Lawyer barred from visiting former vice president in jail

Lawyer barred from visiting former vice president in jail
November 07 16:23 2015

Police have barred lawyer of impeached vice president Ahmed Adeeb from prison visits, after the Supreme Court suspended his license to appear in courts.

Hussain Shameem’s license to appear in courts was suspended on Wednesday on a charge of contempt of court.

A police spokesman said Shameem would not be allowed to visit Adeeb until his license is reinstated.

A second lawyer, Ali Nadheem, was allowed to visit Adeeb on Thursday and Friday, according to Adeeb’s office.

The former vice president is being held at a remand facility on suspicion of links to an explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat on September 28.

He was impeached on Thursday without the opportunity to speak in his defence, under a state of emergency decree issued the day before.

Shameem was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

The Supreme Court has since taken over the licensing and registering of lawyers, a task previously carried out by the Attorney General’s office.

Lawyers were required to obtain two permits; law licenses from the AG office, and a license to appear in courts from the apex court.

The court said it was taking over the licensing powers in order to ensure lawyers comply with standards stipulated in regulations, laws and the constitution.

“It has been brought to our attention that challenges are being posed against constitutional provisions on judicial independence when another party is in-charge of granting licenses to lawyers practicing in Maldivian courts and their professional standards,” the statement read.

Speaking to the Maldives Independent a prominent lawyer who wished to remain anonymous described the decision as an attempt to “arbitrarily undermine the independence of defence or human rights lawyers.”

Arguing that an independent body must be established to regulate and train lawyers, the lawyer said: “Defence lawyers should not be regulated by a government body. Previously all lawyers had to register with the AG, this too is unacceptable in open democracies.”

The former UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, in a 2013 report, said she was concerned over the absence of an independent self-regulating bar association to oversee the process of admitting candidates to the legal profession.

“It is contrary to the Basic Principles on the role of lawyers that licences to practice law, as well as disciplinary measures, lay in the hands of the executive, as in the case of the Maldives, where the Attorney General is the authority who regulates the legal profession. The enforcement of compulsory registration of lawyers with the courts is also unacceptable. The regulation of disciplinary measures against lawyers falls outside of the prerogative of the judiciary or any other branch of power and contradicts the principle of independence of the legal profession,” she said.

When the Supreme Court takes action against lawyers, it leaves no avenue for appeal and review and is a violation of the rights of the lawyer, she added.

An independent bar association, however, “would not only provide a mechanism of protection for its members against undue interference in their legal work, but also monitor and report on their members’ conduct, ensuring their accountability and applying disciplinary measures in a fair and consistent manner.”

Shameem, speaking to the press on Thursday, expressed hope that the apex court would allow him the opportunity to speak in his defence on the contempt of court allegations.

Prior to suspending his license, the Supreme Court had summoned him for questions, but he was unable to attend as he was out of the country.

Shameem called his client’s impeachment unconstitutional, noting Adeeb was not allowed to speak in his defence, a right guaranteed in the constitution.

Yameen had used the state of emergency decree to shorten a 14-day notice for impeachment to seven days, allowing the ruling party-dominated parliament to schedule the vote without notice, just a day after the decree was proclaimed.

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh said Adeeb had failed to respond to the impeachment motion and failed to attend the sitting.

He declined to answer questions posed by opposition MPs, asking for proof that Adeeb had been informed of the sudden vote.

Adeeb is now facing prosecution on separate corruption and illegal weapons charges.

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih