Criminal gangs in the Maldives have a quota to nominate judges to the criminal court, the chair of a presidential commission formed to investigate unresolved murders and enforced disappearances alleged Sunday.
“No matter how well we investigate and send cases, I don’t believe we could have justice with the current judges at the criminal court. I think that’s the view of the whole legal community,” Husnu Suood told the press at a briefing at the president’s office.
Judges have used some gangs for their private security and the gangs were also connected to criminal court staff, who have revealed the identity of secret prosecution witnesses, he alleged.
A complete overhaul of the judiciary was necessary to reform the institution, the former attorney general added, echoing a campaign pledge of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Suood also alleged that in some cases gangs reached “out-of-court settlements” while assault trials were ongoing. Rival gangs made peace and “fixed” witness statements to acquit the defendant.
He also criticised the court over murder trials that remain stalled for years.
As pledged before his election victory in September, President Solih formed two inquiry commissions on his first day in office to recover missing funds and find the truth behind high-profile murders and the abduction of a journalist.
The commission on murders and enforced disappearances was mandated with conducting “a free, independent and trustworthy investigation” into cases between January 1, 2012 and November 17, 2018 that were “not properly investigated for various reasons.”
At Sunday’s briefing, Suood announced plans to conduct public inquiries with live telecasts on at least two cases. After inviting the public to submit cases and share information, the commission has launched probes into 24 cases, he noted.
As significant progress has been made, Suood said the commission would be able to conclude some cases by April 2019, well ahead of the previously estimated two years.
Experts from the FBI will arrive next month to provide assistance with crime scene investigation and data and audio-visual forensics, Suood said.
The commission has also accepted services offered by the Western Australia Police Force and an international NGO as well as Hassan Ugail, Professor of Visual Computing at the School of Engineering and Informatics at the University of Bradford.
Without disclosing details, Suood revealed that the commission has established links between the murders of lawmaker Afrasheem Ali and liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed and the abduction of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan.
The three cases were connected and followed “the same pattern,” he said.
Dr Afrasheem, a moderate religious scholar, was stabbed to death at the stairwell of his home on the night of October 1, 2012. Police claimed the killing was politically motivated but no charges have been raised over the alleged funding.
Hussain Humam, a young man charged over the murder, is the only person convicted so far.
Yameen Rasheed, an IT professional and satirist, was killed by a radicalised group of young men who believed he was guilty of insulting Islam, according to police. Six suspects were charged with murder and preliminary hearings were wrapped up in October.
Yameen’s family questioned the ability of the police to conduct an impartial and credible investigation due to the failure to convict or arrest suspects in the abduction of journalist Rilwan and the near-fatal attack on blogger Hilath Rasheed.
Days before the fourth anniversary of Rilwan’s disappearance in August, two suspects were acquitted with the judge blaming glaring investigative and prosecutorial failures.
The missing journalist’s family said the not guilty verdict showed “at minimum state complicity and, at worst, active involvement in Rilwan’s abduction and disappearance.”