Maldives legislators dismiss chief justice and senior judge

69 mostly ruling party lawmakers voted to impeach chief justice and the judge, but opposition is against the dismissal.

     Chief Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi and judge Adam Mohamed Abdulla are accused by parliament-appointed judicial watchdog of violating the constitution and 'usurping' powers of parliament [File: Mohamed Sharuhaan/The Associated Press]
    Chief Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi and judge Adam Mohamed Abdulla are accused by parliament-appointed judicial watchdog of violating the constitution and 'usurping' powers of parliament [File: Mohamed Sharuhaan/The Associated Press]

    Maldives legislators voted on Monday to dismiss the chief justice and a supreme court judge - a move the government said was part of an overhaul of the judiciary but the opposition branded an attack on the independence of the courts.

    Legislators said they were acting on the recommendation of the parliament-appointed judicial watchdog, which said this month that some of the top court's judges had violated the constitution and "usurped the powers of parliament".

    There was no immediate comment from Chief Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi, Judge Adam Mohamed Abdulla, or their offices.

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    Amnesty International said in 2018 it was concerned about the lack of judicial independence in the Indian Ocean nation, but did not immediately issue a statement about Monday's vote.

    President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih came to power in September 2018, promising to improve law enforcement and end what he called corruption in the country's institutions.

    Two months later, the Judicial Service Commission watchdog launched an investigation into senior judges.

    Last month, it said it found 17 instances where the top court's judges had "violated the constitution or usurped the powers of parliament of independent state institutions".

    Those violations, it said, included the suspension of dozens of lawyers after they called for judicial reforms and a ruling that stripped a dozen legislators of their seats after they joined the then-opposition, now-ruling party, in 2017.

    The supreme court and its judges have not commented during the course of the investigation. The watchdog said the chief justice's office had received a copy of the report but returned it.

    Chairman of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, Hassan Latheef, said the vote was a milestone in its reform efforts.

    "I believe we still do have enormous work to shape up a modern judiciary," he said.

    Opposition legislator Adam Shareef said he accepted there were problems with the judicial system, "but we believe that the dismissal of the chief justice is against the spirit of the constitution."

    "The current government with its huge majority is meddling in the judiciary," he said.

    A total of 69 mostly ruling-party legislators voted to impeach the chief justice and the judge, MPs and officials said, more than the two-thirds majority needed in the 87-member house to push the motion through under the Constitution.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency