The United Kingdom’s Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) has expressed “serious concern” over the appointment of judges by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) in President Nasheed’s ongoing trial. The BHRC has conducted several independent trial observations of proceedings in the politically motivated trial against President Nasheed. The report by BHRC, provides a detailed overview of the state of the Maldivian judiciary and the political context in the lead up to Nasheed’s forced resignation and prosecution. Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, the BHRC Executive Committee member raised concerns regarding the appointment process stating in the report, “if accurate, suggest egregious unconstitutional behaviour by the JSC in selecting the judicial bench to hear Mr Nasheed’s case.”
President Nasheed maintains that the charges are a politically motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting in the Presidential elections later this year. President Nasheed’s legal team continues to challenge both the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s jurisdiction, and the JSC’s appointment of judges to the case. The JSC itself includes several of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including rival presidential candidate, businessman and Parliamentarian, Gasim Ibrahim.
Ghrálaigh states that given concerns about the JSC’s politicisation and the “serious questions” concerning its appointment of judges to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, “it is perhaps surprising that the court should have decided of its own motion (“ex proprio motu”) to deny the request made by Mr Nasheed’s legal team to postpone the proceedings until after the elections, in the absence of any objection by the prosecuting authorities to such an adjournment.”
“The BHRC further notes the view inside and outside the Maldives that the failure by the institutions of the State, in particular the JSC, properly to implement constitutionally mandated reforms to create an impartial judiciary, independent from political pressures, and the failure properly to investigate and/or sanction allegations of egregious, unlawful and/or unconstitutional judicial conduct, have served significantly to derail the State’s transition to a functioning constitutional democracy,”
Ghrálaigh also noted that the JSC was “also subject to significant criticism for its failure properly to oversee individual complaints against individual judges. One judge against whom a number of serious complaints were levied was Judge Abdulla, accused inter alia of “implicat[ion] in 14 cases of obstruction of policy duty”, including “strategically delaying cases involving opposition [Gayoom loyalist] members”, “twist[ing] and interpret[ing] laws so they could not be enforced against certain politicians”, “accepting bribes to release convicts”13 and “hijack[ing] the whole court”.
The JSC, responsible for the reappointment of judges including Judge Abdulla in 2010 at the conclusion of the constitutional interim period, “failed properly ‘to fulfill its constitutional mandate of proper vetting and reappointing of judicial candidates’, a failure regarding which, international bodies, including the International Commission of Jurists, have expressed concern,” she added. “Consequently, the Maldivian judiciary remains largely unchanged since the country’s transition to a constitutional democracy: the vast majority of judges in office, including Judge Abdulla, are political appointees of former President Gayoom, and many still lack any formal training in law.”
The trial against Nasheed was suspended by Chief Judge of the High Court last week pending a ruling into the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench’s appointment raised by Nasheed’s legal team. “It is difficult to see how proceedings presided over by a judicial bench, cherrypicked for their likelihood to convict by a highly politicised JSC, which includes a number of Mr Nasheed’s direct political rivals, could in any way be deemed to comply with constitutional and international fair trial rights, including the right to an ‘independent court established by law’,” stated Ghrálaigh, in her concluding remarks.
The High Court appeal into the legitimacy of the HMC bench has been scheduled for tomorrow, despite President Nasheed’s requests for court proceedings to be scheduled with respect to his own itinerary. Members of the international community continue to call upon the Maldivian authorities to ensure the credibility of the upcoming Presidential elections, emphasizing the need for an inclusive, free and fair election