Maldives: UN Rights Expert Dismayed by Failure to Review Convictions of Supreme Court Justices
GENEVA (28 June 2018) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, expressed dismay at the Supreme Court’s decision not to accept the application made by two convicted Supreme Court justices to have their case reviewed, saying he was concerned by reports of interference and serious irregularities in the judicial procedures that led to the convictions.
The two justices were arrested on charges related to influencing official conduct of judges in the wake of the 1 February 2018 Supreme Court decision which ordered the reinstatement of 12 suspended Members of the Parliament and release and retrial of nine political leaders. Following the arrest of the two justices, the remaining three justices issued a new order, allegedly at the request of the President of the Maldives, overturning its previous unanimous ruling to free the nine leaders.
Both justices were convicted by the Criminal Court in May, and affirmed with a reduced sentence by the High Court in early June. The cases were filed for appeal in the Supreme Court on 13 June, but rejected.
“I am dismayed by the Judges Council’s decision not to accept the application made by Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed, despite the reported procedural irregularities in the lower courts,” said Garcia-Sayan. “Due process issues included the use of closed hearings without valid justification; use of protected witnesses without due explanation; and insufficient time given to the defence to prepare and submit a witness list, further hampered by the difficulties faced by the defendants in accessing their lawyers in Maafushi Prison.”
On Wednesday, Parliament confirmed the selection of two judges of the High Court to the Supreme Court, and appointed one of the current Supreme Court’s justices, Dr. Ahmed Abdulla Didi, as the new chief justice. “The Basic Principles on the independence of the judiciary provide that judges can only be removed for reasons of incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to discharge their duties, and only in accordance with a procedure that meet established fair trial standards. In particular, removal decisions should be subject to an independent judicial review,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“The appointment of two new justices before the end of the removal procedure of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed cast serious doubts on their status, and, consequently, on the status of two top judges appointed by the Parliament on 27 June.
“I have already expressed my concerns about the arrest and detention of the two justices, but regrettably I have not yet received any response from the Government.” (See news release of 12 February 2018.) In a report on the judiciary in the Maldives, my predecessor raised serious concerns over the composition of the Judicial Service Commission, which is in charge of the selection and appointment of judges, which is largely perceived as being inadequate and highly politicized.
“I wish to restate that it is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary. The judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason,” concluded García-Sayán.
Mr. Diego García-Sayán took up his functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in December 2016. Mr. García-Sayán was formerly a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for two consecutive terms. During his tenure, he was elected Vice-President of the Court (2008-2009) and President of the Court for two consecutive terms (2009-2013). He has long-standing experience working on human rights issues in a variety of settings, including for the United Nations and the Organization of American States. Among others, he was: Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Peace Agreements at El Salvador and for the subsequent verification of the agreements reporting directly to the Security Council; member and Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances during several years; member of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations System of Administration of Justice, appointed by the UN Secretary-General in 2006; Head of the Electoral Mission of the Organisation of American States (OAs) in Guatemala during the general elections (2007). Learn more.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights country page: Maldives
This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.
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