Maldives Bar Association calls for suspension of Supreme Court Justice pending sex video investigation

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahee

The Maldives Bar Association (MBA) has called for the suspension of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed pending an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct.

In a statement, the MBA challenged the independence and transparency of any Judicial Service Commission (JSC) investigation without the suspension of the judge in question.

Hameed is under investigation by both the police and JSC over the circulation of at least three sex videos apparently depicting him fornicating with unidentified foreign women.

Four members of the JSC voted in support of a motion last Wednesday (July 17) against suspending Justice Hameed due to “lack of evidence”, despite recommendations that he be taken off the bench until investigations were concluded.

Following the decision, JSC Deputy Chairman Abdulla Mohamed Didi and Latheefa Gasim resigned from the five-member committee investigating the matter.

The Bar Association, presided over by former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood, said in a statement (Dhivehi) released today that it was “against principles adopted in modern democratic societies” to allow Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed to remain on the bench while he faced allegations of adultery and other concerning conduct.

The JSC last week disregarded a recommendation by its own investigating committee to suspend Hameed, leading the MBA to questioned whether the JSC was capable of reviewing the matter impartially.

The Bar Association said prompt action was needed to verify whether the allegations against the judge were legitimate, in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the Maldives judicial system.

Priority, the association argued, had to be given to uphold credibility, integrity and public trust within the country’s legal system rather than “defending the interests” of a single judge.

The statement also called on the JSC to appoint two members to the subcommittee investigated the judge’s conduct that had been left vacant by the resignations of Abdulla Mohamed Didi and Latheefa Gasim.

Transparency calls for investigation

NGO Transparency Maldives also expressed concern that leaked video footage purportedly of a supreme court judge acting in a “culpable manner” could jeopardise the integrity of the country’s apex court, and public confidence in the wider democratic system.

“There is a duty vested upon all relevant authorities to uphold and protect the integrity of such a important state institution,” the NGO said in a statement (Dhivehi).

“Therefore, Transparency Maldives believes that, in order to ascertain Supreme Court’s credibility and public trust, it is very important for all authorities to reveal the truth behind the accusations as soon as possible.”

The NGO called on authorities and the JSC to refrain from any conduct that could be deemed as “dubious” in their handling of investigations into the judge.

Chief Judge of the Supreme Court Ahmed Faiz has meanwhile urged the public and media to refrain from making statements that would give a negative image of the judiciary, and called for constitutional amendments.

Leaked footage

The video of the Supreme Court Justice allegedly indulging in adultery came into media limelight following the arrest of Ahmed Faiz – a senior Council Member of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP) and former Project Advisor at the Housing Ministry.

Snapshots taken from the video began circulating on social media networks Twitter and Facebook, prompting a police investigation. The police formally notified all relevant authorities including the JSC, the Prosecutor General and President Waheed regarding their investigation into the case.

The JSC is also investigating a further two videos involving the Supreme Court Judge, including spy camera videos of Hameed discussing political corruption of the judiciary with a local businessman, and a meeting with former Immigration Controller Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim.

‘Fake’ claims

The footage has been branded a politically motivated attempt to discredit the judge and dismissed as “fake” by local business tycoon, JSC member and presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim,

Gasim has meanwhile said he personally saw no conflict of interest between his bid for the presidency and current role on the judicial watchdog. The presidential candidate  voted against suspending Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed during the JSC vote.

The public’s representative on the JSC, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, was sharply critical earlier this year of the commission’s conduct and motivations, particularly its “open discussion” of its intent to eliminate Gasim’s rival presidential candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed, from contesting the upcoming elections.

“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 stated in March.

“Gasim even went to the point of asking the UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul when she held a meeting with us to state in her report that it was Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who torched the courts. I heard him say exactly that,” Sheikh Rahman said.

Knaul’s final report to the UN Human Rights Council following her mission to the Maldives in February, was a damning indictment of the country’s judicial crisis.

JP Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


Judiciary needs transitional arrangement before elections: former JSC member

The former Presidential Member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Aishath Velezinee has called on international organisations to lead a transitional arrangement for the judiciary prior to September’s presidential elections.

UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul’s final report to the UN Human Rights Council extensively outlined the political, budgetary and societal challenges facing the judiciary and wider legal community, as well as the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and its failure to appoint qualified judges under Article 285 of the constitution.

The Special Rapporteur also expressed “deep concern” over the failure of the judicial system to address “serious violations of human rights” during the Maldives’ 30 year dictatorship, warning of “more instability and unrest” should this continue to be neglected.

“The UN special rapporteur’s report has raised very serious concerns that the public should be thinking about, because it has implications that affects every single individual in this country, the report is not for the state alone,” said Velezinee during a press conference held on June 5.

“The report raises questions regarding the impartiality of the supreme court. It highlights a political bias in the supreme court,” Velezinee said. “If we are going to allow the supreme court to be the decider on elections, there is very little reason for the public to have confidence in the election results.”

Velezinee noted that because only three months remain before the September 7 presidential elections, “It is time for the parliament and for the leaders to sit down together and come to a transitional arrangement.”

“That transitional arrangement should include a bench or some system outside of existing courts, outside of the supreme court, that will have a final say on all election related issues,” she stated.

“It can’t be done only locally. We need the expertise, presence and participation of the International Commission of Jurists as well as the UN in a transitional arrangement,” she continued.

“Considering the status of the state today, we need a partnership. Bilateral participation would not be something to promote, the best thing would be to have broader participation with international partners,” Velezinee added.

Resistance to consolidating democracy

“Our country today is at a serious critical junction and the issues are all coming from resistance to consolidating democracy,” said Velezinee.

“One of the most serious issues noted in the [UN special rapporteur’s] report is the misconstruing of democratic concepts in the constitution, and the use of these for personal gain by state officials within the JSC, Supreme Court, as well as parliament.”

“After elections the judiciary must be overhauled,” she declared.

The JSC was required to re-appoint judges under Article 285 of the constitution who possessed “educational qualifications, experience and recognised competence to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a judge, and must be of high moral character.”

“It is only through acknowledgement and acceptance that we have breached the constitution on article 285 that we will have the opportunity and the legitimacy to overhaul the judiciary,” explained Velezinee.

“That is very important, unless we do that we may fall into a cycle of coups… and this will go on unless the judiciary functions correctly.”

Velezinee said that while only the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) “has stood by the constitution”, it had failed so far to directly address the controversial re-appointment of unqualified judges to the judiciary.

“I have heard the MDP talk about problems in the judiciary and with individual judges, but I am disappointed I have not yet heard them speak of the constitutional breach of article 285,” she told Minivan News.

“[Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla] Shahid is an expert on democracy and is ready to intervene to return the Maldives to the constitution,” claimed Velezinee. “Having Shahid join the MDP is good because now they can go ahead and return the country [to constitutional rule].”

“I also welcome [former Attorney General Husnu] Suood breaking his silence and taking initiative. It’s a good sign he’s speaking up,” she added.

Eariler this week Suood claimed that the JSC had been taken over “dark powers”, and that it was fully under the control of certain political figures.

Suood further contended that the presidential candidate for the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, and retired Supreme Court Judge Mujthaz Fahmy have long been in the business of influencing the judges and the verdicts they had been issuing.

“The entire judiciary is under the influence of [retired Supreme Court Judge] Mujthaaz Fahmy,” he alleged.

Suood further alleged that Deputy Speaker Nazim had close ties with members of the JSC, and said several judges had told him that Yameen Abdul Gayoom – half brother of former President of 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – had on several occasions given instructions to the judges over the phone as to how their sentences should be phrased.

Yameen and Nazim have denied the allegations.