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#Maldives in Constitutional Crisis: Discipline of Judges is not the mandate of police or military - Judicial Services Commission

Male', Maldives.
The Judicial Services Commission today condemned the military arrest of Senior Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed as unconstitutional. In a press release today, the JSC stated that Section 159 of the Constitution clearly gives the mandate to investigate complaints about the Judiciary, and to take disciplinary action against them, including recommendations for dismissal.

The JSC made this statement as civilians protest against the unconstitutional arrest of Judge Abdulla for the 8th night in a row. Opposition leaders have stated that they will not stop the protests until Judge Abdulla is released and the Executive brought into the bounds of rule of law. The protests have led to a number of documented incidences of police and army brutality and excessive use of force against civilians, especially women.

The JSC's statement repeats charges against the Executive made by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and by Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu, that the military arrest of Judge Abdulla is in contravention of the Constitution and laws. The Maldives Lawyers Association and top lawyers in the country have also publicly pointed out the illegalities in the Executives actions.

The JSC defended itself against the allegations by President Nasheed and his militant party MDP that it refused to take action against Judge Abdulla. The JSC said that it had duly investigated the allegations and prepared a report on the matter. In accordance with law, the JSC had given Judge Abdulla the mandatory 30 days to defend himself against the allegations. Judge Abdulla had, within this period, submitted the matter to the Civil Court, which had issued a temporary stay order, ordering the JSC to withhold a decision on Judge Abdulla until the court could make a ruling on the case.

The JSC had then made a submission to the Supreme Court asking for a ruling on whether the case would fall within the jurisdiction of the Civil Court. The Supreme Court had ruled that the JSC case fell under the jurisdiction of the High Court. The JSC said that it was undertaking all the necessary work to prepare the case for submission to the High Court.

It is clear from the JSC statement that once again, President Nasheed and his party have tried to create an opportunity to implement one of its key strategies in its manifesto for control of the Judiciary, that is, the appointment of foreign judges to the courts of Maldives. MDP MPs in the last Constitutional Assembly made very strong stands during the debate on the constitutional provisions on the Judiciary, notably Male' MPs Ibrahim Ismail, Mohamed Shihab and (Colonel) Nasheed. They were largely successful in this, as the Constitution does not explicitly state that Judges appointed to the courts of the Maldives should be Maldivian.

While the provisions for Judicial independence in the Constitution are very clear, the current military detention and solitary confinement of Judge Abdulla throws the whole Judiciary into jeopardy. In a country where the Executive, Military and Police can attack the Judiciary extra-legally without being held accountable for it, foreign judges are bound to need "local protectors" if they are to practice in the Maldives. With such "protection", be it from the country's strong man President Nasheed himself, would come indebtedness and hence loss of impartiality of the judges.

The very act of compromising the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary puts into jeopardy the freedom and safety of any judge, be the judge Maldivian or foreign.

The JSC reiterated that it attributed grave importance to the investigation of allegations against judges and that a special session was held every Wednesday to deliberate upon such allegations submitted to the JSC. The JSC said that it had made a decision on more than 60% of cases submitted to it (208 out of 336 cases), and that it was endeavoring for rapid decisions on the remaining 128 cases before it.

The JSC's statements explicitly demonstrate that the big picture being shown by Nasheed and his propaganda chiefs is simply a figment of their imagination, dreamt up to commandeer the Judiciary. It shows that the Judiciary and JSC are following the rule of law in its investigations, and has indeed followed due process in investigating and taking actions with respect to Nasheed's the allegations against Judge Abdulla. Judge Abdulla, as with any other individual, has the right of innocence until proven guilty. He too has the right to justice, which he has chosen to use by submitting his case before the Civil Court. By putting him into military detention for using these rights is a violation of fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. There is no legal argument that can defeat this fact. If Prosecutor General Muizzu does not prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, then others can and will.

For Nasheed, his Home Minister Hassan Afeef, Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim, Chief of Defence Forces Moosa Jaleel and Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh, there is no hiding from the law unless they continue the military rule that they are presently enforcing in the country.

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