IBAHRI calls on Maldives President to maintain the rule of law and separation of powers

Concerned by the imposed state of emergency in the Maldives and the government’s refusal to abide by the unanimous ruling of the full bench of the Supreme Court to free nine political prisoners, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on President Abdulla Yameen to adhere to the rule of law in the Maldives. The IBAHRI is further disturbed by the arrests of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed, and the subsequent rescinding of the Supreme Court order by the three fellow Supreme Court justices not arrested.

IBAHRI Co-Chair the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG commented: ‘We call on President Yameen to cease the state of emergency, adhere to the initial ruling of the Supreme Court and uphold due process rights and fair trial standards in the cases of Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed.’ Noting reports that cite ‘concerns raised by the President’ as the reason for overturning the decision, he added: ‘For democracy to flourish, it is essential that the separation of powers be maintained in accordance with the nation’s Constitution as well as international law. The IBAHRI is increasingly concerned that President Yameen’s action is harming the independence of the judiciary by disrupting the systems of checks and balances.’

On 5 February, President Yameen declared a 15-day state of emergency after a ruling by the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of nine political prisoners, including the former Prosecutor General and Chief Magistrate. The Court found that the prisoners were denied fair trial rights, and ordered fresh investigations and re-trials.

On 6 February, following the President’s declaration, two judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed, were arrested with no statement made regarding the charges laid against them. Reports were received that security forces obstructed and locked the Supreme Court building with members of the judiciary still inside. The country’s police commissioner was also dismissed after stating he would follow the Supreme Court’s ruling to free the political prisoners.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell stated: ‘We would like to respectfully draw President Yameen’s attention to the relevant national, regional and international law provisions that affirm the necessity for the separation of powers and an independent judiciary. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary provide that “the independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State” and “it is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary”.Furthermore, judicial independence is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives where, for example, Article 142 states that, “[n]o officials performing public functions, or any other persons, shall interfere with and influence the functions of the courts”.’

The IBAHRI has previously taken an interest in the independence of the legal profession in the Republic of the Maldives. In 2008, the IBAHRI undertook a scoping mission to the country to assess the possibility of working in cooperation with the government and national stakeholders with regard to the establishment of a bar association.


Notes to the Editor

  1. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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