Maldives: Supreme Court decision reversing its order to release political detainees smacks of illegitimacy

The judgment yesterday by three Supreme judges of a rump Supreme Court that overturned order of the full Supreme Court to release nine members of opposition political parties lacks legitimacy, the ICJ said today.

On 1 February, the Supreme Court had ordered the release of nine members of the opposition parties, who had been convicted for or charged with a wide range of offences, and held the cases required “retrial and judgments pursuant to the law”.

The petitioners had alleged the criminal proceedings against them were based on “political motivations” and were in violation of the Constitution of the Maldives and its international human rights obligations.

Instead of implementing the judgment, the Government responded by declaring a state of emergency and suspending a range of human rights protections.

On the night of 5 February, the national defense forces and the police forcefully entered the Supreme Court.

The Chief Justice held members of the forces in contempt of court, after which they dragged the Chief Justice out of the Court premises.

The Chief Justice and Justice Ali Hameed were later arrested on charges of corruption and “obstructing administration of law or other government function”.

On 6 February 2018, the remaining three judges of the Supreme Court overturned parts of the 1 February judgment, including the directions to release members of the opposition parties, “in light of the concerns raised by the President.”

“The judgment by three judges on Tuesday, reversing an order by the full court, lacks legitimacy. By unlawfully arresting two members of the Court, including the Chief Justice, the Government has effectively stripped the Supreme Court of all its independence and impartiality,” said Ian Seiderman, ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director.

“The arrest of judges Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed for carrying out their proper and legitimate judicial functions would have sent a clear message to the remaining judges that any exercise of independence that was contrary to wishes of the governments would not be tolerated,” Seiderman added.

The ICJ also highlighted that conduct of the remaining judges of the Supreme Court suggests a risk that they themselves could become complicit in ongoing human rights violations.

The ICJ also expressed concern at the health of Justice Ali Hameed, who was taken to the hospital on Tuesday night and is feared to be in critical condition.

His family has reportedly been denied access to him.

The ICJ has also learned that Justice Ali Hameed’s family members have been detained and are being denied access to lawyers.

There are also credible reports that suggest Justice Ali Hameed is being detained in very small cells with poor ventilation that get very hot because of direct sun exposure for prolonged periods – which could be a possible cause of his health condition.

“The detention of judges and their family members and their possible ill-treatment smacks of retribution, which is prohibited under Maldivian and international law,” said Seiderman.

The ICJ urged the Government to immediately lift the state of emergency, release judges of the Supreme Court and all other political prisoners, implement the 1 February ruling of the Supreme Court and ensure the independence of the judiciary.


Ian Seiderman, ICJ Legal and Policy Director, e: ian.seiderman(at)

Reema Omer, ICJ International Legal Adviser for South Asia (London), t: +447889565691; e: reema.omer(at)

Additional information

Under international standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, it is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary.

This means that there shall not be any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process and judges shall be free to decide cases without any restrictions, pressures, threats or interferences.

Furthermore, international standards provide that all complaints against judges in their judicial and professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under an appropriate procedure; they shall have the right to a fair hearing; and they shall be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to discharge their duties.

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