A group of lawyers have forward a case concerning the government’s arrest and detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s by military forces has been forwarded to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Maldives became a member of the ICC after acceding to the Rome Statute late last year.
According to the Rome Statute, “the jurisdiction of the [ICC] shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole”, notably genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The ICC does not deal with small cases, even if the victims may be in the hundreds.”
The case was forwarded by a group of lawyers contesting the conditions of the judge’s arrest and detention at a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) training facility on Girifushi.
Maumoon Hameed, a member of the legal team, said the case was submitted “as the continued detention of Judge Mohamed is in clear violation of the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance.”
Hameed told local media that ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Occampo, would investigate the matter. Minivan News is currently waiting for a response from the ICC.
The judge was arrested by MNDF forces upon police request after he attempted to block his own police summons in the High Court. Allegations against him include corruption, political bias and poor professional conduct, such as requiring underage victims of sexual abuse to re-enact their experiences during court hearings.
MNDF did not release details of the judge’s whereabouts for 48 hours following his arrest, prompting the opposition to define the act as “enforced disappearance”.
The military has not complied with High and Supreme court orders to release the judge. Officials from the military and police forces were today questioned on the matter by Parliament’s 241 Committee for safety and security, and further hearings are pending.
Opposition parties have claimed the judge’s detention as a ‘crime against humanity’, leading to a string of increasingly violence protests since last week. Over 40 people have been arrested in the past four days, and several individuals have been sent to the hospital.
Opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) President Ibrahim Shareef termed the arrest an inhumane “kidnapping”, while Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed surprised the govenrment by expressing shame over the action calling it “the first possible violation since the dawn of democracy in our country”.
The European Union (EU) also expressed concern over the judge’s arrest in a statement in which it encouraged all parties to “act in accordance with these [democratic] principles and to refrain from inflammatory language or other action which could incite hatred.”
Acting on these and other concerns, Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) last weekend visited the judge on Girifushi and reported that he was in good health and conditions, drawing criticism from the opposition for allegedly “backing down” from its duties.
Meanwhile, the government has maintained that the judge’s arrest was lawful and that invoking the term ‘crime against humanity’ is only a political strategy.
“The government of Maldives is taking appropriate action in extraordinary circumstances involving allegations of serious corruption and gross misconduct by a senior judge. Public statements seeking to define his detention as a human rights issue are part of the web of protection which surrounds Judge Abdulla Mohamed,” said a government legal source.
Citing the ICC’s Rome Statute, the legal source has noted that “detention of a person can only be construed as a ‘crime against humanity’ if that detention is committed by a State as part of a widespread systematic attack on a civilian population, and if that detention is followed by the refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of freedom, and or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of that person with the intention of removing the person from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.
“The detention of Judge Abdulla Mohamed is not part of a systematic attack on a civilian population and the government has acknowledged his detention to both his family and the public at large,” the source stated.
The source described the allegations against the Chief Judge as “of serious concern to the Maldivian government and community” and claimed to hold evidence of “gross misconduct” against the Judge.
In particular, the government claims that the judge exercised “undue influence” over at least one member of the Civil Court to prompt a ruling against the Judicial Services Commission’s (JSC) investigation of the Judge last year.
Observing that the High and Supreme courts remained silent during the affair, the government accused the judge of “tacit acceptance of a ploy to prevent the JSC from exercising is powers under the constitution.”
Furthermore, by accepting the Civil Court’s ruling the JSC indicated its own subscription to biased input, the source claimed.
Speaking today to Minivan News, in his own capacity, opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) member Abdul Rasheed Nafiz endorsed the gesture of sending the case to the ICC.
“Right now, this is a legal argument. The opposition says the military cannot arrest judges, and the President says he has the authority as commander-in-chief. The Supreme Court tried to resolve the matter but it has had some problems. We need a mediator, and now it’s time for the international community to get involved”, he said.
Among the criteria for the ICC to take on a case in the Maldives is doubtful willingness and capacity of the country’s own judiciary to handle the case in question.
Speaking to Minivan News in September, President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said it was important for the Maldives to have access to an international judiciary
“This is a big step for a country whose previous leaders have been accused of human rights violations. I believe their cases would be fairly addressed in the ICC,” he said, while an ICC official hoped membership would help the Maldives proceed with judicial reform.
Towards that end, the Foreign Ministry has requested an international legal delegation from the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission to help resolve the current impasse in the nation’s judicial system.
Meanwhile, former President’s Member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee, today told Minivan News “I would like it if the ICC were to accept this. Not because of Abdulla Mohamed, but because it will mean they will have to look into why he was taken.”
Velezinee has accused the opposition of subverting the judiciary for political purposes, with the aim of protecting their supporters from prosecution and retaining control over the judges as previously held by the former Ministry of Justice.
“It was a coup,” she told Minivan News today. “Now they are asking the Supreme Court to investigate – the same Supreme Court which has asked the authorities to investigate people who criticise the judiciary. No single person has criticised the judiciary more than me – and I say this because I have all the evidence, and all the papers.”