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Maldives in Constitutional Crisis: President Nasheed must be removed for democracy to be restored

Male', Maldives.
Day 18 after President Nasheed hijacked the Judiciary and the Maldives continue to be racked by civic protests calling for Nasheed to step down and allow democratic governance to be re-instituted in the country. However, Nasheed continues to violate fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the constitution, last week announcing that he would not hold democratic elections (due in 2013) until he could control the Judiciary. Earlier last month, Nasheed publicly stated that he did not believe that the Constitution was in force at present. By these actions, President Nasheed is abusing his executive powers and preventing democratic reforms and justice in the country.

The list of fundamental rights being violated by President Nasheed include, freedom of speech, freedom of media, freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of access to legal counsel, sanctity of home and abode, sanctity of communications, equality before the law, non-discrimination, right to privacy, right to protect reputation and name, freedom of movement, right to fair administrative action, access to justice, right to independent judiciary, rule of law, right to prompt investigation and prosecution, freedom from degrading treatment or torture, right to humane treatment of arrested or detained persons, and the right to disobey unlawful orders.

President Nasheed's military arrested Judge Abdulla Mohamed on January 16th after the Judge had ordered the release of vocal government critic who was being detained without a warrant. Since then, local and international voices have called upon Nasheed to release Judge Abdulla and allow democratic processes to take place. Judge Abdulla is a senior judge of the criminal court.

In addition to intimidation of the Judiciary and obstruction of justice, Nasheed has clamped down on independent media and freedom of speech.

Last week, the UN called upon President Nasheed to release the Judge or to charge him. The EU, together with the Netherlands, called upon the government to respect the constitution, due process, independence of the judiciary, rule of law and freedom of expression.

The International Commission of Jurists this week joined the rest of the international community in calling for the release of the Judge from military custody.

Within the Maldives, two of the three most powerful individuals in the country next to President Nasheed, the Vice President and the Chief Justice, have condemned Nasheed's unconstitutional arrest of the Judge and his intimidation of the Judiciary. Vice President Dr. Mohamed Waheed condemned the arrest, noting that the violation of fundamental rights of one individual is a violation against the every Maldivian. The head of the Judiciary, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hassan immediately ordered the release of Judge Abdulla, an order that the Executive continue to defy since January 16th.

Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has refused to add his voice to the call for upholding constitutional rights. Two weeks ago, Shahid issued a statement saying that he could not comment unless the Parliament authorized him to do so.

In addition, Shahid, a leading member of the opposition party Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party, has refused to intervene to ensure that the Parliamentary Committee of National Security, constitutionally mandated to hold the military and police accountable to the public, perform this function in a responsible manner. By doing so, Shahid has allowed President Nasheed and MDP to hijack the Legislature, which in a democratic country should be holding the Executive accountable for its actions.

The Parliamentary Committee has already twice rejected tabling the matter on the agenda. Discussion in the committee have been disrupted by MDP MPs led by MDP Interim Chairperson MP Reeko Moosa Maniku. The Committee is chaired by MP Ali Waheed, an ex-DRP MP who was bought by MDP for US $ 2.5 million last year.

In contrast, Dr. Waheed has shown greater integrity by meeting reportedly told civic groups petitioning for his intervention, that he would do everything within the rule of law to rectify the matter. Dr. Waheed added his voice to those of the Chief Justice, Maldives Human Rights Commission, the Prosecutor General, the Judicial Services Commission, the Maldives Lawyers Association, Maldives Association of Court workers, and civic association.

The Civic Coalition, a coalition of opposition political parties and civic associations, this week called upon Dr. Waheed to take charge of the Executive and bring it back into the bounds of the constitution and law. This request was prompted by President Nasheed's statement that he would not hold presidential elections in 2013. The Elections Commission has responded publicly stating that it holds the constitutional mandate to hold elections, and that it would discharge this responsibility in accordance with the constitution.

Nasheed's hijacking of the Judiciary and related actions put the Executive in conflict with the independent commissions. With the Executive at loggerheads with three of the powers of democratic governance (the Judiciary, independent Commissions and the media), and obstructing due process in the Parliament through abuse of its majority, it is clear that Nasheed must be removed from office if democracy is to be restored.

Nasheed has repeatedly stated that he would not respect the Judiciary, he would not release the Judge, nor will he step down for a democratic leader to take his place. While the military and police continue to violate constitutional freedoms upon Nasheed's orders, they too cannot be relied on to defend the constitution. The Judiciary is powerless, while the Parliament is in collaboration with the Executive. Since Nasheed will not willingly resolve the constitutional crisis nor allow for it to be resolved in another manner, Maldivians have limited choices: remove him through impeachment by the Parliament, remove him through revolution, or suffer till the 2013 elections.

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