JSC is the right authority to investigate Chief Judge: Vice President

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed has requested the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) suspend Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed from the bench while complaints against him remain standing.

“Male’ is in crisis and many are being affected, property is being damaged,” he said during a press conference today at the President’s Office, requesting opposition parties and politicians end their political bickering and “give time” to sort out the judiciary.

Judge Mohamed was arrested on Monday, January 16 by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) following a request by police, and is being held in a military training facility on Girifushi. The Vice President this weekend expressed his discontent with the government’s detention of the judge drawing complaints from public officials.

“[I am] ashamed and totally devastated by the fact that this is happening in a government in which I am the elected the Vice President,” Dr Waheed wrote on his blog.

“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,” he explained.

The European Union has also chosen to “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,” read a statement.

The President’s Office maintains that the arrest was made lawfully, and that constitutional reform is not a major concern. “At the moment the Constitution is not in crisis, the President is fulfilling his role as a guardian to uphold the Constitution,” said Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair.

President Nasheed yesterday urged the JSC to investigate complaints against members of the Judiciary and take due disciplinary actions, including recommendations for dismissal, as obstructions to justice are a threat to national security and public safety.

While Dr Waheed’s position came a surprise to the ruling party, he said he has “had discussions with President [Mohamed] Nasheed and expressed my views. I am very sorry if my comments have disappointed anyone,” he said, but insisted that they were “sincere and impartial”.

Judge Mohamed was last year charged with professional misconduct, and was consequently to be investigated by the JSC. However, the Civil Court ruled against the JSC’s investigation.

Minivan News asked whether this raised concern that the JSC could not be depended on to carry out a fair investigation.

“I believe the JSC is the right authority to investigate this case”, he said, indicating that suspending the judge would prevent a repeat of last year’s events, “because as you can see [keeping him on the bench during questioning] has created more disruption than we all had bargained for.”

Urging cooperative dialogue and noting that “conflict resolution is not a new thing”, Dr Waheed made three recommendations to resolve the current political crisis: release the judge, end the ongoing opposition-led protests in Male’, and require the JSC to fulfill its duties.