President Abdulla Yameen has appointed Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Areef to the judicial watchdog body to replace Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed.
Areef took the oath of office Monday morning during a ceremony at the president’s office.
Hameed, whose two-year term as chair of the Judicial Service Commission ended in January, was hospitalised last Thursday and remains admitted at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital. He was reportedly rushed to hospital from the supreme court after suffering a heart attack.
The JSC is comprised of three judges nominated by their peers from the supreme court, the high court, and the trial courts as well as the attorney general, a presidential appointee, the chair of the civil service commission, the speaker of parliament, a lawmaker nominated by parliament, a member of the public chosen by parliament, and a lawyer elected by licensed practitioners.
The 10-member commission is tasked with investigating complaints against judges and taking disciplinary action.
Following a visit to the Maldives in 2013, Gabriella Knaul, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, had reported near unanimous consensus that the composition of the JSC was “inadequate and politicised.”
“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” she wrote.
Knaul recommended that the JSC should be composed entirely of judges. While some representation of the legal profession and academics could be advisable, no political representation should be permitted.
In January last year, the supreme court meanwhile seized some of the JSC’s powers, subjecting the transfer of judges to approval by the apex court.
Reviewing the composition of the JSC was among numerous recommendations put forth at the UN Human Rights Council and accepted by the government for reforming the judiciary to ensure impartiality and independence.
The judiciary came under fire during a review of the Maldives’ human rights situation over “politicisation,” inadequate qualification of judges, and lack of conformity to international fair trial standards.