Amnesty slams Maldives for lack of action on judicial reform

Amnesty slams Maldives for lack of action on judicial reform
February 28 14:08 2016

Amnesty International has slammed President Abdulla Yameen’s administration over its failure to address mounting concern over judicial independence.

The human rights group’s annual report on the Maldives, released last week, highlighted judicial overreach and independence, as well as “grossly unfair” trials against opponents as areas of concern.

Judicial impartiality remained a serious concern that the government has failed to address, the report said.

“The authorities frequently claimed that they would not address any complaints against the judiciary because courts were independent. At the same time, the government failed to strengthen the Judicial Services Commission to enable it to address impartiality and other issues related to the judiciary,” the report stated.

Amnesty’s criticism of the judiciary adds to that by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the UN human rights chief, the International Commission of Jurists, the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

The government has pledged to address concerns, but progress has been slow.

Soon after the report’s launch, Amnesty’s South Asia researcher Abbas Faiz announced he was retiring from his post after 30 years. Former President Nasheed in a Twitter post said that Faiz and Amnesty “have been our guardian and saviour for so long.”

Amnesty’s report had highlighted concerns over due process in Nasheed’s jailing on a terror charge last year. The opposition leader is currently in the UK on government-authorised medical leave. The report also noted the jailing of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and former Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim.

“Although the government maintained that due process was followed, severe irregularities were revealed during a series of trials leading to the long-term imprisonment of the government’s political opponents,” the report said.

Amnesty also noted that the government had failed to ensure the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives’ independence when the Supreme Court brought treason charges against it over a submission made to the UN Human Rights Council.

The verdict, which imposed some 11 restrictions, “severely undermined the constitutional independence” of the HRCM, the group said.

Amnesty also noted that hundreds of opposition activists had been detained last year, and some released “only after having conditions imposed preventing them from taking part in future demonstrations.”

Police meanwhile failed to investigate threats against journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians.

Amnesty also said: “Political rallies were attacked by gangs suspected of working in collaboration with the police. None of the attackers, even those allegedly known to the police, had been brought to justice by the end of the year.”

The government was also criticised over the continuing practice of flogging as a punishment for extra-marital sex and a decision to end a six-decade moratorium on the death penalty.

The government claims that Islamic Shariah mandates such punishments. But critics have pointed out other punishments, such as amputation for theft and stoning for adultery, are not carried out in the Maldives.