Leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Dr Hassan Saeed has called on the UK-based Law Society to lead a mission to the Maldives to assess the erosion of the rule of law, in an interview with the organisation’s publication The Law Society Gazette.
Dr Saeed told the Society that President Mohamed Nasheed, “a former political prisoner dubbed the Maldives ‘Nelson Mandela’”, was dismantling the 2008 Constitution and trying to “crush citizens’ rights under foot”.
President Nasheed was establishing his own “public courts” to replace independent courts, the Society reported Dr Saeed as claiming, while “courts are suspended” and “judges assaulted.”
In the article, the Society’s president Linda Lee urged the Maldives authorities “to uphold and protect key constitutional principles.”
Minivan News contacted the DQP seeking clarification of the claims.
Regarding the assaults on judges, the party’s Secretary General Abdulla Ameen noted that following a ruling in a case concerning Juhmoree Party MP Gasim Ibrahim by Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed, “a lot of people went outside [the judge’s] house and physically threatened him, and set his motorcycle on fire.”
Concerning the suspension of courts, “the government has created a culture of fear among the judiciary, and they have had to cancel sessions and hold emergency meetings because of the increase in tension.”
The government had breached the rights of individuals “by arresting people without warrants,” Ameen said, referring to the recent detention of People’s Alliance MP Abdulla Yameen on the Presidential Retreat of Aarah following accusations of bribery and treason.
He also criticised the government for leaking audio tapes appearing to implicate MPs for corruption, “despite the Constitution clearly protecting private conversations between individuals.”
Ameen said Dr Saeed had requested the Law Society send an independent delegation to investigate the issues, “but if any other [institution] is interested we would also welcome it.”
The President’s member on the Judicial Services Commission Aishath Velezinee has also appealed for the UN Special Rapporteur on Independent Judiciary and the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) to send mediators to the Maldives.
Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed said Dr Saeed’s claims in the Law Society article were “totally out of orbit.”
“One has to wonder what he is talking about – look at his own track record serving under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom [as Attorney General]. We are clearly making steady progress,” Dr Shaheed said.
“Claiming that judges are being assaulted is very irresponsible. I’m not aware of any case where a judge has been assaulted, and in such an event there are domestic remedies available,” Dr Shaheed said.
Regarding Dr Saeed’s claim that courts were being suspended, “that’s outrageous. I’m not aware of a single time this has happened.”
“When a lawyer becomes a politician, they must continue to respect certain professional ethics as well,” he said.
“They are out to tarnish [President] Nasheed’s image, and they have taken issue with his awards and his description as South Asia’s ‘Nelson Mandela’,” Dr Shaheed said. “I think this is a case of the green-eyed monster.”
The request by the Law Society that the government respect the rule of law was “a standard expectation and we respect it.”
“The government is not disregarding the law,” he said. “Look at the behaviour of the other [arms of state]. Parliament is trying to usurp the powers of the executive, and the judiciary is behaving very questionably.”
Working in such an environment, Dr Shaheed said, the President had been called upon to make “some very difficult judgments, such as [the detention and release] of MP Abdulla Yameen.”
Dr Saeed recently led a DQP delegation to the UK to present the opposition coalition’s case to UK politicians and international institutions, employing a PR company to arrange interviews with several organisations, including The Law Society. The trip was jointly funded by the opposition parties, Minivan News was told at the time.