UN says Nasheed’s trial was flawed, but Maldivian govt maintains it was...

UN says Nasheed’s trial was flawed, but Maldivian govt maintains it was legal

P K Balachandran,

The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), which went into the trial of former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed had listed the flaws in it and asked the Maldivian government to release him to enable him to contest the September 2018 Presidential election.

But the government on Sunday rejected the UNHRC’s observations and recommendations and asserted that it had followed the law and the constitution of the land to the letter, and that there is no way that Nasheed can contest the next election under the law.

The UNHRC had found that the judicial proceedings under which Nasheed was convicted violated his rights to due process of law under Article 14 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The panel’s specific observations made public on April 16 were follows:

“The crime of terrorism as established in the Prevention of Terrorism Act is formulated in a broad and vague fashion that is susceptible to wide interpretation as in Nasheed’s case, and does not comply with the principle of legal certainty and predictability.”

“The Committee also observes that the trial started the day after Nasheed’s arrest, when he was notified of the charges. But he was not allowed to be represented by a counsel of his choice.”

“The State party (ie: the Maldivian government) has not shown that Nasheed had been given adequate time to prepare his defense.”

“Against this background, the Committee considers that the judicial proceedings in which Nasheed was finally convicted and sentenced for terrorism violated the right to fair trial, and therefore, that his rights under Article 14(1) and (3) of the Covenant were violated.”

The UNHRC further said that the restriction on President Nasheed’s ability to run for office, resulting from his “arbitrary” conviction on terrorism charges, was equally arbitrary.

In conclusion, the Committee stated: “The state party is under an obligation to provide Nasheed with an effective remedy.

Prof. Sarah Cleveland, a member of the Committee, said in the official UNHRC press release announcing the decision: “Political rights can be suspended or restricted only in exceptional circumstances and under certain conditions. And judicial proceedings that violate the right to fair trial can render the resulting restriction of political rights arbitrary.”

Further, “this requires it to make full reparation to individuals whose Covenant rights have been violated. Accordingly, the State party is obligated, inter alia, to: (a) quash Nasheed’s conviction and (b) restore his right to stand for office, including the office of President.

Nasheed to “save region”

In response to the UHRC’s demand for the restoration of his civil and political rights, Nasheed said that it is important for him to contest the next Presidential election because if he does not, the entire Indian Ocean will be in peril.

“The forthcoming presidential elections in the Maldives will have implications on the stability, security, and safety of all countries in the Indian Ocean.”

“If we do not take the proper approach, we will be fueling a cold war in the Indian Ocean,” he said in a statement put out by his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“More than 70 percent of international ocean trade passes through the Maldives. As gatekeepers for this commerce, if we relinquish democracy and transparency it will not only harm us but also the wider security of the Indian Ocean and the wider world.”

Abduction of Judge is “terrorism” under PTA, says Govt

The Maldivian government on Sunday rejected the UNHRC’s demands. The government said that it holds the conviction of Nasheed as “lawful and final.”

The government noted with “concern” that although a detailed submission was filed in response to complaints, very little, if any, consideration had been given to those submissions.

Former President Nasheed was charged for having ordered the abduction of a sitting judge, a government statement recalled and pointed out that under Sec 2 (b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, the intention of kidnapping or abduction of person(s) or of taking hostage(s) is a cognizable terrorist act.

“President Nasheed had confessed through various public statements, both in local and international forums and via media, that the arrest of the judge was in response to his wishes and that he would do it again,” the statement pointed out.

“Nasheed contested the Presidential Election in 2013 while the initial judicial process was still on. Both his contestation and the national campaign he led, refute the assertion that charges against him were intended to hinder his political aspirations,” the government contended.

Contesting elections

As Nasheed had been convicted lawfully, the restrictions on his political participation and association were justified and reasonable under the laws and regulations of the Maldives as well as the rulings of the courts of the Maldives, the statement said.

It pointed out that Article 109 (f) of the Maldivian constitution states that such a prospective contestant in an election shall not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced.

Since Nasheed was convicted on 13 March 2015, and sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment, he would not be eligible to run for the Office of the President unless a period of three years had elapsed since his release or pardon, the government said.

A fugitive who misused medical leave

The government also noted that the former President was granted permission to travel abroad to seek medical treatment and that following expiry of the medical leave, he has failed to return to serve his sentence.

He remains a fugitive from the law, and thus cannot contest the next elections, the government said.