Hussain Humaam was arrested for the murder of Raa. Ungoofaaru Member of Par l iament Afrasheem Ali, who was found murdered near his residence on the 8th of October 2012.

He was arrested as a suspect during the initial round of investigations during which he confessed to the crime. He was tried at the Criminal Court where he was found guilty of first-degree murder on January 2013 on the basis of the aforementioned confession, and also witness testimony and forensic evidence which, according to prosecutors, attested to his guilt and corroborates with his confession.

Humaam subsequently retracted his previous confession, stating that it had been made under duress following police intimidation and, furthermore, on the understanding that if he had confessed, prosecutors would not press for the death penalty. Whilst Humaam has stated that although he is responsible for much violent activity during his criminal past, he denies involvement in Afrasheem’s murder.

The case was subsequently appealed to the High Court. It should be noted that although Humaam did not appeal the verdict within the time period allowed to make an appeal, under regulations pertinent to the death penalty in the Maldives, the death sentence can only be implemented after all stages of appeal have been exhausted. Hence death sentences handed out by the Criminal Court will automatically be appealed to the High Court after the period of appeal ends. Corollarily, if death penalty verdicts are upheld at the High Court, such cases will then automatically be sent to the Supreme Court for the final stage of appeal.

The High Court upheld the verdict in December 2015 stating that Humaam had twice confessed, and that court guidelines do not allow one to retract confessions of that nature at a later date; they further iterated the Criminal Court ruling citing that the aforementioned witness testimony and forensic evidence corroborated with Humaam’s earlier confession.

Currently the case is at the final stage of appeal at the Supreme Court, which has already held preliminary hearings. Humaam’s lawyers are, as of this writing, requesting that the Supreme Court allow them more time to prepare a defence, as the High Court has not yet given them the case report elaborating on their verdict (this reasoning was dismissed by the SC on the understanding that the relevant report is available on the High Court website). If the Supreme Court upholds the verdict of the Criminal Court and the High Court and all of Dr. Afrasheem’s surviving relatives insist on the application of the death penalty, there is a significant possibility that the state will put Humaam to death.

View/download a PDF of the Case Study: Hussein Humaam sentenced in Afrasheem murder

On the 1st of May 2015, Adhaalath Party leader, Sheikh Imran Abdulla participated in an antigovernment rally and delivered a speech lambasting President Yameen Abdul Qayoom’s administration. He was arrested on the day on the basis that his speech was directly responsible for the violence that ensued during the demonstration. Though he was not convicted of any offence the Criminal Court kept Sheikh Imran in detention based on the reasoning that he might express opinions that could contribute to further public disorder.

Sheikh Imran was subsequently released on the 27th of May before being rearrested two days later at the request of the Prosecutor General on the basis that Sheikh Imran’s speech constituted terrorism under the 1990 Terrorism Act.

On the 1st of June, the Criminal Court ordered him to be brought to court under police custody, with hearings scheduled for the next day.

Following the initial hearings, however, Sheikh Sheikh Imran was held without trial for a period in excess of 150 days before the trial process resumed on the 12th of October. It should be noted that during this period Sheikh Imran was repeatedly transferred between house arrest and prison, despite not having been convicted of any offence.

It is important to emphasize that under Article 14 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Maldives acceded to in September 2006, the accused is to be tried without undue delay.

Furthermore the reasoning provided for the inordinate delay between the initial hearing and the resumption of the trial was that a new courtroom was under construction. Once the trial resumed however, hearings and trials took place inside of an old courtroom building.

During the trial prosecutors argued that Sheikh Imran’s speech directly contributed to the violence on May Day protest and that, under the Freedom of Assembly Act, organizers of a protest must be proactive in ensuring that violence does not occur as a result of their demonstrations.

It should be noted that during the speech Sheikh Imran repeatedly denied any intent of violence against the government. Nonetheless, the Criminal Cour t found the prosecution’s arguments persuasive and on the 28th of February 2016 found Sheikh Imran guilty of the charge of terrorism. Sheikh Imran was subsequently sentenced by the Criminal Court to 12 years in prison. Sheikh Imran still has the ability to have thisverdict contested at the High Court.

View/download PDF of Case Study: Sheikh Imran sentenced on terrorism charges

The purpose of this governance update is to provide a very brief introduction to the historical development of the Maldivian Judiciary from the earliest recorded times up until the introduction of the new Constitution in 2008.

Prior to the country embracing Islam in 1153 A.D legal disputes were settled according to customary law (Fooruve Rudin). The King (Radun) was the highest authority on judicial matters and a council of nobles and religious functionaries would have advised him in settling legal disputes that arose between his subjects.

Following the Maldives’ conversion to Islam there was an attempt to impose a uniform system of Islamic Sharia across the country – often with visiting Arabic travellers being offered senior judicial posts on the assumption that their superior command of Arabic than locals would have made them more erudite on matters of religious law.

View/download the governance update on Ancient judiciary of the Maldives

This governance update intends to highlight the problematic issues arising from the existence of serious gaps in the Maldivian legislative framework. The aforementioned gaps chiefly refer to the lack of procedural legislation that would serve as a guide to all relevant officials with regard to the technical and administrative substance of dispensing justice, whilst also delineating the rights that any person accused of a crime is to be entitled to.

At the time that this governance update is being written there is currently no Criminal Procedure Code, Civil Procedure Code or an up to date Evidence Act in operation in the Maldives. As will be expounded in the following sections, the existence of these gaps are severely problematic as it leaves proper procedure to be interpreted at the discretion of individual judges, leaving considerable scope for inconsistency in how justice is applied.

This update will focus separately on each of the above mentioned elements and, after explaining what each of these are, provide some detail with regard to why the lack of each has a detrimental impact on the quality of justice available in Maldives. It is hoped that this update can shine a light on why ameliorating this issue should be treated as a matter of urgency in terms of strengthening the efficiency and integrity of the Maldivian justice system.

Read the governance update on Legislative gaps

A number of commentators and observers working in the area of judicial reform, including special rapporteurs on the independence of judges, ICJ commissions and local Non Government Organizations that have the judiciary within their ambit of concern have conducted surveys and appraisals of the Maldivian judiciary and have found numerous issues meriting serious attention. The purpose of this governance update is to provide the general public with a primer on some of the most important of these issues so that they are better informed and thus equipped to contribute to this important discussion.

*An earlier version of this governance update stated incorrectly that the year of the Democracy Survey is 2010. This version has been updated with the correct date of 2013.

Read the Governance Update

This month’s governance update will focus on legal proceedings conducted against Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Nazim and Adhaalath Party leader, Sheikh Imran Abdulla. Both these cases are rife with issues warranting attention and concern. However, due to the fact that Sheikh Imran’s case has been given relatively little media coverage, it was felt appropriate that the section pertaining to him should be more extensive. TM was fortunate to be able to meet with a member of Sheikh Imran’s legal team to discuss the details of his detention and would like to thank them for their assistance.

Read the Governance Update 

In the coming months Transparency Maldives will be publishing a series of bulletins focussing on the judiciary of the Maldives. The purpose of these bulletins is to increase public understanding and awareness of the key judicial developments and issues in the country. We hope the information disseminated through these bulletins are useful for policymakers and members of the general public to understand the dynamics and challenges that entail the judiciary of the Maldives.
Read the preliminary bulletin on the Maldivian Court System.

An independent government created by the people and its governing structure is based on protecting its citizens’ freedoms and rights. Freedom of press, freedom of expression, access to education, shelter, transportation, clean environments etc. and other provisions of the second chapter of the constitution cannot be completed without the freedom of information.

Citizen participation is a fundamental aspect of a democracy. Citizens cannot participate in the governance of a democratic state without access to information. The constitution provides freedom of thought and speech, within the tenets of Islam, to its citizens. Thought and speech must be based on valid information, thus the right to access valid information is vital to uphold the constitutional right of thought and speech.

A clear majority of Maldivian citizens do not trust the government and its institutions. Similarly, a clear majority of the populace accuses these institutions and political figures of corruption. This trust can be gained through transparency and accessibility to valid information.

Read the position paper ‘Challenges to interpreting and implementing the RTI Act’.

This update looks at the developments concerning the Parliament in April 2015 and will focus on how political parties have opted to navigate the current political hurdles in the Parliament in legislating key amendments and bills.

It is important to note the political developments in the country have had a profound effect on the conduct of parliamentary sessions. With the arrest and conviction of former President Nasheed, sessions were marked by disorder that has resulted in the erosion of principles of good governance such as pluralistic debate and constructive contribution to legislation from all sides of the political divide, as well as limiting public scrutiny on parliamentary performance. With the opposition not participating in the proceedings, the government aligned parties have utilized these circumstances to pass a number of laws without proper consensus. It is also important to highlight that the Parliamentary leadership have also failed to instruct dialogue between the contending political parties, particularly at a time where such discourse and consultation are crucial to overcoming the obstacles facing democratic governance.

In its legislative agenda, twenty-nine bills and amendments were proposed by the government to be sent to the Parliament in the first session of 2015. These include several key legislation dealing with civil, socio-political and economic aspects. While some of these bills have been submitted, the majority of listed legislation in the agenda have not been forwarded. While the government has not provided an update on the status of these pending laws, it is important that a review of the existing legislative agenda be undertaken to take into account the ongoing developments in the Parliament that may have constrained the progress of much-needed legislation.

Parliament proceedings
As highlighted in our March update, the protests by opposition MDP MPs have continued since the opening of the Parliament and has resulted in disorderly sessions in April. These vociferous protests to disrupt sessions, often carried out with the help of megaphones and sports whistles, resulted from the arrest and incarceration of former President Nasheed for 13 years on terrorism charges in March. Former President Nasheed’s arrest, his trial, and sentencing have been contentious on many fronts, as noted by local and international commentators, including the UN Human Rights Commissioner, who have been following the trial proceeding.

While some sessions were adjourned or stopped as a result of the opposition protests, it is interesting to note that neither the Parliament’s speaker nor the Deputy Speaker had opted to eject any opposition MPs from the chamber. In some of the disorderly sessions ruling coalition MPs have continued with debates and voting was conducted even though the debating was inaudible over the sounds of megaphones and whistles. This was noted by opposition MPs who contended that sessions were being conducted in contravention to parliamentary procedural rules.

On 7 April, MDP MPs suspended their protests and did not attend the Parliament chamber in the build-up to a meeting with the Speaker to seek a negotiated settlement to the ongoing Parliament impasse. While this was a slight reprieve, disruptions have continued since. The Parliament also resumed broadcasting a live feed of sittings to television stations, which had been suspended since the start of the opposition protests.

The proposal, highlighted in our March update, to revoke allowances of MPs who approach the Speaker’s desk unsolicited to disrupt proceedings was bolstered by a proposal by MP Moosa Manik to ban sirens, megaphones and horns from parliamentary premises. Both proposals were voted on and passed by the Parliament in April with only government-aligned MPs participating in the vote. Following its passing, the 22 April Parliament session was conducted with the help of parliamentary security officials who prevented opposition MPs from approaching the Speaker’s desk. Since then, opposition MPs have also been summoned to the Parliament’s conduct committee – proceedings of this committee being carried out in secret with no access to media or observers – to answer charges of session disruption. These developments are largely seen as retributive measures against opposition as a means of intimidation and as incentives to discontinue protests in the chamber.

Key legislation
There were some new bills ushered into Parliament in April as well as updates to legislation introduced in March.

1. Unconstitutional parole amendment sent back to Parliament
The problematic amendment to the 2013 Prisons and Parole Act, which we noted in our March update, that was passed by Parliament and forwarded to the Executive for ratification was returned to the Parliament by the President for revision. The return follows the Attorney-General’s comments on the incompatibility of some provisions of the amendment with the constitution. As noted in our March update, this amendment contains problematic provisions such as the revoking of the freedom of association from incarcerated prisoners, which is guaranteed under the constitution, and places further restrictions on other rights which may flout the ambit of constitutional rights restriction limits. The President Office further specified the controversial parts of the amendment as contained in the advice from the Attorney-General.

On 28 April, the reworked amendment was passed by the Parliament by 40 votes – with just the government aligned parties voting in favour. While the new revised amendment does not bar prisoners from membership in political parties, it obstructs them from serving in leadership positions in political parties and other organizations. This provision, thus still potentially contravenes the reasonable rights restriction provisions in the amendment itself and in the constitution. In response, opposition MPs alleged that the government was specifically targeting former President Nasheed, as when President Yameen ratifies the amendment into law, Nasheed will lose his position as MDP President.

2. Tourism Ministry powers and resort leases to 99 years
In April, the government submitted a revenue raising bill proposing the increase of resort leases from the existing 50 year term to 99 years. The bill further proposes the increase in the authority of the Tourism Ministry by shifting the conduct of environmental impact assessments from existing semi-independent government bodies (the Environmental Protection Agency)  and also bestows the power to authorise infrastructure development on resort islands to the tourism portfolio. In response to this proposal, opposition politicians and commentators noted the reversal of the stance on this issue by the current government, who when in opposition during President Nasheed’s tenure, criticized the Nasheed administration decision to increase resort leases to 50 years in return for upfront fees. On 21 April, the bill was voted in Parliament and passed with 41 votes in favour with opposition members not taking part in debate or voting.

3. Party presidential primary elections update
In April, the amendment to the Elections Commission Act, submitted in March by former MDP MP Moosa Manik, to include administering party presidential primary elections under the purview of the Elections Commission was voted by the Parliament to be sent to committee for review. Opposition MPs did not participate in the vote. If this amendment is passed by the Parliament, it would put a substantial financial and administrative burden on the Elections Commission. Furthermore, it remains to be seen what the impact of this change will have on internal party mechanisms as well as the acceptance of Elections Commission oversight over party presidential primaries by the opposition parties in the current partisan climate. This impact is especially pronounced when there exists the opportunity to question the independence of the Commission following the dismissal of two Commission members, including the President Fuwad Thowfeeq, by the Supreme Court in 2014.

4. Penal code update
The Maldives’ Penal Code that was passed into law by the Parliament in 2014 and was due to come into force on 13 April was delayed by the Parliament. The amendment to delay its coming into force by three months was sponsored by the ruling PPM coalition. The PPM argued that more time was needed for preparing stakeholders on aspects of the new code. The opposition MDP alleged that the government was attempting to use the existing, outdated, penal code to intimidate critics. This postponement occurred amidst commentary by the Prosecutor-General and the Attorney-General stating there was no reason to delay enforcement. The voting for the amendment was surrounded by loud opposition protests against the tabling of the amendment and with MDP MPs taking over the Speaker’s desk and Parliament secretariat desks. Speaker Maseeh asked for votes utilizing a megaphone, which was carried out by a show of hands. MDP MPs contended that this voting violated parliamentary procedures.

In another development, as noted in our March update, Adhaalath party MP Anaaraa Naeem’s proposal to incorporate the “retaliation in kind” aspect or Qisas law in Islamic Shari’a in the penal code was rejected by the National Security Committee who scrutinized the bill. See our March update for details on this amendment. Following this, on 12 April, Naeem submitted her amendment to the Parliament floor for consideration again.
Parliamentary by-electionThe MP for Dhiggaru constituency, Ahmed Nazim, was sentenced to a 25 life sentence by the Supreme Court having being found guilty of corruption. With the conviction, Nazim’s seat became vacant and the Elections Commission has announced the by-election. Both major parties are fielding candidates.

In following the updates in the Parliament in April, the detrimental effect on democratic debate arising from the non-participation of key opposition is clear. The declining quality and integrity of legislation passed in this period, such as the problematic parole amendment and other proposals that limit independent oversight mechanisms such as the Tourism Ministry legislation, alludes to the unchecked dominance of government-aligned parties in the lawmaking process. To improve the status quo, the government must take steps to facilitate strategic implementation of much-needed legislation, as highlighted in its Legislative Agenda 2014-2018, and move away from reactive legislative objectives. Furthermore, the Parliament leadership should work to provide an impetus for a dialogue between the major parties to overcome the prevailing impasse and must exploit opportunities that exist for government-aligned parties to engage with the opposition to address their concerns.

Opening of Parliament and disruptions
The opening of the Parliament on 2 March 2015 occurred amidst protestations inside the chamber from opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs calling for the release of former President Nasheed who was under arrest at the time, and counter-protests from government-aligned MPs voicing their support for Nasheed’s trial and sentencing.
In his opening address to the Parliament, President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom iterated the Government’s commitment to upholding laws and the tenets in the Constitution. His speech summarized the Government’s key achievements in 2014 in areas such as urban development, tourism, foreign relations, infrastructure, health and social welfare and highlighted several key legislation submitted to Parliament in 2014. Within this trajectory, what stands out in particular is the focus on developing the Maldivian economy and financial frameworks. He touched on the pledges to fulfil election pledges to empower youth, including the submission of a youth rights bill to Parliament in 2015, further develop tourism and complementary sectors, and speed up investments through the special economic zones.
Opposition MPs have been protesting at every sitting since Parliament returned from recess. Every sessional debate has been marked by confrontational protests over the arrest and conviction of former President Nasheed, resulting in a lack of earnest and thorough public debate on issues submitted to Parliament. Following the first session of the year, the Parliament administration terminated the live feed of sessions to television stations, barring the public of observing proceedings. Reporters were also barred from recording proceedings during sessions and now can only cover proceedings from a specific media gallery location within the Parliament building. The impact of such a restraining stance on media reporting is a question worth asking as the work of the Parliament, be it protestations against governmental policy, should be publicly available for public consumption.
During the 16 March session, former Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mahloof, with a printed sign board, requested from the Speaker to provide him with security as he feared for his life. This followed Mahloof’s expulsion from the PPM after his publicized comments on the corruption of current senior Government officials and connections between President Yameen and gang members.
Amendment to Political Parties’ Act and Elections Commission Act regarding party presidential nomination elections
This year’s first session has seen some key amendments and bills submitted to Parliament. This includes an amendment to the Political Parties’ Act, put forward by the PPM to amend clauses in the existing Act that the Supreme Court had ruled in 2013 were unconstitutional. The Maldives guarantees the right to establish and take part in political parties in Article 30 (a) of the Constitution.
Article 11 of the existing Act stated, arbitrarily, that 10,000 members as the minimum requirement to form a political party. The Supreme Court abrogated this article in September 2013 stating 3,000, again an arbitrary number, members as the minimum. The new amendments by the PPM propose to bring the existing law to conform to the Courts’ ruling.
It further stipulates that a political party must have 10,000 registered members to be eligible for state funding. This amendment is seen to restrict and limit the freedom of association in the Constitution.
On 30 March, an amendment to the Elections Commission Act was submitted by former MDP MP Moosa Manik to include administering party presidential primary elections under the purview of the Elections Commission. Currently, presidential primaries are undertaken internally by parties themselves and if this amendment is passed, it would put a substantial financial and administrative burden on the elections commission.
Amendment to the Penal Code
The Government has also proposed amendments to the Penal Code. These include technical amendments to definite clauses, gaps in the code, and address potential problematic issues in implementation. On 30 March, this amendment was accepted with 40 votes in favor.
Another development is the amendment submitted by the Adaalath Party’s sole MP Anaaraa Naeem to incorporate the “retaliation in kind” aspect or Qisas law in Islamic Shari’a into the code. While the Penal Code does state the applicability of Shari’a punishments to Hudud offenses, it does not currently do so for Qisas offenses.
In response to Anaaraa’s proposed amendment, the senior consultant for the penal code awareness programme, Hussain Shameem, stated that including the provision of Qisas without accompanying detailed requirements and classifications for Qisas offenses would not make Qisas offenses more amenable to adjudicate. On 30 March, the Parliament voted unanimously to consider the amendment and have been forwarded to the National Security Committee for review.
HRCM summoning
On 16 March, members of the Maldives Human Rights Commission (HRCM) were separately summoned to the Parliament and questioned at length in a closed-door meeting. Members were questioned on the commission’s statement regarding concerns about the lack of due process in the trial and sentencing of former President Nasheed in March 2015.
Following the publication of the HRCM’s 2014 annual report, in which the Commission highlighted the challenges it faced as a result of the turbulent relationship with the judiciary, the ruling PPM’s parliamentary group leader commented in a local newspaper that the Parliament must play an important mediatory role and to ensure the independence of the Commission. This claim was contended by both the Jumhooree Party and MDP MPs who highlighted the extraordinary levels of judicial activism emanating from Maldivian courts, including the apex court, and alleged the Government’s disregard for upholding the independence of the HRCM. This development further expands on the issue of the state undermining the autonomy of independent institutions and the weakening of the separation of powers that we have highlighted in our earlier parliamentary updates.
Changes to committee allowance
On 17 March, the General Committee of Parliament proposed an amendment to Parliamentary Committee allowances to revoke allowances of members who approach the Speaker’s desk unsolicited. This was proposed to the Committee by the Speaker, PPM MP Abdulla Maseeh, in response to MDP MPs continuous protesting since the opening of Parliament. The opposition has described this as a punitive measure by the Government and vowed to continue their objections during sessions. The change has been passed by the general parliamentary committee and is pending submission for vote during session.
Parole amendment
In March 2015, the Parliament accepted an amendment by the Government to the 2013 Prisons and Parole Act which includes an overhaul of some administrative aspects in the 2013 law as well as new provisions on the limitations of fundamental rights and freedoms. The amendment was first sent to the Parliament in December 2014.
This amendment contains several problematic and contentious provisions, including the exclusion of prisoners from a political party or other association membership or holding leadership positions. It is problematic in that it severely impedes the right of freedom of association which is guaranteed under the constitution and is also perceived to differ from the ambit of rights restrictions that exist in law. In light of its proposition, opposition members alleged the motives behind the submission was to strip former President Nasheed of his party membership and role as party president.
On 30 March, the amendment was tabled for voting following review by the National Security Committee. It was passed with 42 votes in favor and two against. MDP members, who have been in continuous protest since the opening of Parliament, did not take part in the vote and protested its tabling.
Changes to bill allowances and benefits of former presidents
In March 2015, the Parliament also accepted a bill, proposed by the Maldives Development Alliance—coalition partner with the current Government, that would discontinue benefits for former presidents convicted in Maldivian courts. This amendment follows similar proposals—all withdrawn—to the Parliament in 2014 by the Government coalition.
The amendment was accepted for consideration with 38 MPs voting in favor while 11 voted against it. MDP MPs did not participate in the vote and continued their protest calling for former President Nasheed’s release. The amendment if passed will revoke Nasheed’s benefits as he was convicted of terrorism charges in March 2015 and is currently serving his sentence. This amendment, as well as the changes to the committee allowance and the parole amendment are largely perceived as retributive, politically-motivated manoeuvres by the ruling coalition to undermine the opposition as well as former President Nasheed.

This report looks at the political developments surrounding the work of the Parliament in 2014, and highlights the contested nature of legislation during the period. The report addresses some noteworthy bills, key institutional appointments and dismissals, and issues surrounding urgent national issues submitted to Parliament.

Key legislation
The lack of bipartisan support on crucial governmental legislation was a recurring theme in parliamentary proceedings in 2014. In some cases support for government-sponsored legislation was tied to the political dynamics prevailing at the time. For example, at the start of the year, the government’s budget was passed with broad support from then-coalition partners the PPM and JP, while MDP’s amendments to the budget were dismissed. In others, as in the case of appointments to key institutions, the failure of political parties to whip votes along party lines led to inconsistent stances on various issues across all major parties.

This in turn adds to the precariousness of democratic consolidation where opposition members allege the Executive branch’s encroachment on the principle of separation of powers and eroding constitutional maxims. On the other hand, the government, including the current Attorney General, in an interview to DhiTV news on 25 February 2015, has categorically denied any undermining of the Constitution.

1. Special Economic Zone Act
The enactment of the Special Economic Zones Act (SEZ) in August 2014 highlighted one of the flagship economic drivers indicated in the new government’s budget. Our January parliamentary update summarizes the developments surrounding the passage of the bill in Parliament. The JP switching from its initial ambivalence to fully supporting the bill’s passage prompted opposition media to suggest that the government’s impeding of Gasim’s business interests lead to the change. Since its passing, the government has stated that it is reforming existing bureaucratic hurdles to incorporate the provisions in the SEZ Act; and government representatives have given media interviews, albeit without specificity, on potential mega-investments following-from the Act. Other than a few news articles such as the one by former MDP administration Minister Inaz in Haveeru newspaper, a point of note is the lack of public commentary on the socio-economic impacts of the Act by accredited independent sources such as civil society.

While the government has forecasted it would receive about 100 million US dollars as acquisition fees for the SEZs by August this year, the opposition has criticised the lack of significant foreign investments. Since then, the “Investment Board”(1) for the SEZs has been formulated by the President and in September 2014, the government assigned South Kulhudhuffushi MP Mohamed Nasheed, whose law firm(2) drafted the SEZ bill to outline additional regulations required by the Act.

The government may very well undertake to smoothly pass complementary regulation with its majority in Parliament, however, what is abundantly clear is that political consensus and cross-party support will be crucial to ensure an unhindered implementation programme. Attracting foreign investments under the Act is further complicated as it is closely tied to existing domestic political dynamics and fallout from political incidents(3) such as rights violations and suppression of dissent.

2. Penal code
The amended penal code will come into effect on 13 April 2015, and the Attorney General’s Office is carrying out training programmes and establishing resource office for stakeholders to improve competence in dealing with the new provisions in the code.

Whilst the government is seen to be speeding-up preparations for the advent of the new code, the opposition MDP has accused the government of “rushing the proceedings in order to convict former President Nasheed before the new penal code comes into effect in April” and has called on the Prosecutor General (PG) to cease his case against Nasheed. The PG has since withdrawn these charges, and has attempted to re-prosecute Nasheed, and others in his administration, under the 1990 Prevention of Terrorism Act. Nasheed was arrested by the Police on 22 February 2015 and his case is ongoing at the time of writing.

3. Amendment to eligible age for seeking presidential elections
The constitutional amendment submitted by the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA)—ruling party coalition partner—on 24 December 2014, which proposed to amend the eligible age for contesting in presidential elections to below 65 years faced widespread criticism from the opposition. The opposition, which included the JP after the dissolution of the coalition agreement with the ruling PPM, contended that the amendment was intended to bar JP leader Qasim Ibrahim from contesting. The legality of the amendment was questioned by prominent legal experts, including former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood, as being unconstitutional. Our October-December 2014 parliamentary update highlights issues surrounding this amendment.

The amendment was withdrawn on 3 March 2015 amidst media reports of a meeting between Gasim Ibrahim, prominent businessman Mohamed Moosa, and Tourism Minister Adeeb to discuss the current political situation and negotiate the withdrawal of this amendment.

Appointments and removal of members of key institutions

1.Removal of Elections Commission (EC) members
In February 2014, the Supreme Court (SC) initiated a contempt of court charge under its new “Suo Motu” regulation against EC members stating they violated the Court’s rulings on dissolving political parties(4). While there are problems associated with the “Suo Motu” regulation itself, the procedures undertaken in this instance against the Commission members heralded irregularities in the filing of charges and hearings. In March 2014, the Court ruled to remove the Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz Hassan and decreed Thowfeek serve a suspended prison sentence of six months.

Opposition parties and international civil society organizations have questioned the legitimacy of these expulsions as it was contrary to provisions on dismissal of EC members under the Constitution. This ruling also emphasizes the larger implications of the SC’s interpretations of contempt of court includes violating basic rights, principles of separation of powers and infringes on the autonomy of independent commissions. Building on the experience of the 2013 Presidential election where the independence of the EC was a dominant issue, there exists the possibility of negative impacts on future electoral environments.

2. Removal of Auditor-General
The government has continued in this trend of undermining the autonomy of independent, oversight institutions and in October 2014, the PPM proposed an amendment to the Audit Act, and removed the Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim on a technical triviality, before the expiration of the constitutionally mandated term of his office. The amendment is problematic in that it bypasses existing provisions in the Constitution that clearly prescribe the sole grounds for removal of the Auditor General – misconduct, incapacity or incompetence. It must also be noted that the passing of the amendment and the consequent removal of the Auditor General coincided with the release of an incriminating audit report implicating the current Tourism Minister. The opposition MDP protested the amendment as unconstitutional, nevertheless, it passed with 36 votes in favour and 22 against.

Ibrahim’s appointment as Auditor General was approved by Parliament in 2011 as President Nasheed’s nominee. During his tenure, Ibrahim presided over a spate of audit assessments into allegations of corruption under President Nasheed’s presidency, that were widely welcomed by the PPM at the time, as well as appraisals on corruption in the term of the current administration.

3. Removal of SC judges
In December 2014, a controversial amendment was submitted by an MDP MP to the Judicature Act to reduce the number of SC judges from seven to five. Following the amendment to the Act on 10 December 2014, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) recommended the removal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Muthasim Adnan citing “gross misconduct” as basis. This decision by the JSC to remove these judges without publicising the criteria against which they were evaluated raised questions about the transparency and fairness of the process.

On 15 December 2014, the Parliament approved the JSC’s recommendation by a two-thirds majority with 53 votes in favour and 21 against. Six of the JP members voted in favour as well as MDP MP Reeko Moosa Manik. Some MDP members did not attend the parliament session and allegations that opposition MDP MPs were offered bribes to stay out of the session ensured. The MDP has even followed-up with disciplinary proceedings against some MPs, including the expulsion of Manik.

This contentious removal of SC judges severely undermines the independence and integrity of the judiciary and exacerbates the allegations of political interference with the judicial system. The removal of both judges were heavily criticized by the opposition MDP, independent lawyers, the international community – including the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and civil society groups. These actors highlighted the fact that upholding judicial integrity requires a concerted effort to reform the broader aspects of the judicial sector, especially the oversight mechanisms in place such as the JSC.

‘Kulli massalathah’ or national issues

1. Malé water crisis
A few “kulli massala” or urgent national issue cases were submitted to the Parliament in 2014. One of the most critical was following the Malé city water crisis, submitted by PPM. It called on the state to fully investigate of the causes of the crisis, and to undertake expedient efforts to solve the water shortage.

The crisis started with a fire at Malé’s only water purification plant, cutting off supply to every household. The government immediately formed a taskforce, headed by then Defence Minister Nazim. Drinking water supplies were quickly airlifted into Maldives by India and other friendly states including China and the US, somewhat alleviating the immediate crisis. Political rhetoric was brought into furore when the government’s response in the aftermath of the crisis was to ask for public donations of US$ 20 million to help fully normalize the situation.

The opposition MDP and civil society groups countered stating the lack of detailed information on the part of government authorities on the investigation into the issue, the arbitrary nature of the aid amount as well as need for soliciting aid from the public citing the government-owned Malé Water and Sewerage Company’s apparent lack of contingency plans. In the midst of the crisis, the MDP also passed a resolution to handover the presidency to JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, in an act largely viewed as an attempt to destabilise the government. Civil society groups responded to the resolution alluding that it inferred overruling constitutional electoral processes and called on all political parties to operate within the boundaries set in the Constitution.

2. Disappearance of journalist Rilwan
In August 2014, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, a journalist working for local newspaper Minivan News, disappeared and was allegedly abducted, and has been missing since. While the Maldives Police Service maintain they are investigating the disappearance, they have not been forthcoming with information or updates to either the public or Abdulla’s family. His family have since taken up a public campaign calling for state authorities to expedite the search and investigation efforts. The opposition and some civil society organizations have alleged state involvement invoking Abdulla’s prominence as a strong critic of the government on social media.

The Human Rights Commission has stated that state authorities are dragging their feet to address this matter and local and international actors have echoed similar concerns. A local NGO has, with the help of a UK-based investigator, undertaken an investigation into Abdulla’s disappearance, alleging involvement of gangs and have shared these findings with the police. The Home Minister has since acknowledged gang connections to the incident, but denied any state involvement in Abdulla’s disappearance and responded that the opposition were hindering investigations with such speculation.

The initial “kulli massala” issue submitted by MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy on Abdulla’s disappearance was accepted with bipartisan support on 19 August, eleven days after his alleged abduction. Since then, a 5,055 signature petition calling on parliamentary committees to investigate the disappearance and address police laxity in conducting the investigation was rejected by the Parliament. The Parliament’s Secretary-General stated the petition was rejected on an administrative technicality, which was contended by Fahmy, who argued he fulfilled all submission procedures.

1. Chaired by current Tourism Minister Adeeb. Board members are not reimbursed for their service, and thus, as claimed by the government, the appointments are not in contravention to restrictions placed on cabinet ministers in the Maldives Constitution, or the SEZ Act itself. The Constitution restricts members of the Cabinet from holding any other public office or office of profit, actively engage in a business or in the practice of any profession, or any other income generating employment, be employed by any person, buy or lease any property belonging to the State, or have a financial interest in any transaction between the State and another party. The government stated that the Board would not gain any financial profit, and would only act in the capacity of a governing body.
2. The current Attorney General is MP Nasheed’s partner at his law firm, “Nasheed Anil & Co.”
3.  Including the ongoing trial of former President Nasheed.

4. The procedure regarding the filing of charges and subsequent hearings were irregular:

– The Elections Commission did not receive a formal charge sheet until the defense team attended the SC for the second hearing on 18 February.
– The case was presided over by 5 out the 7 SC Justices. The Suo Motu Regulations specify that cases under it should be presided over by the full bench unless decided otherwise by the SC.
– The SC had not provided to the defense team the specific statements that allegedly involved contempt. The SC also had not clarified the exact manner EC violated SC’s ruling and order on political parties. In addition, the SC brought up charges on alleged violation of orders and ruling during the Presidential Elections.


This review looks into the work of the 18th Parliament. A total of ten bills and several amendments were passed in 2014. A number of appointments to key institutions and controversial removals were debated on the Parliament floor.
Important bills and amendments passed
1. Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act
The legislation on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) was submitted to the Parliament in October 2013 and passed on 1 April 2014. The legislation, which complies with the United Nations Convention against Corruption standards, plays an important role in exposing and preventing criminal and illicit activities such as terrorism financing, kleptocracy, narco-trafficking, human trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, counterfeiting currency, corruption, and transnational organised crimes.
Money laundering has potentially destructive social and economic consequences. It allows criminals such as drug traffickers, corrupt officials, and transnational organised crime syndicates to introduce illicit proceeds or “dirty money” into legitimate finance streams as legal funds. This not only erodes the integrity of the international financial system, but it also impacts economic development at the domestic level. Therefore, one of the major benefits of the AML/CTF Act is that it helps fight crime and corruption. Those who commit criminal acts and those who assist in laundering are criminalised and prosecuted under the Act. Punitive measures include confiscation and forfeiture of money laundering proceeds.
According to a report in 2011 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), prior to the AML/CTF Act, only the proceeds of drug crimes were criminalised in the Maldives under money laundering. The IMF report also highlighted that local radicalised groups are involved in financing terrorism abroad rather than in the Maldives. Similarly, according to the US State Department’s 2013 country report on terrorism, local radicalised groups use informal money transfer networks instead of more formal systems, which makes exposing a conspiracy to commit terror acts more difficult in countries with non-existent or weak national anti-money laundering systems. Therefore, AML/CTF Act provides Maldives with a strong framework to extend beyond criminalising only the proceeds of drug trafficking to expose and prevent a wide range of criminal activities, including the financing of terrorism.

2. Penal Code
The new penal code is the result of efforts that began around 2004 to reform and modernise the criminal justice system in the Maldives. Political opposition groups, governmental bodies, and civil society actors argued that the old penal code was outdated and ill-equipped to dispense appropriate punishments to offences.
Consequently, in 2004, owing to the demand for legal reforms, the Maldivian government with support from the United Nations Development Programme sought the consultancy of Professor Paul H. Robinson of University of Pennsylvania and his PhD students in drafting a new penal code. The final draft of the legislation was submitted to the Parliament in 2006, where it spent seven years under deliberations.
In the meantime, the ceaseless support for a new penal code continued. For example, in 2009, the Attorney General at the time, Husnu Suood, argued that the prosecutorial guidelines for offences were not appropriate and actually obstructed justice. Similarly, the parliamentary member at the time for Kulhudhufushi constituency, Mohamed Nasheed, pointed out that Maldivians faced “bitter experiences” under the criminal system because an outdated penal code was its essential pillar. These sentiments and the urgent need for legal reforms were also captured in a 2011 report by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, which stated that criminalising offences such as rape has been difficult precisely because the old penal code did not classify rape as a specific offence. The report also noted that the outdated legislation was inadequate to deal with grave crimes such as murder—including murder stemming from gang violence—and infanticide, thereby further crippling the criminal justice system.
In April 2004, the new penal code was finally passed, making it the first modern, comprehensive penal code in the world to incorporate the major tenets and principles of Islamic law. After having been given a year to design an effective implementation plan, the penal code is scheduled to be enforced after April 2015.
3. Special Economic Zone Act
The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act was passed in August 2014. The Act states guidelines and procedural aspects of investing, establishing and managing special zones at various areas of the country. It lays an edifice for economic, industrial, social, financial and infrastructural development. It allows economic activities to be carried out under a relatively liberal manner through tax exemptions to investors and developers. Free Trade Zones, Export Processing Zones, Zones reserved for offshore-financial services and high-tech parks can be established within the ambit of the Act.
The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the major proponent of the SEZ bill, claimed that the Act will offer a more liberal investment climate and thereby bring mega-projects into the country.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), on the other hand, proposed over 180 amendments to the bill and argued that it encourages money laundering activities and undermines the decentralisation system. However, none of the amendments proposed by MDP was passed. Both MDP and Jumhooree Party (JP) also argued that the law will result in “openly selling off the country” without parliamentary oversight.
4. Amendments to the the Judicature Act
In December the Judicature Act was amended, which included decreasing the number of judges of the Supreme Court bench from seven to five. This—as highlighted in the December edition of the Parliament Update—raised concerns about the political influence on the judiciary in the Maldives. 
Key appointments

The year 2014 saw key appointments to various state institutions.
The new Prosecutor General Muhuthaz Muhsin was appointed in July 2014. The position was vacant since the former Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu resigned in November 2013. Although the Prosecutor General’s Act states that the position must be filled within 30 days of vacancy, more than seven months passed before Muhsin was appointed.
Two new members Amjad Musthafa and Ahmed Sulaiman were elected to the Elections Commission in November 2014. The position became vacant upon the removal of the former President of the Commission, Fuad Thaufeeq, and a Commission member, Ahmed Fayaz, by a suo moto case by the Supreme Court.
The current Auditor General Hassan Ziyath was appointed on 24 November 2014. The removal of the former Auditor General—as highlighted in the October edition of the Parliament Update—raised concerns among opposition MPs.
Moreover, the former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Muthasim Adnan were removed subsequent to amendments to the Judicature Act. On 14 December 2014 Abdulla Saeed was appointed as the new Chief Justice.
Attendance of MPs during the year
A total of 59 sittings were conducted by the 18th Parliament in 2014. It is worth noting that out of 85 MPs, only 16 MPs attended all sittings held during the year. The only MP who attended less than 50 percent of the sittings was Ahmed Siyam Mohamed of Meedhoo Constituency.
The following pie-chart depicts the attendance of MPs in 2014.
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The chart below shows a party-level breakdown of the attendance.

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