Mohamed Nasheed has become the first Maldivian president to be summoned before the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), in connection to his role in the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed earlier this year.
Nasheed had been requested to attend a HRCM hearing filed to try and understand who was responsible for taking the decision to arrest the judge. The former president attributed the initial arrest call to his Defence Ministry, on the grounds of “protecting” national security relating to alleged ethical concerns about the judge.
Today’s summons of the former president is said to be the first of three cases filed at the HRCM involving himself. These cases all relate to potential human rights abuses allegedly carried out both by and against Nasheed during the lead up and aftermath of a controversial transfer of power that saw President Mohamed Waheed Hassan installed as his successor.
The former president has since alleged that his resignation from the presidency was performed under duress.
Nasheed’s arrival today was heralded by a few hundred supporters who gathered around the HRCM building carrying banners alleging abuse at the hands of police earlier this week. Many of those gathered waited for the former president to deliver his account to the commission. Riot police arrived briefly at the area outside the commission, but the crowd later dispersed without confrontation.
The arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed itself occurred on January 16 in relation to a police request. The judges whereabouts were not revealed until January 18 however, leading to international condemnation of Nasheed as well as domestic criticism reflected in ongoing protests over several weeks that observers later suggested were partly linked to his eventual downfall on February 7.
HRCM spokesperson Jeehan Mahmoud told Minivan News that while additional cases relating to the former president would be focused on alleged human rights abuses against him after the build up and transfer of power, today’s hearing related to specifically identifying the party who placed the order to arrest the judge.
Jeehan added that the HRCM had previously unsuccessfully attempted to summon former defence and home minsters, as well as senior police officials who had served under Nasheed during the time the arrest decision was taken. However, today’s move was taken to request that the former president explain what had occurred himself.
“If these ministers and [police] representatives would have attended [the HRCM hearings], I think thing would have been a lot clearer,” she said. “We wanted to collect more responses on this as it hasn’t been clear where the order [to arrest the judge] had came from.”
The commission spokesperson said that the group had not yet decided on what methods it would look to take to readdress any potential abuses of the judge’s human rights. Therefore she said it was too early to say whether this could include filing a case against any of the decison makers involved at the Prosecutor General’s Office.
Malé MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, who formed part of nasheed’s legal team today, told Minivan News that the former president gave testimony alleging that the decision to arrest the judge was related to a number of possible misdemeanour’s that had been attributed to him dating back several years.
In November, the national court watchdog, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), was ordered to cease an investigation into Judge Abdulla Mohamed by the civil Court under an action he himself instigated.
Amidst developments such as these, Fahmy claimed that Nasheed used his testimony to claim that he had been informed by the Home Ministry that the judge had allegedly posed a “national threat” – prompting his eventual detention.
The MDP MP added that Nasheed then claimed that the Home Ministry had communicated with the Defence Ministry on the situation, which in turn led to the decision to arrest the judge after bodies like the Judicial Service Commission has raised alleged concerns over his ethical conduct.
“I was told Abdulla Mohamed would not comply with the police’s summons to investigate allegations [against him],” Nasheed later stated at a press conference following the meeting with the HRCM.
“The Home Minister wrote to the Defense Minister that Abdulla Mohamed’s presence in the courts was a threat to national security. And to take necessary steps. And that step, the isolation of Abdulla Mohamed, was what the [Defense] Ministry deemed necessary.”
Nasheed claimed additionally that he had sent representatives to Girifushi to check on Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s well-being during his detention, alongside allowing the HRCM to visit the judge.
Fahmy alleged that it was ironic that Nasheed, a leader he said who had openly discouraged the use of torture and actively campaigned against human rights abuses, had become the country’s first former leader to have been called in front of the HRCM.
However, HRCM spokesperson Jeehan said that Nasheed would be called back for two additional cases – expected to be sat at the same time – that would look into alleged abuses of human rights against the former president. The first case would be focused on the events of February 6 and February 7 this year, the two dates surrounding Nasheed’s “resignation” from office, a decision later claimed to have been part of a “coup d’etat” against him.
The third and final case would then concern any claims of human rights abuses against Mohamed Nasheed by police on February 8, the day after he tendered his presidency ended.