appoint MP Afraasheem as JSC’s representative to the higher courts.

There are six signatures on the document – that of the four men supposedly present at the meeting, and the two men – Shua’ib and Fahmy – who were absent at the meeting, but had agreed on the phone to Afraasheem’s proposal.

The document is misleading, and represents the decision as having been made by six members who were present at the meeting.

Minivan News can also confirm that the four members present at the meeting had engineered it in such a way that one of its members, Aishath Velezinee, was deliberately excluded from the meeting despite having presented herself at the scheduled time.

Velezinee, who has been the most outspoken and vocal critic of what she has called “machinations of deliberate deceit” at the JSC, had arrived for the meeting as scheduled at 7:30p.m.

After 15 minutes, when the required six members failed to attend, the meeting was cancelled as is required by JSC regulations and Constitutional stipulations. Velezinee left the meeting room, the three men and Acting Secretary General – JSC’s third appointment to the post in five months – remained behind.

Suspecting “something was amiss”, Velezinee stayed within JSC premises after the meeting was called off. The four men were still in the meeting room when she returned to check a quarter of an hour later.

She asked them what they were up to, and was told they were just wrapping things up before leaving. She left. It was after her departure that the three men began making the phone calls. The fourth, Judge Abdulla Didi, had joined some time after she left around 8.00pm, says Velezinee.

The contents of the leaked audiotape supports Velezinee’s version of events as Judge Abdulla Didi is heard saying that the meeting “was cancelled” and “we can’t order for a cancelled meeting”, when MP Afraasheem Ali asks if anyone wants refreshments.

Premeditated plan of deception

In the audio recording of the meeting the four men are also heard discussing not just which members to phone but also what should be said in order to attain the approval they were seeking.

MP Afraasheem, for instance, discusses his phone call with Shu’aib asking if had “said the right things”. Abdul Ghanee replies that it was “perfect”, and disagrees with MP Afraasheem that perhaps he should have “made things a bit shorter”.

Laughing, Ghanee says, “No, no, that is just about right.” The men also discuss whether they should first send text messages to their targeted members, and whether it is best to ring them on the Secretariat mobile phones first as they would be more likely to pick up then.

After Shu’aib, Afraasheem’s next call is to Mohamed Fahmy Hassan whom he tells he is “calling from that big phone” at the JSC.

Inquiring after how things went “during the campaign”, he laughingly tells Fahmy that “Usthaz Ghanee, Usthaz Ahmed Rasheed and Usthaz Didi” were all listening.

Afraasheem is heard requesting Fahmy’s approval to appoint him as JSC’s legal representative to the Supreme Court, and also informs him that Shu’aib had already said yes.

“If you want, Afraasheem…”, Fahmy is heard saying.

“What you are saying is that if I have no objections to the appointment, you have none. Is that so?” Afraasheem says. “Yes, yes”, Fahmy says. Afraasheem also tells Fahmy that Ghanee had suggested appointing Fahmy himself as the representative.

“No, no. Keep me at a bit of a distance”, Fahmy demurs. “In that case”, replies Afraasheem, “I will send you the decision for you to sign.” Fahmy agrees.

Fahmy has previously told Minivan News he had no comment on matters relating to the JSC.

The men also appear to be aware of the underhanded nature of their actions, saying such tactics would have been harder had the JSC Chair Adam Mohamed been present.

“It would not have been this easy to do this if Adam was here”, Justice Ghanee is heard saying referring to Adam Mohamed’s lengthy pronunciations. Abdulla Didi agrees, “Yes, that’s the problem with Adam, isn’t it?”

Adam was abroad at the time of the meeting.

Once Fahmy gave his approval, Afraasheem hangs up the phone, and is heard declaring, “This is fun!”

He continues, “Tension. Able to get rid of the tension! We have six now, don’t we?” he says, referring to the six signatures that are needed for a JSC decision to be valid and binding.

“Six,” Rasheed is heard confirming.

“We have six”, Faththah says. The audio recording ends with some muffled voices in which one of the voices, which cannot be identified, says, “So lets get this signed and done with.”

JSC’s efforts to resist judiciary reform

JSC’s criticism of the Supreme Court bench, and the broad agreement among the men that the Court functioned better during the interim period reflects a general attitude observed among some JSC members to resist bringing the judiciary in line with the 2008 Constitution.

MP Afraasheem has been at the forefront of the resistance. He has, for example, dismissed as “symbolic” Article 285 of the Constitution, which demands that all judges who do not meet its newly stipulated qualifications be dismissed after two years of it coming into force.

The two years were up in August 2010, and the JSC has failed to take the required steps to remove or replace unqualified judges, instead deciding to re-appoint the whole bench having declared it “a violation of their human rights” to remove them under a retrospective law – meaning the new Constitution.

Moreover, in December of last year, MP Afraasheem successfully sought Majlis approval for legislation that granted a lifetime pension of Rf 600,000 (US$46,700) a year to former Interim Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy.

Fahmy was on the bench of the Interim Supreme Court, which was dissolved on 10 August, 2010. When the new Supreme Court proper was established he was not re-appointed to the bench.

Records seen by Minivan News show that Fahmy is nowhere near meeting the educational qualifications required of a judge in any court, let alone the Supreme Court, and had also been found guilty of embezzling State funds.

Fahmy lacks a basic law degree, trained a total of 217 days in the 29 years he spent in the judiciary, and possesses a ‘sentencing certificate’ obtained as his only claim to an education in law.

Some of the 217 days Fahmy spent in ‘professional training’ included  time spent acquiring the skills to use a computer.

MP Afraasheem told an approving Majlis that awarding the extraordinarily generous pension to Fahmy would strengthen the country’s judiciary and ensure its honesty and integrity.

JSC and a legal black hole

Alleged irregularities in its recent High Court appointments are not the only reasons for which the JSC has been recently summoned to the courts. In January this year, Civil Court Judge Mariyam Nihayath threw out a professional negligence case against the JSC.

Treasure Island Limited had brought the civil suit against the JSC alleging that it had failed to carry out its constitutional duties by arbitrarily dismissing its complaints of misconduct against two judges in a case involving millions of US Dollars and prominent members of the tourism industry.

Although the JSC failed to satisfy Judge Nihayath that it did have a proper procedure for dealing with complaints against the judiciary, she threw out the case against it when Treasure Island was late for the court on what was to be the penultimate hearing of the case.

Shortly after, the JSC launched its process for the High Court appointments. Judge Nihayath was one of the unsuccessful candidates, and is also among three candidates who have written to the JSC requesting further details on the selection criteria.

Although Nihayath and two other judges have written to the JSC seeking clarification of the procedures for making High Court appointments, and despite the fact that the High Court is virtually suspended while the case remains pending at the Supreme Court, the JSC does not appear to be treating the matter with any real importance or urgency.

It tabled the three judges’ requests for discussion on 16 February. It was the second last matter to be discussed – before the matter of the retirement procedure for judges who are over 70 years of age, and after four other items including the matter of what legal action to take against Velezinee.

Velezinee’s alleged removal of JSC’s official documents from its premises appears to be the matter to which the JSC is according most importance, ahead of a properly functioning judicial system.

The contents of the dhikileaks audio tape has been available to the public, and broadcast in the national media, from last week onwards. The JSC is yet to pay any attention to it, despite the evidence it provides of members colluding to submit a forged document to the Supreme Court, committing perjury.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) conducted a fact-finding mission in September of last year, and is due to publish its findings tomorrow.


Parliament returns from recess, passes Judicature Act

Parliament returned for its final session of the year today after a month-long recess and passed the Judicature Bill in a bipartisan vote, a crucial piece of legislation for judicial reform.

The last sitting of parliament on August 30 was called off after MPs clashed over amendments proposed to the bill by the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) to both prevent the courts from conducting trials related to the activities of the former government and block retrials of controversial cases.

Parliamentary Group Leader of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) “Reeko” Moosa Manik told Minivan News at the time that MDP MPs protested because the DRP was attempting to “take the judiciary in their fist”.

However, in contrast to the acrimonious sitting of the last session, voting on amendments passed smoothly.

The Judicature Act was passed today with 50 votes in favour, four against and six abstentions.

As stipulated by chapter six of the constitution, the Act specifies the hierarchy and jurisdiction of the courts as well as standardized procedures for administration.

Once ratified, the Act will also create a Judicial Council to formulate regulations and procedures for trials.

The bill was proposed by the government in March this year.

Free whip

Baarah MP Mohamed Shifaz, spokesperson for the MDP parliamentary group, told Minivan News today that he voted against the bill because he was “not satisfied” with some provisions.

Following extensive discussions, the two parties came to an agreement on the bill during the last session, Shifaz explained, but the DRP proposed “a lot of amendments at the last minute.”

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, DRP MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom, accused the MDP of scuttling the last sitting on August 30 when “it was not going the way MDP MPs wanted.”

“We have the right to propose amendments; all the things they are saying are excuses,’’ said Mausoom. “MDP MPs just do not like following the due procedure of the parliament.’’

Mausoom defended the amendments as intended to “broaden the bill and to frame it in such a way that the courts can perform their work best.”

The bill was voted through with all the amendments proposed by the main opposition and only one amendment proposed by an MDP MP.

On the final vote, Shifaz said that the MDP MPs were given a free whip “to vote with their conscience” as the matter was of national interest.

Among several issues with the final bill, Shifaz said that he objected to “a big gap” between courts in the capital Male’ and the atolls as islanders would have to come to Male’ for civil cases involving an amount in excess of Rf100,000 (US$7,782).

Moreover, he added, the Act would give excessive powers to the Judicial Services Commission, such as control of the Department of Judicial Administration, which would be renamed if the bill is ratified.

Point of order

Today’s sitting became heated during the preliminary debate on a bill on jails and parole proposed by the government when DRP MPs raised consecutive points of order to object to President Mohamed Nasheed’s refusal to ratify the amendments to the Public Finance Act more than a month after parliament voted to override a presidential veto.

According to article 91(b): “Any bill returned to the People’s Majlis for reconsideration shall be assented to by the president and published in the government gazette if the bill, after reconsideration, is passed without any amendments, by a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis.”

The objections of the DRP MPs were echoed by Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed and independents Ibrahim Muttalib and Ahmed Amir.

The MPs argued that passing any further legislation was “pointless” until the president ratified the amendments to the Public Finance Act, claiming that continuing sittings in the meantime was a serious procedural issue.

As the sitting grew heated, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim threatened to invoke his authority under the rules of procedure to call out the name of DRP Deputy Leader Ali Waheed and force him out of the chamber.

Addressing the points of order, Deputy Speaker Nazim said that the matter was “a constitutional issue” as article 91(b) did not specify the period in which the president had to ratify bills passed by parliament for a second time.

The minority opposition People’s Alliance MP suggested that a dispute between the executive and the legislature could only be resolved through the courts.

“I don’t believe that with the issue you are raising we could make any progress without passing through the stages of the legal process,” he said.


Q&A: Aishath Velezinee on plots, power and treason

The international community has urged the Maldives executive to respect the rule of law in negotiating a solution to its current political deadlock with the Majlis (parliament), and in handling its accusations of corruption and treason against several prominent MPs and high-profile businessmen.

In a democracy the judiciary is the crucial arbitrator of any such disputes between the other two arms of government. But Aishath Velezinee, the President’s Member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the independent institution tasked with reforming the judiciary and ensuring both its independence and accountability to the public, believes the current state of the judiciary renders it unfit to do so.

Article 285 of the Constitution outlines an interim period for the reappointment of the judiciary by the JSC, according to minimum standards, with a deadline of August 7, 2010. After this, a judge may only be removed for gross incompetency or misconduct in a resolution passed by a two-thirds majority in parliament – the same number required for impeaching the President or Vice President.

Last week the JSC reappointed 160 of the judges appointed by the former government, despite a quarter of the bench possessing criminal records and many others with only primary school level education. The Supreme Court meanwhile sent the President a letter claiming it had ruled itself tenure for life.

Velezinee blows the whistle, speaking to Minivan News about the JSC’s failure to ensure the accountability of the judiciary, the compromise of its own independence at the hands of the Majlis – and the ramifications for the country in the lead up to the August deadline.

JJ Robinson: What is the function of the Judicial Services Commission?

Aishath Velezinee: The main function of the JSC – as I see it – is to maintain judicial integrity, and to build public confidence in the judiciary and individual judges.

The way we would do it under a democratic governance structure would be to hear the complaints of the people, and to look into these matters objectively and independently, and take action if necessary, to assure the public there is no hanky-panky [going on].

But instead of that, we are putting out press releases saying things like: “You can’t criticise judges”, “You can’t criticise the judiciary”, and ‘‘the president is exercising influence over judges”.

JJ: So the JSC is working as shield organisation for judges rather than as a watchdog?

AV: Very much. It is a shield for judges, and the evidence for that is very obvious. We have all this evidence in the media now from what is happening in the criminal court – a fact is a fact.

Why did [Criminal Court] Judge Abdulla Mohamed open the Criminal Court at midnight when two high-profile [opposition MPs Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim] were arrested?

From August 2008 to today there have been many instances when the public might have wanted the court to open outside hours. But no – before that day, they have never opened the court out of hours for anybody else.

This was the first time they have done it – and then put out press releases saying it happened at 9pm? This is not the truth. We have evidence it is wrong.

But the Commission takes for granted that whatever the judge says is right. We can’t protect judges and oversee them.

JJ: This was the case taken to the Criminal Court by Yameen’s defence lawyer [former attorney general Azima Shukoor]?

AV: That’s not standard procedure. According to regulations the Criminal Court can only accept submissions from the State.

It would not have been an issue – the defence lawyer would have been given the opportunity to argue the case when the State went to the court. But Yameen’s lawyer initiated it – and got into the Criminal Court in the wee hours of the night – that is strange.

I’m not saying it is right or wrong – I don’t know. But what I do know is that this is out of the ordinary. The JSC has an obligation to the people to ensure the Criminal Court has done nothing wrong.

JJ: How did the JSC react?

AV: They did nothing. Article 22(b) of the Judicial Services Act gives us the power to look into matters arising in public on our own initiative. But what did the JSC do? They said nobody had complained: “We haven’t received an official complaint.” They were waiting for an individual to come and complain.

My experience, from being part of the complaints committee in the JSC, is that whenever a complaint is received, we have two judges on the complaints committee who will defend the [accused] judge, trashing the complainant, and talk about “taking action” against these people “who are picking on judges”.

Then they will put out a press release: “Nobody should interfere with work of judges.” Their interpretation is that “nobody should criticise us. We are above and beyond the law.”

Since January – when the JSC censored its own annual report, despite the law clearly saying what we should include – they decided to hide the names of all judges who had complaints made against them.

Instead, they released the details – including quite private information – about the complainants.

Civil Court judge Mohamed Naeem has "a box-file" of complaints pending, says Velezinee

JJ: What is the current state of the judiciary?

AV: The current judiciary has 198 judges that were appointed prior to this Constitution being adopted. Those judges were appointed by the then-executive: the Ministry of Justice. The appointment procedure, the criteria – none of these were transparent.

They were only given ‘on-the-job’ training. This ‘Certificate in Justice Studies’ they say they have is on-the-job training given after the 1998 Constitution was adopted, to teach them how to run the country according to that Constitution.

How do we expect these people – without exposure to democratic principles and cultures, without exposure to the world, with only basic education, and with only tailor-made on-the-job training for a different Constitution – how do we expect them to respect and uphold this Constitution?

A majority have not even completed primary school. A quarter have criminal convictions: sexual misconduct, embezzlement, violence, disruption of public harmony, all sorts of things – convictions, not accusations.

We are not even looking at the 100 plus complaints we have in the JSC that are unattended to. They have not been tabled. Civil Court Judge Mohamed Naeem has a box-file of complaints against him. And Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed has way too many against him.

JJ: Given the condition of the judiciary, and if the government is in a state of political deadlock with parliament, how is the government able to legitimise accusations against the MPs it has accused of corruption and treason?

AV: That is where we have the problem. The international community seem to have forgotten that this is a new-found democracy. We have in all our institutions people who have been in the previous government. We haven’t changed everybody – and they are still following their own culture, not the law.

How can [the international community] ask for the rule of law to be followed when there are no courts of law? Where are the courts? Where are the judges? A majority never even finished primary school.

Supreme Court Justice and President of the JSC, Mujthaz Fahmy

JJ: What possible reason was there for appointing judges with only primary grade education?

AV: It’s very obvious – just look at the records. As a member of the JSC I have been privy to records kept from before [the current government]. In their files, there are reprimands against judges for not sentencing as they were directed. That was a crime when the Minister of Justice ran the courts. The Ministry of Justice directed judges as to how sentences should be passed, and that was perfectly legitimate under that Constitution.

JJ: Has anything changed since 2008 and when the judges were appointed under the former government?

AV: Yes – what has changed is that [the judges] were freed from the executive. So they are very happy with the freedom they have received. But unfortunately they haven’t understood what that freedom and independence means.

They are looking for a father-figure, and they have found him in the current President of the JSC, Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy. He has taken on this role, and he is now the king and father of the judges.

So they are all looking up to him to protect their interests. If you look at all the press releases from the Judges’ Association – which is run from Mujthaz Fahmy’s home address – he makes arbitrary decisions in the JSC and then puts out press statements from this organisation run from his home, to defend his own position.

We are in a very big game. Mujthaz Fahmy has been under the thumb of the former executive for way too long – the man is going on 50, he has been on the bench for 25 years, he has never had anybody come and argue with him – he can’t stand anybody who challenges him. So he’s got a problem with me sitting on the Commission because I do not take his word as the law. The man thinks that anything that comes out of his mouth is the law, and the majority of the JSC members take it as a fact.

But if you look into the documentation, if you look into the recordings – nothing that comes out of that man’s mouth will hold. Those interviews he is giving, all he is using is this image he has built up of himself as ‘the esteemed justice’. That is what he is using to convince the public that he is right. And they are trashing me in public and in biased media, just so people do not listen to me.

I do not ask anybody to take my word. I am saying: hear the recordings in the commission. Listen to what they say.

They have this belief that whatever happens in the Commission must be kept a secret amongst ourselves. This was run like a secret society – we have a pact of secrecy amongst us. I broke it, because I do not believe in tyranny of the majority. What we are seeing here is a repeat of what happened in the High Court in January, what we are currently seeing happen in the Majlis, and the same things are now happening in the JSC.

Elements of the parliament are collaborating with the JSC, says Velezinee

JJ: What are the links between the Majlis and the judiciary?

AV: That is a very serious issue. I am currently sitting on this seat as the President’s appointed member of the JSC, but prior to this, I was was the member of the general public appointed by the Majlis. They have forgotten that part.

I have brought this to Majlis attention. When the Commission voted on what I call the minimum ‘sub-standards’ for the judiciary, I sent a complaint to the Majlis. The same letter I sent to the President and the President of the Law Society. I sent it to the Speaker of the Majlis, as well as the chair of the Independent Commissions Committee, Mohamed Mujthaz.

When the JSC finalised the ‘substandards’, the Majlis into recess. So I went to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), because it was the only constitutional structure where I could go to hold the JSC accountable. It is rather odd for one Commission member to go to another commission and ask them to investigate her own commission.

I met the ACC on May 12. The JSC say they adopted the substandards on May 11. Later I collected all the documentation, and wrote a report – because this is not going to be something easy to investigate. This is a whole conspiracy cooked up from the time the JSC was initially constituted. It has been planned, and it is very clear this is a plot.

When the Majlis reopened in June, I sent an official complaint to the Independent Commissions Committee which they accepted. On June 16, the Majlis wrote two letters to the JSC, one letter requesting all documentation and recordings relating to Article 285 – my complaint.

The JSC is not respecting Constitution and is doing as it pleases. Their disregard of Article 285, and their decision to adopt substandards for judges, comes from their belief in a promise made by the former government.

They do not refer to the Constitution in adopting the standards. They refer to conversations they had with the majority party at that time, a delegation led by our dear JSC President, Mujthaz Fahmy. He and a team of judges met with the politicians to negotiate a guarantee that no judge would be removed under the new Constitution.

Although we have Article 285 in the Constitution – to give the people a judiciary they can trust and respect – we have the President of the Commission responsible for the implementation of this article working on this political understanding with the former government.

This is very clear from the recordings.

All I’m asking is for third party to look into this – and that third party is the Majlis. After the Majlis took all the documentation and recordings, they had requested the JSC meet with the Majlis Independent Commissions Committee at 2:30pm on June 23.

If you go back to your news files, that was the day when the Majlis floor heated up. Since then the Speaker [DRP MP Abdulla Shahid] has suspended the Majlis.

The committee accepted the complaint – if they had not, they would not have asked us to come and discuss this with them.

I believe the speaker is taking undue advantage of this political crisis. The Speaker of the Majlis is now coming and sitting in the JSC [office] day and night, during Friday, holidays and Independence Day. The Speaker is sitting in the JSC trying to expedite this process of reappointing judges before the Majlis starts on August 1. What is going on here?

The Supreme Court, formerly the Presidential Palace

JJ: What is going on?

AV: I believe that when the Majlis was suspended, they should have directed the JSC to at least halt what was going on until they have looked into the matter. It is a very serious complaint I have made – it is a very serious allegation. And if that allegation and complaint is unfounded, I am willing to stand before the people, in Republic Square, and be shot.

I believe we have all the evidence we need to look into this matter – but under this Constitution, we have to go to the Majlis. But where is the Majlis? And what is the Speaker doing in the JSC?

What about all those other complaints? The Commission’s president is not letting us work on them. We have in our rules that any member can ask for a matter to be tabled. I asked him to look into the matter – and do you know what he did? He sent me a letter to my home address – as though I was not a member of the Commission – and asked me to write it in a proper form and bring it to the attention [of reception].

The JSC has decided Article 285 is symbolic, that article 22(b) does not exist, while the esteemed people of the law in the commission, include the Commission President, Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, explain to me that article 22(b) gives me the power to write a letter, fill in a form and submit a complaint. I asking – why did the drafters of this law put in a clause to give me a right I already have as any ordinary citizen?

Where we are right now – with the lack of confidence in the judiciary – it all lies with Mujthaz Fahmy.

JJ: What do you mean when you talk about “a plot”? How interconnected is this?

AV: They are trying to expedite the reappointment of judges without looking into my complaint. If you look into my complaint, you will find this has been done in an unconstitutional way.

What they are doing right now is going to kill the Constitution.

We are not going to consolidate democracy if they succeed in getting away with what they are doing right now. The Speaker has suspended the Majlis whilst a very serious complaint is with the Majlis committee, and now he is sitting in the JSC doing this.

If there is a matter pending in a court of law, usually they ask for a court order until the matter is settled. You don’t just carry on as if nothing is happening.

We have a petition signed by 1562 people – the JUST campaign – calling for an honest and impartial judiciary. This was not even put on the Commission’s agenda – it said it did not find it necessary to take it into account, and on that day I was not given opportunity to participate because on the agenda was the matter of approving judges under the substandards.

We are asked to put before any other matter the people, and the Constitution. Instead, the Commission is working in the interests of these individual few judges who have hijacked the judiciary. Mujthaz Fahmy must go.

JJ: So these Commission members met with politicians from the former government, to obtain a guarantee that sitting judges would remain on the bench, and not be subject to reappointment under Article 285? What do the politicians get back from the judges?

AV: We are talking about corruption. The change in government came in 2008 because people were fed up with a corrupt administration and autocratic governance.

But all those people who were in power entered parliament. The Speaker, who is right now sitting in the JSC working night and day expediting the reappointment of the judges, was also part of that administration. It is within their interest to keep this judiciary here, and not work in the interests of this Constitution, or the People.

Their personal interests take precedence over everything else. I’m afraid that is what we are seeing.

JJ: Do you feel the media has been taking this case seriously enough?

AV: I’ve been writing to all the concerned authorities since Januruary. I’ve been going on and on about the JSC and the dictatorship within it for a long, long time. I knew where we were heading, I have been warning the Majlis and talking to people from various parties. I have been talking about Article 285 for so long that I have become ‘the old article 285 madwoman.’

JJ: Do you think the current political crisis can be resolved without a functioning judiciary?

AV: Absolutely not. But then a functioning judiciary cannot be introduced without this crisis being resolved. How can the international community ask for the rule of law to be followed when there are no courts of law?

We need an impartial investigation of what is going on. And I believe the Maldives does not have anyone able to conduct an impartial investigation. We need assistance – the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) should be here. The UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of the Judiciary should be here, right now.

This is not the fault of the judiciary. We have a large bench, and most of the judges have absolutely no idea about what is going on. They have not even been given orientation on the new Constitution.

I had the opportunity to meet magistrates from four Atolls. They know the law. But what they need is a basic understanding of the principles of this Constitution, of the foundations of democracy. Because it is through those lenses that they should be interpreting the Constitution.

I am not in favour of the removal of all judges. But I demand that all judges with criminal records be removed – they should not be sitting there even now, and there’s 40-50 of them – a quarter of the bench.

Why is the JSC remaining silent? Why is the Speaker of the Majlis in the JSC [office]? By his silence, and through the act of suspending the Majlis, the Speaker has given the JSC the opportunity to complete this act of treason they are currently committing.

The deadline for the judicial reform period under the new constitution in August 7. The Speaker and the President of the JSC are working overtime to get all these judges reappointed before the Majlis restarts on August 1. That is treason.

Supreme Court Judge Uz Ahmed Faiz Hussain, the President's nomination for Chief Justice

JJ: What benefit would outside arbitration bring?

AV: It is difficult because all our documentation is in Dhivehi. But we need an independent and impartial body to look into this properly. Forget listening to me or Mujthaz. Forget listening to politicians, and investigate. We need an impartial mediator.

It is very easy for the international community to turn around and blame the executive for taking a dictatorial attitude. We are demanding the executive uphold the rule of law. But what about the Majlis? Where is the rule of law when the Speaker suspends the Majlis and hides in the JSC expediting the reappointment of judges? Where are the courts to go to?

We need the public to understand the Constitution, and we need all duty-bearers to uphold the Constitution. I’m afraid half the members of the JSC do not understand the principles of democracy or the role of the JSC, or the mandate we have. Then there are a few who understand it very well but remain silent while all this goes on

JJ: The President recently nominated Supreme Court Judge Uz Ahmed Faiz Hussain as the new Chief Justice, and is awaiting Majlis approval. How likely is this to resolve the current situation, given the Majlis is currently suspended?

AV: Uz Ahmed Faiz Hussain is a well-respected man amongst the judges. I have never heard anybody question his independence or impartiality. He is a learned man and amongst all the politicking and hanky-panky going on, he has maintained his integrity.

But the Majlis has to appoint him and the Majlis may not even get that far – the Supreme Court has already declared itself permanent.

I’m telling you: this is big. What we are seeing is all interconnected – it is one big plot to try – in any way possible – to return power to the corrupt.


Letter to the Judicial Services Commission: Ibra’s blog

“It appears that the JSC has taken it unto themselves to go ahead and appoint judges for life without laws that direct them on the standards expected of judges, or the number of courts that should be established, the jurisdicitions of various courts, the tenure of judges for the first fifteen years of the new constitution etc.” writes the chairman of the drafting committee of the current Maldivian constitution, Ibrahim Ismail, in his personal blog.

Read more (Dhivehi and English)