Editors' Picks Legal Opinion Politics

Healthcare is a basic right, don’t obstruct it

Ahmed Adheeb

The original Dhivehi article was published on Mihaaru.com website on 10th January 2018.

The following is a loose translation:

As guaranteed by the constitution, access to basic healthcare is a fundamental right of any citizen. And, although, one has been convicted and is serving a jail sentence, the person is still entitled to that right. No matter how much heinous one’s crime is, to provide the basic health care to that individual is a state duty. That is how it is stipulated in the Maldives laws and international agreements.

There are also certain ways to provide healthcare to the inmates who are serving a jail sentence in the Maldives. At the place where the inmate is detained and while getting the healthcare at a hospital, in the instance where serious medical treatment is required, a system is in place so that, they are also sent abroad for treatment. However, for the former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb who is serving a long jail sentence, that opportunity is still not available.

Adeeb’s family quoting doctors have said that Adeeb has got ‘Glaucoma’, an eye disease. A cyst was also detected on Adeeb’s body and there is fear that it might turn cancerous. The doctors also say that he has kidney stones. Adeeb’s family also say that doctor has recommended going abroad to treat for his medical ailments. However, Adeeb has still not being given the chance to get medical treatment from abroad.

The government earlier said that he would be released for medical treatment abroad once he pays back the sum of money he embezzled from the public fund. True. Adeeb has been convicted of misappropriating funds. That is the case of Lhaviyani Atoll Maabinhuraa USD 5 million (MVR 77 million) lease money misappropriation. However, what should be noted here is that there is no court ruling which says he needs to pay that money back to the state.

According to the penal code which is in effect now, a compensation for a financial loss incurred from a criminal offence is not considered in the verdict for a criminal case. Therefore, although, Adeeb has been convicted of a criminal offence, the only way he is liable to pay back the money that he has misappropriated is through a civil court ruling. However, to date, no civil case has been filed against him by the government. Therefore, in the eyes of the law, at the moment Adeeb is not obligated to do so.

The second point the government raised as a reason for not allowing Adeeb to travel abroad for medical treatment is the high probability of him fleeing. After being convicted of 3 criminal offences, Adeeb is currently serving a 33-year jail term. Apart from that, there are also additional cases brought up against him and currently ongoing in court. Therefore, the government believes that to escape further prosecution, Adeeb might runaway once he’s abroad.

Recently, Home Minister Azleen Ahmed has said that the government will closely inspect the detainees who are being given the opportunity for medical treatment abroad. Azleen said this while referring to the political leaders with long jail sentences who had not returned back once they were given the opportunity for travel abroad for medical treatment.

True. Someone who is serving a jail sentence must return once their permitted time is up. If they don’t do so, then it is a legal offence. I am not going to disagree with that. However, if some had done that, it is not an excuse to restrict the rights of the rest. The reason is, while detained, if a person faces a big medical problem, being restricted to his rights, then the government must take responsibility for it.

The other noteworthy point is, there are ways to allow overseas medical treatment to Adeeb without giving him the chance to flee. As it is the government that decides the country and the period an inmate is allowed to seek overseas medical treatment. And usually, the detainees are sent abroad with a special travel document, instead of a passport. The purpose of that is to restrict the detainee from travelling to another country than the designated country.

Furthermore, it is done so, after detainee’s parents’ sign an affidavit. And then the detainee is allowed to leave on the condition that the detainee stays at all times under the direct supervision of the parent or the person in charge. And the detainee is laid with the condition that when the period expires, he is to return immediately.

adheeb (1)

Adeeb’s overseas medical treatment case has been finally filed in court. On the case filed on behalf of Adeeb at civil court, requesting to order the state to allow him to leave abroad for medical treatment, the government raised a procedural point which said that the case cannot be processed at court. As a reason, the government said, that in the case of Adeeb, all of the procedures of the request for a medical treatment abroad, was not followed.

In the jail and parole law under article 110, a person who is serving a jail sentence, in the situation a necessary medical treatment is not available in the country, when a specialist doctor advice, upon the decision made by the corrections medical board, permit to travel abroad for medical treatment shall be issued by the commissioner of prisons.

The procedures on sending detainees abroad for medical treatment is stipulated in the law for ‘Prisoners, suspected criminals, those who are jailed on a court order, to obtain medical services from Maldives healthcare facilities and overseas healthcare facilities other than prison healthcare service.’

According to that law, a prisoner will be allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment after fulfilling 4 stages. The first stage is obtaining a specialist doctors recommendation to travel abroad for treatment. The second is, after receiving doctors recommendation, to obtain the second opinion from 2 specialist doctors in IGMH’s concerned division’s, thorough examination and confirmation.

The third is, based on IGMH’s special recommendation, medical service board of the correctional service to conduct a further examination and issue authorization. The fourth is, based on the advice given by the medical board, the commissioner of prison issuing permit for the prisoner to leave abroad for medical treatment.

A prisoner is released to travel abroad for medical treatment, after going through all these four stages. Its purpose is to ensure that the prisoner’s medical condition is, in fact, a condition which needs to be treated abroad and affirm that the treatment is not available in the Maldives.

However, in Adeeb’s case, among the four stages, only stage 1 was completed. When the doctor gave the recommendation to travel abroad for medical treatment, as stipulated in the law, to confirm it, it wasn’t sent to IGMH’s concerned division. Also, it was not sent to corrections medical board, and as per the board’s advice not sent to the commissioner of prison’s to request to issue the statement of release. This is what the government is raising. That Adeeb did not complete the procedures of a prisoner’s permit to travel abroad and that is why the case cannot be further processed.

What is noteworthy here is that Adeeb is detained under the state, as a state responsibility. His medical expense and other things are looked after by the government. Therefore, the question is raised, when the doctor gave the recommendation for him to travel abroad, as stated in the law, to further ascertain it to be sent to the concerned division at IGMH and to complete the next stages of the procedure is it Adeeb’s duty or the governments?

It is the same answer that was given in court on behalf of Adeeb. In the reply on behalf of Adeeb, it was stated that the doctor’s statement was not received by him nor his family. Therefore, to complete all the procedures to travel abroad for medical treatment is a responsibility of the government.

No matter how odious the convicted crime is, access to necessary healthcare, is every citizen right. According to the set system, it is the government’s responsibility. Therefore, if Adeeb’s medical issues cannot be treated in the Maldives, then as per the set system, he also should be allowed the necessary alternative healthcare.

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