Maldives judicial watchdog denies requesting Commonwealth for legal advisor

One of the court rooms at the Criminal Court. MIHAARU FILE PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

One of the court rooms at the Criminal Court. MIHAARU FILE PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

Judicial watchdog Thursday denied requesting the Commonwealth for a legal advisor to aid in judicial reform.

Commonwealth had said it was looking to appoint a legal advisor to assist the ongoing efforts in the Maldives to reform its judiciary laden with allegations of corruption and politicization.

In an announcement, Commonwealth said the senior legal advisor would undertake an assessment of the Maldives Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and its work and to make recommendations for its reform.

The advisor who would receive £48,400 (MVR98,800) per annum would also provide advice to the JSC in order to ensure that it upholds its constitutional and statutory obligations and functions as an independent institution, the announcement read.

However, JSC director Hassan Zaheen insisted that the commission had not even discussed any plans for reform with the Commonwealth.

“We haven’t even discussed that among ourselves. So how can we approach the Commonwealth?” Zaheen added.

The 53 member country bloc has made the promotion of rule of law by upholding both the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in the Maldives as its primary goal.

In July, the Commonwealth appointed a special envoy to aid in the process of constitutional and political transition.

Dr Willy Mutunga tasked with ending the ongoing political strife in the Maldives had concluded his first to the archipelago earlier this month.

Mutunga who retired as Kenya’s chief justice in June is mandated to “consult with all relevant stakeholders to encourage the strengthening of a pluralist, multi-party democracy, steps towards credible and inclusive presidential elections in 2018 and the advancement of reforms to give full effect to the separation of powers,” according to the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth has meanwhile threatened action if there is no progress on dialogue by September.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, a watchdog body comprising of eight foreign ministers, laid out a six-point reform agenda in February, which includes the release of political prisoners and judicial reform.

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