Lawyers forward Chief Judge’s case to International Criminal Court

A group  of lawyers have forward a case concerning the government’s arrest and detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s by military forces has been forwarded to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Maldives became a member of the ICC after acceding to the Rome Statute late last year.

According to the Rome Statute, “the jurisdiction of the [ICC] shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole”, notably genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The ICC does not deal with small cases, even if the victims may be in the hundreds.”

The case was forwarded by a group of lawyers contesting the conditions of the judge’s arrest and detention at a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) training facility on Girifushi.

Maumoon Hameed, a member of the legal team, said the case was submitted “as the continued detention of Judge Mohamed is in clear violation of the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance.”

Hameed told local media that ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Occampo, would investigate the matter. Minivan News is currently waiting for a response from the ICC.

The judge was arrested by MNDF forces upon police request after he attempted to block his own police summons in the High Court. Allegations against him include corruption, political bias and poor professional conduct, such as requiring underage victims of sexual abuse to re-enact their experiences during court hearings.

MNDF did not release details of the judge’s whereabouts for 48 hours following his arrest, prompting the opposition to define the act as “enforced disappearance”.

The military has not complied with High and Supreme court orders to release the judge. Officials from the military and police forces were today questioned on the matter by Parliament’s 241 Committee for safety and security, and further hearings are pending.

Opposition parties have claimed the judge’s detention as a ‘crime against humanity’, leading to a string of increasingly violence protests since last week. Over 40 people have been arrested in the past four days, and several individuals have been sent to the hospital.

Opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) President Ibrahim Shareef termed the arrest an inhumane “kidnapping”, while Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed surprised the govenrment by expressing shame over the action calling it “the first possible violation since the dawn of democracy in our country”.

The European Union (EU) also expressed concern over the judge’s arrest in a statement in which it encouraged all parties to “act in accordance with these [democratic] principles and to refrain from inflammatory language or other action which could incite hatred.”

Acting on these and other concerns, Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) last weekend visited the judge on Girifushi and reported that he was in good health and conditions, drawing criticism from the opposition for allegedly “backing down” from its duties.

Meanwhile, the government has maintained that the judge’s arrest was lawful and that invoking the term ‘crime against humanity’ is only a political strategy.

“The government of Maldives is 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,” said a government legal source.

Citing the ICC’s Rome Statute, the legal source has noted that “detention of a person can only be construed as a ‘crime against humanity’ if that detention is committed by a State as part of a widespread systematic attack on a civilian population, and if that detention is followed by the refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of freedom, and or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of that person with the intention of removing the person from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.

“The detention of Judge Abdulla Mohamed is not part of a systematic attack on a civilian population and the government has acknowledged his detention to both his family and the public at large,” the source stated.

The source described the allegations against the Chief Judge as “of serious concern to the Maldivian government and community” and claimed to hold evidence of “gross misconduct” against the Judge.

In particular, the government claims that the judge exercised “undue influence” over at least one member of the Civil Court to prompt a ruling against the Judicial Services Commission’s (JSC) investigation of the Judge last year.

Observing that the High and Supreme courts remained silent during the affair, the government accused the judge of “tacit acceptance of a ploy to prevent the JSC from exercising is powers under the constitution.”

Furthermore, by accepting the Civil Court’s ruling the JSC indicated its own subscription to biased input, the source claimed.

Speaking today to Minivan News, in his own capacity, opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) member Abdul Rasheed Nafiz endorsed the gesture of sending the case to the ICC.

“Right now, this is a legal argument. The opposition says the military cannot arrest judges, and the President says he has the authority as commander-in-chief. The Supreme Court tried to resolve the matter but it has had some problems. We need a mediator, and now it’s time for the international community to get involved”, he said.

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.

Speaking to Minivan News in September, President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said it was important for the Maldives to have access to an international judiciary

“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, while an ICC official hoped membership would help the Maldives proceed with judicial reform.

Towards that end, the Foreign Ministry has requested an international legal delegation from the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission to help resolve the current impasse in the nation’s judicial system.

Meanwhile, former President’s Member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee, today told Minivan News “I would like it if the ICC were to accept this. Not because of Abdulla Mohamed, but because it will mean they will have to look into why he was taken.”

Velezinee has accused the opposition of subverting the judiciary for political purposes, with the aim of protecting their supporters from prosecution and retaining control over the judges as previously held by the former Ministry of Justice.

“It was a coup,” she told Minivan News today. “Now they are asking the Supreme Court to investigate – the same Supreme Court which has asked the authorities to investigate people who criticise the judiciary. No single person has criticised the judiciary more than me – and I say this because I have all the evidence, and all the papers.”


PPM still asking for Chief Judge’s release as violent protests continue

Police and Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) last night arrested 19 people during a violent protest outside the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) building near Republic Square, in which four police officers received minor injuries.

“The protest became violent when people started throwing bricks and other things,” said police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef. “We tried to disperse them, and the protest spread throughout Male’ city.” Haneef said the protests continued until 1:25 am on Monday morning.

‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Ibrahim Didi, a council member of minority opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), has been released. The other 18 individuals remain in custody.

However, Mulaku MP Abdulla Yameen was summoned to police headquarters this morning for questioning in regards in to an ongoing investigation. Local media reports that Yameen was due to leave for Sri Lanka this evening to meet foreign diplomats.

Police officials estimated that between 300 and 400 individuals associated with political opposition parties participated in last night’s protest, part of a trend which began when several opposition figures were detained for “hate speech” against the government nine days ago. Opposition-led protests demanding freedom of expression escalated when Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by military forces seven days ago, shortly after he declared the arrest of the politicians unlawful.

Sub-Inspector Haneef said the protests were “of a high concern to the Male’ police service”, observing that last night’s protest was part of a developing trend of increasingly violent demonstrations.

Stating that military forces are prepared to assist police upon request, MNDF spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem added that “anytime there is violence it is a big concern of ours. We are always on alert and want to make sure Male’ is safe for residents.”

Meanwhile, the Security Services Committee (241 Committee) questioned MNDF Chief Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel and Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh  regarding the detention of the chief judge and the string of protests.

Local media reported that further hearings will be held. However, Minivan was unable to confirm the report with members of the 241 Committee at time of press.

Concerns about the protests were raised at Parliament’s National Security Committee last week by PPM MP Ahmed Mahlouf.

According to Committee Chair and MDP MP Ali Waheed, Mahlouf subsequently withdrew the case “because he didn’t want (MDP MP) ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik to be involved, and he didn’t like the way the investigation was going.”

“We offered dialogue, because we don’t want to stop work, we want to be democratic. In a committee we should be able to have dialogue and make a solution. But the opposition is trying to disrupt the process and make trouble everywhere in the country so the government can’t focus,” Waheed claimed.

Stating that the protests “are an issue of national security”, Waheed warned that disrupting committee procedures were “a means to an end.”

“Right now there are many ways to terrorise a country. Some use guns and bombs, some use language, and even now the way [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives] is acting is a type of terrorism – they are trying to stop the whole system”, he said, observing that as the protests carry on with blocked roads and vandalised homes, “Male’s roads should not be used only by PPM.”

PPM MP Mahlouf had not responded to phone calls at time of press. However, party member Abdul Rasheed Nafiz said he understood that Mahlouf’s case was voted down during a committee session when MP Yameen was absent, and did not believe that the National Security Committee had the mandate to address the protests.

Nafiz said the protests were important for public expression however he believed the response was overblown.

“Police and military forces are both involved, which is a concern. Force is not required, when these people are gathering they keep silent until the police decide to disperse the crowd,” he claimed.

Acknowledging that a regulation prohibits demonstrations after midnight and at certain locations – such as Republic Square, located next to the MMA building – Nafiz pointed out that “neither side has obeyed that regulation, and even a small regulation can’t limit the freedoms granted in the Constitution.”

During his time as a Parliament member, Nafiz said, he suggested regulations on public protests “because Male’ is a small place and people are saying things that are hard for families and small children to hear. We have a culture and a religion to respect as well. But at the time the proposal was attacked and now people can hold protests when and where they like.”

Nafiz said he believed restoring peace “depends on the chief judge’s release.”

“Opposition parties are willing to bring an end to the protests through negotiation, but the government should release the judge first,” he said, noting that a group of lawyers had today forwarded the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), of which the Maldives recently became a member.

“This is really a legal issue, and a mediator is needed. The question is ‘who’. Now is the time for the international community to get involved”, he said.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had requested an international legal delegation from the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission to assist the Maldives.