New Delhi: The arrest of former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed was without legal basis and he must be provided with a transparent appeal hearing, an official fact-finding mission report released here on Tuesday said. This 35-page joint report was prepared by the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR). Titled “Justice Adrift: Rule of Law and Political Crisis in the Maldives” the report found that the judiciary system of the Maldives was highly “politicized”. In view of the arrest and trial of former president Nasheed, the report highlights the breakdown of the rule of law and human rights protection in the Maldives.
Nasheed, who was being kept under house arrest earlier, was imprisoned again on Monday “without clear legal basis”, it said, adding that the former president must be promptly provided with a fair and transparent appeal hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. Nikhil Narayan, the senior legal advisor for South Asia for the ICJ, said, “Based on this fact-finding mission, it was found out that there is a clear politicization of the judiciary system in the Maldives and there has been a compromise in the aspect of human rights. “Narayan said the report found ‘arbitrary’ functioning of the apex courts since the last election in 2013. He also lamented the process in which judiciary was selected and said, the educational requirements for a member to be a part of the judiciary merely required a six-month course. The report also found that the independent institutions like the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) were also politicized.
The members of ICJ and SAHR conducted the fact-finding mission from May 5 to 13 this year. Maldivian Supreme Court must adopt clear and transparent rules governing how cases are selected, and must allow the JSC and HRCM to function without undue or unlawful interference, the report said. The judicial proceedings in the country were ‘unfair’ and were not adhering to the parliamentary procedures, it pointed out, adding that there was no fair gender representation in the judiciary. Narayan said the country had just three women as judges at lower courts, and the Supreme Court had no representation of a female judge. The issue of religious discrimination, of importance of judges to be Muslim for the judiciary, also needed attention from the government, he added.
The current crisis in the rule of law has also raised threats to the journalists with one journalist working for Minivan News, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, disappearing since 2014. The report said strengthening judicial independence, impartiality and accountability were the key elements to getting the country back on track towards democratic consolidation. Nasheed, who leads the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), was transferred to house arrest for two months due to health reasons, before he was arrested again on Monday. He was found guilty of orchestrating the arbitrary detention of Chief Criminal Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his tenure as president. The political system in the Maldives prior to 2008 was an authoritarian system governed through dictatorship first by a sultanate, and then in 1968 when the country became a republic, by the president.