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Maldives Supreme Court sentences election commission members

The Supreme Court of the Maldives [official website] on Sunday dismissed the country's four top election commissioners, giving each a six-month jail sentence and three-year suspension for "disobeying orders." The commission members were tried [BBC report] after the passage of new rules that allowed the Supreme Court to initiate the proceedings. The rules enabled the court to essentially act as prosecutor, judge and jury during the trial. The charges resulted from [Reuters report] officials failing to follow election guidelines in allowing a presidential run-off after three previous attempts had been postponed or annulled by the court, and for disbanding eight political parties ahead of a parliamentary election this month. In a trial of two members of the commission last month, the court stated that the men must bear responsibility for "disobeying and challenging" Supreme Court judgements and orders, which were issued in its capacity as "the guardian of the constitution." The country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted in 2012 and lost a November run-off to current president Abdulla Yameen [JURIST news archives], criticized the judgments and has called on Maldivians citizens to protest. The election observation team from the EU said that the verdict would be studied carefully.

The judiciary in the Maldives has faced recent criticism. In November the Supreme Court of the Maldives suspended [JURIST report] the nation's presidential election for the third time. In October UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asserted [JURIST report] that the Supreme Court of the Maldives has meddled excessively in the nation's presidential elections. Last February the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers found that lawyers and judges in the Maldives are not adequately independent [JURIST report] from outside influence and called for a separation of powers between the parliament and court system. Earlier that month a Maldives court issued a second arrest warrant [JURIST report] for former president Nasheed on charges of the illegal detention of a judge. The charges against Nasheed stemmed from his unilateral order to arrest [JURIST report] Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on corruption charges last January, when Nasheed was still president. In 2012 Amnesty International revealed violent human rights violations [JURIST report] committed in the Maldives against opposition groups and called for an immediate independent investigation into the actions of security forces.

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