Nasheed’s terrorism trial “a mockery” of Constitution, verdict “may have been pre-determined,” says Knaul

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s terrorism trial “made a mockery” of the Maldives Constitution, and violated the country’s international human rights obligations, the UN special rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers has said.

In a damning statement issued on Thursday, Gabriela Knaul highlighted several irregularities in the opposition leader’s rushed trial, and said: “The speed of the proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13 after the Criminal Court found him guilty of “forcefully abducting” Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The surprise trial began one day after Nasheed was arrested on February 22, and was completed in just 11 short hearings over 19 days.

“The series of due process violations that were reported to me since Mr. Nasheed’s arrest on 22 February is simply unacceptable in any democratic society,” Knaul said.

Warning of a “seriously deteriorating situation in the independence of the justice system,” the expert urged the Maldives to guarantee that Nasheed’s appeal would respect the most stringent fair trial and due processes.

The Maldivian authorities must allow the public, including international observers who were arbitrarily denied access to the Criminal Court, to attend appeal hearings, she said.

Nasheed’s lawyers, however, have already raised concern over alleged attempts by the Criminal Court to block the former president from launching an appeal.

With one week having passed since the verdict was issued, the Criminal Court failed to release any relevant trial documents until yesterday (March 19), which lawyers say are necessary for Nasheed to meet the ten day appeal deadline provided in new regulations enacted by the Supreme Court.

Selective justice

The Maldives’ decision to try Nasheed on terrorism, while his predecessor Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has not had to answer for any of the serious human rights violations documented during his term is “troubling for a country whose constitution enshrines the independence and impartiality of the justice system as a prerequisite for democracy and the rule of law,” Knaul also said.

She urged the Maldives to consider the recommendations she had put forth in a 2013 report, including revising the composition of the judicial watchdog body the Judicial Services Commission, proper investigation of judges’ misconduct, enforcing the judges’ code of conduct and increasing the judiciary’s financial and human resources.

“The delicate issue of accountability for past human rights violations also needs to be addressed,” she noted at the time.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday raised similar concerns as Knaul over Nasheed’s trial, including the Criminal Court having denied Nasheed adequate time to prepare defence and a refusal to call defence witnesses.

The experts have also expressed concern over the Criminal Court’s decision not to wait until Nasheed sought new legal representation when his lawyers resigned half-way through the trial.

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and two judges of the three-member bench providing witness statements during a 2012 investigation into Judge Abdulla’s arrest amounted to conflict of interest, both Knaul and Zeid have said

“Clearly no one should be above the law, and the trial of a former Head of State would be a major challenge for any government. But in a polarised context, and given the long-standing serious concerns about the independence and politicisation of the judiciary in the Maldives, this case should have been handled with much greater care and transparency,” Zeid said on Wednesday.

Related to this story:

UN human rights chief expresses strong concern over “hasty and apparently unfair” Nasheed trial

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

US, EU, and UK concerned over lack of due process in Nasheed trial

Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court

Judge Abdulla suspected of involvement in “contract killing,” says Nasheed

A justice system in crisis: UN Special Rapporteur’s report


MDP calls on Supreme Court to remain within “legal ambit of the constitution”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on the Supreme Court to “restrain itself to the legal ambit of the constitution” in an open letter from the party’s chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain on Tuesday (September 24).

The party contended that its lawyers Hassan Latheef and Hisaan Hussain were “unlawfully suspended” by the apex court in ongoing proceedings of the Jumhooree Party’s case against the Elections Commission (EC) seeking annulment of the first round of the presidential election on September 7.

Despite the Maldivian Democratic Party’s legal team claiming that proceedings cannot be held without their representation, the court’s decision to proceed regardless is in breach of the constitution, laws, regulation and juridical norms adhered to in the Maldives thus far,” the letter stated.

“Furthermore, it is of concern that during the proceedings there was apparent deferential treatment towards other parties to the case. Therefore, considering the manner in which the court has acted during these proceedings thus far, and since the party believes that proceedings will not continue in a way which guarantees the rights of the 95,000 people who publicly shown support for the party, this party wishes to revoke its inter-partes claim to the motion filed at the court.”

The MDP lawyers along with EC lawyer Husnu Suood were barred from proceedings by the Supreme Court yesterday for publicly criticising the court’s order indefinitely postponing the second round run-off of the presidential election scheduled for September 28.

“Journey to Justice”

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s stay order (Dhivehi) on Monday night (September 23), the party’s National Council passed a resolution approving continuous protests until a date was given for the run-off election.

MDP Spokesperson Hamed Abdul Ghafoor described the Supreme Court’s suspension of the election pending a judgment on the JP’s case as “a cynical attempt by President [Mohamed] Nasheed’s political opponents to delay an election they feared they were likely to lose.”

Nasheed emerged as the front runner in the first round of the polls with 45.45 percent (95,224 votes), followed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen who received 25.35 percent (53,099 votes). The JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim narrowly missed out on the run-off with 24.07 percent (50,422) and contested the results at the Supreme Court alleging electoral fraud.

The JP and the PPM welcomed the Supreme Court injunction as a positive step towards ensuring a free and fair election. PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen told Minivan News that there was “nothing unconstitutional” with the court order.

“The Elections Commission got the opportunity to argue out their case and establish the credibility of the process,” he said.

The MDP yesterday relaunched its “Journey to Justice” demonstration at the Raalhugadu (surf point) area of the capital Male’ – 18 months after being evicted from the site by security forces – where it had set up a protest camp in February 2012 following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation in what the party has maintained was a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinous elements of the police and military working with the then-opposition.

The MDP chairperson’s letter to the Chief Justice meanwhile called upon the highest court of appeal to “uphold Article 8 of the Constitution [which] states that all powers of the State shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution, Article 299 sub-article (a) that states that the administrators of justice shall wholly comply with the provisions of the Constitution, and Article 142 which stipulates that judges are subject to the Constitution and the law.”

The party contends that the court’s order disregarded article 111(a) of the constitution, which states that “a run-off election must be held within twenty one days after the first election.”

In his speech at the Raalhugadu protest site last night, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid asserted that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to override “any article of the constitution or even a letter of that article.”

Constitutional provisions could only be suspended by the president after declaring a state of emergency, Shahid explained, which has to first be approved by parliament.

Suspension of lawyers

In June 2012, lawyers held a crisis meeting following the publication by the Supreme Court of controversial regulations requiring all practicing lawyers to be registered at a court.

The regulations also authorised the courts to suspend lawyers for publicly criticising the judiciary or court decisions.

In February 2013, the Supreme Court suspended lawyer Abdulla Haseen after he criticised the judiciary on the MDP-aligned Raajje TV. Haseen was barred from advocating in any court in the country while the Supreme Court asked police to investigate him for contempt of court.

The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) however decided not to prosecute Haseen after police concluded its investigation.

Moreover, earlier this month, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy was charged with contempt of court for allegedly defaming Supreme Court Justices on a Raajje TV programme.

In her report on the Maldivian judiciary, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Lawyers and Judges, Gabriela Knaul, wrote that the “enforcement of compulsory registration of lawyers with the courts is also unacceptable.”

“The regulation of disciplinary measures against lawyers falls outside of the prerogative of the judiciary or any other branch of power and contradicts the principle of independence of the legal profession. During her visit, the case of a lawyer who had been indefinitely suspended by the Supreme Court for allegedly criticizing one of its judgements in public was reported to the Special Rapporteur. Such a suspension leaves no avenue for appeal and review and it represents a violation of the rights of the lawyer,” the report stated.