President Yameen’s Strengthens His Grip Over Maldives’ Judiciary

Male’, 9 June 2015, The Maldives’ Judicial Services Commission on Monday transferred two controversial judges from the Criminal Court to the High Court, in a blatant attempt to strengthen President Yameen’s grip over the judiciary.

Criminal Court judges Sujau Usman and Abdulla Didi — who presided over President Nasheed and other political prisoners’ trials — were moved to the High Court, so they can also sit on the bench during any appeals hearings.

The transfer of these two Judges to the High Court comes at a time when the Government has disingenuously been encouraging President Nasheed, and others sentenced on politically motivated charges in the Criminal Court, to appeal their verdicts at the High Court.

Nasheed was effectively blocked from launching an appeal, however, because the courts refused to release the case report — information needed to launch an appeal — until after a Supreme Court-mandated appeals deadline passed. The Supreme Court has not granted other courts discretion to hear late appeals submissions.

Judge Didi, who has an elementary school level qualification, in addition to presiding over President Nasheed’s case, also doubled as a witness for the prosecution, causing international outrage and condemnation.

Judges Usman and Didi also heard the politically motivated trial against former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, a trial that was also heavily criticized for flagrant violations of due process. Nazimhas already filed an appeal on his 11 year verdict at the High Court.

The two Judges also sit on the bench of the terrorism trial currently underway in the Criminal Court against Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran.

These machinations are further evidence of the blatant politicization of the Maldivian judiciary and further validates President Nasheed’s claim of not being accorded justice by a Maldivian court unless reccommendations of judicial reform are fully implemented.

UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Nasheed was sentenced following “a rushed process that appears to contravene the Maldives’ own laws and practices and international fair trial standards in a number of respects.”

UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriella Knaul “I am extremely concerned about the lack of respect for the most basic principles of fair trial and due process during Mr.Nasheed’s criminal proceedings,” the expert said. “I urge the authorities to seriously consider the recommendations I put forward in my 2013 report”

UN OHCHR delegation to Maldives, “The judicial system as a whole is perceived as politicised, inadequate and subject to external influence”