September 20, 2017
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has joined a number of prominent international non-governmental organisations in calling on the Supreme Court of the Maldives to rescind the indefinite suspension of 56 lawyers who signed a joint petition raising concerns over the conduct of the judiciary and calling for judicial reforms and independence.
Following receipt of the petition, the Department of Judicial Administration published an announcement via Twitter stating that 56 lawyers would be indefinitely suspended from legal practice and investigated for obstructing the independence of the judiciary, remarking on the duties of the judiciary and attempting to influence the courts by preparing and signing an illegal document against the jurisdiction, procedures and decisions of the courts in violation of various laws, including the Constitution of the Maldives.
It is reported that the lawyers’ petition had raised several rule of law concerns including the Court’s alleged tendency to rule on critical matters late at night and suspend dissenting lawyers without due process. The UN Human Rights Council has previously raised concerns about violations of the right to a fair trial and allegations of political bias by the judiciary of the Maldives, however the Maldivian Government rejects all such criticism as unlawful infringements against the judiciary.
ALHR President Benedict Coyne said, “It appears that none of the 56 lawyers have been allowed to exercise their right to defend themselves or be heard before a professional disciplinary body and have no redress mechanism available to challenge their suspension.”