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Maldives seeks to establish Interim Justice Ombudsman Office

Mariyam Malsa
29 October 2019, MVT 13:03
Former members of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) speaking at the parliament. HUSSAIN WAHEED/MIHAARU.
Mariyam Malsa
29 October 2019, MVT 13:03

The government proposed the establishment of an Interim Justice Ombudsman Office to investigate human rights violations committed by leading officials of institutions and ensure justice for victims.

The interim justice bill was amended to grant the Ombudsman Office the right to conduct investigations and file charges.

Hithadhoo Central MP Ahmed Rasheed submitted the bill on behalf of the administration. He stated that the legislation would be aimed at seeking justices for institutionalized injustices committed by institutions or state officials between January 2012 and November 17, 2018.

As per the bill, the commission will be comprised of three members appointed by the president, with one serving as the Chief Ombudsman.

In order to meet the criteria, Ombudsman must be a Muslim of at least 30 years of age and should not be registered under any political party or be serving in any government, political or elected position. Candidates also must not have any proven criminal charges and should not have committed any act punishable under Islamic sharia. Furthermore, the candidate must not have participated in any action impinging on human rights or have any allegations of such actions.

In addition to investigating cases concerning institution heads, the Ombudsman Office is responsible for holding culpable individuals accountable as per provisions in the interim justice bill.

Following the conclusion of investigations, the Ombudsman Office would have the authority to file criminal charge cases to the Prosecutor General’s Office, and civil charge cases to the Attorney General’s Office.

The bill further mandates that, upon a case being submitted to the Prosecutor General’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office, a decision regarding filing of charges must be made within 15 days. If a decision were made to proceed with the charges, the bill mandates that within 45 days it would have to be observed by the court and a verdict issued.

Additional rights of the Interim Justice Ombudsman Office

- Compiling rules for the Ombudsman Office

- Acquiring assistance from other institutions to fulfil responsibilities

- Summoning individuals for questioning and take statements in relation to investigations

- In cases where technical aid is needed, the commission possesses the power to bring in investigators from relevant international authorities

- The Ombudsman Office will have the same rights as a Presidential Commission

As per the bill, the Interim Justice Ombudsman Office is mandated to operate independently from undue influence and in a manner that is in the interest of society.

Individuals accused in cases under investigation by the Ombudsman Office are granted the right to speak in their defence and acquire the services of a lawyer.

As per the bill, any action to interfere with investigations of the Ombudsman Office will be considered obstruction of justice. Such matters can be handed over to the police for investigation.

The interim justice bill also includes provisions regarding the setting of salaries and benefits of employees at the Ombudsman Office after consulting with the Ministry of Finance.

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