By Mohamed Visham
United Nations (UN) Working Group on arbitrary detention has ruled in favour of jailed Maldives ex-president Mohamed Nasheed but the government has quickly said it would not accept the decision.
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison in March over the arbitrary arrest of chief criminal judge Abdulla Mohamed during his presidency.
The ex-president through his high profile legal team had filed the case with the UN group in April claiming that he has been arbitrarily detained through seriously flawed trial. Maldives' international partners including the US, UK and the UN had backed Nasheed's claims by voicing concern with the process that led to his ultimate conviction.
The government had also hired international counsel to submit points in its defence to the UN group.
The foreign ministry in a statement late Wednesday said the government does not accept the opinion of the UN Group after accusing it of failing to consider a number of salient points submitted in defence of Nasheed's claims.
"The Government of Maldives maintains its position of engagement, however, it does not accept the decision of the WGAD and will not be made to act on the basis of a non-binding opinion," the statement said.
However, the statement quickly insisted that Nasheed's grievances must be addressed through Maldives' appellate courts.
In an unprecedented move, the state initiated Nasheed's appeal after the ex-president had foregone his right to appeal.
But the High Court after one pre-trial hearing had decided not to accept the appeal.
"In addressing this point with the WGAD, it is of course accepted that there is no requirement for the petitioner to exhaust all domestic remedies prior to submitting a petition, however it must be noted that the domestic process is still on-going and that those issues raised by the former President are capable of being rectified on appeal despite his position of non-engagement," the foreign ministry statement said.
The statement had also highlighted that after the High Court had rejected the state initiated appeal, the prosecutor general had filed a further appeal with the Supreme Court.
"The actions of the Prosecutor General in filing such an appeal, a step that is taken independently of the former President, and not dependent on his engagement, clearly underline the commitment of the Maldives and its offices to the rule of law and points of procedural fairness," the statement read.
In light of all the efforts by the government to ensure Nasheed's grievances with his sentence are addressed through the appeal, the statement said the UN Group's ruling proved that it was 'premature.'
The government insisted that the UN Group's opinion cannot be adhered to while the domestic process was on-going as it would mean interference in the country's judicial system.
"The Government of Maldives cannot intervene in an on-going process on the basis of who the individual is. To do so would be an example of bias and undermine the judicial process."
In the statement, the government further said the UN Group's ruling has been left to the decision of the Supreme Court.
The government also urged the ex-president to cooperate with the efforts to have his case heard by the appellate courts.
Haveeru Online, September 30, 2015