Rights group decries judges' sacking in Maldives

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — An international rights group on Thursday criticized the dismissal of two top judges in the Maldives, including the chief justice, calling it an assault on judicial independence.

Parliament in the Indian Ocean nation voted last Sunday to remove Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Supreme Court Justice Muthasim Adnan to reduce the bench from seven to five.

The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists on Thursday called the removal arbitrary and unlawful because the judges had not been given a fair hearing.

"The Maldivian Parliament and executive have effectively decapitated the country's judiciary and trampled on the fundamental principles of the rule of law and separation of powers in a democratic state," the group's Asia Pacific director, Sam Zarifi, said in a statement.

Parliament amended the law earlier this month to reduce the size of the Supreme Court bench and directed the Judicial Services Commission to decide on the judges to be removed. The commission suggested the names of Hussain and Adnan, citing unspecified "misconduct."

Critics say those judges were selected because the government did not like them.

"The removal of the Supreme Court judges was astonishingly arbitrary," Zarifi said.

He said the "superficial legislative and administrative maneuvers" were in violation of the country's constitution and United Nations and Commonwealth standards.

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