11 September 2017, MALE: The Maldives Chief Justice, Abdulla Saeed, suspended 56 lawyers last night, banning them from attending court.
The announcement of the lawyers’ indefinite suspension was made through a late-night edict issued by the Department of Judicial Affairs, which Saeed heads. No due process was followed.
Saeed’s edict was issued hours after a petition, calling on the government and judiciary to uphold the rule of law and signed by the 56 lawyers, was delivered to the Attorney-General. The Supreme Court had previously refused to accept the lawyer’s petition.
The petition included a string of complaints by lawyers against the government and judiciary, including frequent irregularities in conducting trial proceedings, the misuse of the Terrorism Act, and the Supreme Court’s exercise of power beyond that permitted by the Constitution.
The 56 suspended lawyers practice a wide-range of law, ranging from human rights to family and commercial law. They represent over 30% of all lawyers permitted to practice law at the Criminal Court.
An immediate practical implication of the suspension is that individuals unfairly targeted by President Yameen’s regime will find it virtually impossible to find effective legal counsel. This includes high profile politicians, as well as Members of Parliament who were recently stripped of their seats.
The sudden decision has banned a huge swathe of practicing lawyers in the Maldives. This includes President Mohamed Nasheed’s entire legal team; all senior lawyers representing opposition leader Hon. Gasim Ibrahim; lawyers representing the 13 MPs currently facing prosecution; and the lawyers representing 3 MPs who have been unconstitutionally stripped of their seats by the Elections Commission.
The joint opposition calls on our international partners to consider imposing targeted travel and financial sanctions specifically on Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.
Notes to editors: This is a joint statement from the Maldivian Democratic Party, Progressive Party of Maldives, Jumhooree Party and Adhaalath Party