19 March 2015 An independent United Nations human rights expert has warned of the “seriously deteriorating situation” regarding the independence of the justice system in the Maldives in the wake of the sentencing of former President Mohammed Nasheed, calling his trial a “mockery” of the country’s Constitution.
“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,” Gabriela Knaul, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said in a press release issued today.
“The series of due process violations that were reported to me since Mr. Nasheed’s arrest on 22 February is simply unacceptable in any democratic society.”
According to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), Mr. Nasheed’s trial began one day after his arrest, which was made on the charge that he authorised the unlawful detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012 when he was the country’s President. Having previously faced charges for the same complaint, which were withdrawn by the Prosecutor-General, Mr. Nasheed was arrested again under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
OHCHR has noted that the trial did not follow stipulations in the Maldives’ Constitution, which states that anyone accused of a crime shall have the right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence, and did not follow international fair trial standards.
Similarly, Ms. Knaul noted that Mr. Nasheed’s defence team was allegedly prevented from attending his first hearing and was not granted adequate time to prepare for his defence. In addition, when the defence team later resigned, the trial proceeded without allowing him to seek new legal representation.
The former President has since been sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.
“Mr. Nasheed’s trial was not only a clear violation of the Maldives’ international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but it also made a mockery of the State’s own Constitution,” Ms. Knaul stated. “The speed of the proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”
She urged authorities in the Maldives to “seriously consider” the recommendations made in a 2013 report she submitted following her visit to the country and called for guarantees that Mr. Nasheed’s appeal process “respect the most stringent fair trial and due process guarantees.”
“The fact that one former president is being tried on serious terrorism-related charges for one alleged offence when his predecessor has not had to answer for any of the serious human rights violations documented during his term is also troubling for a country whose Constitution enshrines the independence and impartiality of the justice system as a prerequisite for democracy and the rule of law,” Ms. Knaul said.
Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and carry out their work in an independent and unpaid capacity.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue