By Hussain Shameem
On Thursday, Maldivians bore witness to yet another egregious violation of our constitution. Some 61 MPs voted to impeach my client, the Vice President of Maldives, Ahmed Adeeb, in an unannounced vote, called under an unwarranted state of emergency. My client, who is being held in a police remand facility, was neither informed of the vote nor provided the constitutionally guaranteed right of response.
Adeeb’s impeachment is illegal. Every incident that follows from this illegal vote should therefore be reversed.
Adeeb was arrested on October 24. The government has presented a litany of charges against him, including attempted murder, plotting to overthrow the government, and bribery. He is wrongfully accused of involvement in the September 28 explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.
A court on Sunday extended his remand detention for a second 15-day period. Yet, to this day, the only evidence presented at court has been a secret police intelligence report.
Just three days after Adeeb’s arrest, on October 27, the People’s Majlis notified him of a motion to remove him, and gave him 14 days notice, as per Article 100 of the constitution. The provision also guarantees the vice president the right to defend himself in a sitting of the People’s Majlis, both orally and in writing, and enshrines his right to legal counsel.
On his behalf, I have publicly announced his readiness to appear at the People’s Majlis and respond in person to the allegations against him.
Then on November 4, President Yameen declared a state of emergency, citing fear of imminent attacks, and threats to national security because of weapons missing from the state armory. In the same decree, he went on to reduce the 14-days notice on impeachment to seven days.
The shortened seven-day period is illegal on many counts; first, there is no link whatsoever between the vice president’s impeachment and the justifications announced for the emergency decree. Restricting the vice president’s right to defence is not a right that can be narrowed for national security purposes.
Second, the constitution enshrines the individual’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. No charge has been pressed against the vice president in any court of law. Hence, there can be no justification to restrict the rights of an innocent man, even for national security reasons.
The People’s Majlis, meanwhile, is required to inform Adeeb of the change to the 14-days notice, but Speaker Abdulla Maseeh never did. The day after the state of emergency was declared, the People’s Majlis approved President Yameen’s decree, and scheduled an extraordinary session for the same afternoon to debate the impeachment motion. Even if the seven-day period was legal, the vote cannot be held on November 5. Seven days from October 27 is November 9, not November 5. This is because, in counting a notice period, the day the notice is issued, the day of the debate and weekends cannot be included, as per Act 4/2011.
Speaker Maseeh, introducing the impeachment motion, falsely said Adeeb had been informed of the change, and suggested he had deliberately failed to appear at the sitting.
The vice president is under police watch, at the Dhoonidhoo Island Detention Center. Without access to radio, TV or the Internet, he had no means of finding out the latest developments in Malé. Further, it is the police’s responsibility to organize transport for any individual in custody. It is not that the vice president refused to appear at Majlis, but that the police failed to produce him there.
Hussain Shameem is former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s lawyer. He is also the former deputy Prosecutor General.
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