Prominent religious scholars call for judicial reform

Prominent religious scholars call for judicial reform
January 26 12:04 2016

Citing verses of the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s hadith, a group of 31 prominent religious scholars have urged Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and the judicial watchdog to stem the tide of eroding public trust and confidence in the Maldivian judiciary.

The unprecedented statement, posted on Facebook, comes amidst persisting concern over the jailing of opposition leaders on trumped up charges.

Signatures included that of former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, former Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari and Dr Mohmed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, a former member of the advisory body, Figh Academy.

“Islam prohibits rulings based on the judge’s personal interests, hatred, or material gain. This is why justice must be administered with consideration and based on the principles of equality and fairness,” the six-page statement read.

Judges with integrity receive the blessings of Allah, the scholars said, and must ensure that the innocent are not unjustly punished.

“We call on the Maldives Chief Justice and the Judicial Services Commission to take action immediately. Urgent reforms are needed to reinstate the Maldivian judiciary’s honor and dignity. Otherwise, disorder, chaos, tyranny, fear and insecurity will sweep across our communities.”

A UNDP study in August identified corruption as the leading factor in lack of public confidence in the judiciary. The landmark ‘Legal and Justice Sector Baseline Study 2014’ found that many Maldivians want to settle disputes out of court.

Maldivian judges have been accused of political bias and taking bribes for verdicts.

In the high-profile case of former President Mohamed Nasheed, judges refused to hear defence testimony, conducted hearings without defence lawyers and declined to recuse themselves despite having acted as the prosecution’s witnesses.

He was sentenced to 13 years in jail on a terrorism charge relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. A UN human rights panel has since called his imprisonment illegal.

In the ongoing terrorism trial against Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the presiding judge has been accused of prejudice.

Complaints against judges lodged with the watchdog JSC are not dealt with in a transparent manner. The JSC decided not to penalise Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed in 2014 despite videos that appear to show the judge fornicating with three foreign women in a Colombo hotel room.

Hameed now heads the JSC.