Rule of Law Will Continue to Endure in the Maldives
The Government of the Republic of Maldives places the utmost significance towards upholding the rule of law, and therefore, the Constitution is being upheld both in letter and in spirt. On 1 February 2018, the Supreme Court issued a ruling creating a Constitutional crisis, dismantling Constitutional mechanisms which ensure the balance of power enshrined in the Constitution and thereby requiring drastic action to safeguard the democratic norms and ideals contained therein. The conduct of executive institutions, restraint and efforts exercised, and the way in which the current State of Emergency is implemented is testament to the intent of the Executive in taking this action in the very best present and future interests of the people of the Maldives. While the State of Emergency, enacted as per the Constitution, restricts some of its articles, fundamental inalienable rights under the Constitution remain unaffected.
This Constitutional crisis emerged from direct and deliberate interference by outside actors upon the Judiciary. Following the emergence of credible evidence, the Maldives Police Services began an investigation into judicial corruption which implicated two Supreme Court Justices, among others.
The ruling on 1 February 2018 by the Supreme Court, appears to be the product of this interference, prompting the current Constitutional crisis by usurping absolute judicial authority unto itself, effectively suspending Article 157(b) and 159(b) of the Constitution and invalidating powers assigned to the Judicial Services Commission, which is Constitutionally-mandated to appoint, investigate complaints against, and give recommendations for the dismissal of judges. Furthermore, the ruling was issued from Chambers, without any hearing; in contravention to the Constitutional mandate of the Supreme Court; and contrary to the basic norms of the legal system ensured under the Constitution and the Judicature Act of the Maldives.
The ruling also ordered the Executive to immediately release nine individuals, whose cases are at different stages of the criminal justice system. Some of the cases have already been decided by the Supreme Court and this ruling raises Constitutional and legal concerns including the finality of Supreme Court judgements and the prohibition of double jeopardy. Furthermore, it is important to note that these individuals have been convicted of serious crimes, including but not limited to embezzlement, kidnapping, and an assassination attempt on the President.
In spite of numerous attempts by the Attorney General and the Prosecutor General, who is a Constitutionally-independent institution unto herself, to confer with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he refused to give them an audience or address their concerns. Following the refusal of the Supreme Court to accept appeals by the Prosecutor General and then by the President regarding the above mentioned concerns, the President exercised every legal, professional and personal avenue to engage with the Chief Justice.
On the advice of the National Security Council, that the inalienable rights of the citizens of the Maldives, as well as the integrity of the Constitution itself were at risk, and after serious consideration of the crisis at hand, the President had no alternative but to declare a State of Emergency. This was necessary to guarantee that the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution, which were degraded by the Court ruling, would be restored. It is imperative that the investigation of multi-million dollar bribery allegations against these Judges is conducted without interference. The right to a fair, transparent trial and to legal counsel remains inviolable.
Following the remand of those under investigation, the Supreme Court resumed its normal functioning on 6 February 2018, after which they revised the ruling from 1 February 2018, nullifying their assumption of the authority of the Judicial Services Commission and their order to release those 9 individuals. Though empowered to rule on the validity of a State of Emergency, in whole or in part, they have not issued any order or taken any decision in this regard.
The Government of Maldives objects to the characterizations and implications presented in the press release issued by UN Special Procedures on 12 February 2018. Nonetheless, the Government continues to welcome constructive engagement from international mechanisms and other stakeholders and will respond to their inquiries promptly. The Government continues to comply fully with its obligations under international treaties and mechanisms, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Government emphasizes, that care must be exercised by intergovernmental agencies and their representatives when making statements and reports. We must ensure that nothing compromises the supremacy of national Constitutions and by extension, the legitimacy of national laws, rules and regulations.