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Maldives curtails rights of detainees during state of emergency

Fathmath Shaahunaz
06 February 2018, MVT 12:20
Riot police on the streets of Male after President Yameen declared a state of emergency on February 5, 2018. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
06 February 2018, MVT 12:20

The government of the Maldives on Tuesday suspended another Article of the Constitution during the ongoing state of emergency, which curbs the rights of arrested or detained persons.

The resolution on the state of emergency was updated to include Subjects (a), (c) and (d) of Article 48 of the Constitution, which states the “Rights on arrest or detention.” With the new development, the government has suspended an arrested or detained person’s rights:

“To be informed immediately of the reasons therefore, and in writing within at least twenty four hours”

"To remain silent, except to establish identity, and to be informed of this right"

“To be brought within twenty four hours before a Judge, who has power to determine the validity of the detention, to release the person with or without conditions, or to order the continued detention of the accused”.

However, Subject (b), which asserts the right “to retain and instruct legal counsel without delay and to be informed of this right, and to have access to legal counsel facilitated until the conclusion of the matter for which he is under arrest or detention” was not withheld.

President Abdulla Yameen had declared the state of emergency late Monday, which would be in force for a period of 15 days. According to his aide, the reason for the declaration was the obstruction of the functioning of government due to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling late Thursday, which ordered the release of political prisoners and reinstated 12 legislators that were unseated for defecting from the ruling party.

Other Articles of the Constitution suspended with the declaration include: Article 24: Privacy, Article 29: Freedom of information, 
Article 31: Right to Strike, 
Article 32: Freedom of Assembly, 
Article 43: Fair and Administrative Action, 
Article 44: Personal Liability, 
Article 45: No unlawful arrest or detention, 
Article 46: Power of arrest and detention, 
Article 47: Search and seizure, 
Article 49: Right Release of accused, 
Article 50: Right Prompt investigation and prosecution, 
Article 56: Right to appeal, 
Article 58: Right to Compensation, 
Article 65: Application to Court to obtain a remedy, 
Article 99: Summoning persons, 
Article 100: Removal of President or Vice President
, Article 101: Vote of no confidence in a member of the Cabinet, 
Article 113: Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, 
Article 145 (c): Supreme Court as final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution and matters dealt with by a court of law, the 
Criminal Procedure Act, and 
Judicature Act 12 and 14.

Five arrests were made in the wake of the declaration with former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his son-in-law Mohamed Nadeem arrested from their home in the capital, and Chief Justice Abdullah Saeed, Judge Ali Hameed and Judicial Service Administrator Hassan Saeed arrested on the premises of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the opposition has called foul and declared the state of emergency illegal, as Article 253 of the Constitution states that a state of emergency can only be declared in the event of a natural disaster, dangerous epidemic disease, war, threat to national security, or threatened foreign aggression.

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