Online Roundtable Discussions held for Members of the Judiciary of the Maldives

The event took place in cooperation with the Maldives Department of Judicial Administration and the Maldives Judicial Academy

On 8, 9 and 10 November 2020, the Max Planck Foundation hosted a series of Roundtable Panel Discussions for the judiciary of the Maldives on the topic of “Judicial Independence and Impartiality”. Six panel discussions were held with international expert panelists on various intricacies of this topic, across the three days. Magistrates, Superior Court judges, High Court judges and Justices Aishath Shujune Muhammad and Husnu Al Suood of the Supreme Court of the Maldives attended the event.

The first panel discussion examined the means of protecting judicial independence and impartiality in the formal court functioning. Justice Bertus de Villiers, Member of the Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia, detailed how judicial reasoning may enhance and enforce these ethical principles. This was followed by an intervention by Judge Eyad Alsamhan, Judge of the Arabic Court of Jordan, about independent and impartial judicial courtroom conduct. During the second panel discussion, participants were introduced to challenges to judicial independence and impartiality posed by the contemporary legal environment. Justice Bertus de Villiers examined the special measures taken by many states to ensure ethical access to justice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building upon this, Cristina San Juan Serrano, Consultant to the UNODC Judicial Integrity Group, discussed the challenges and opportunities for independence and impartiality created by social media and other technological advancements.

The third panel addressed the need for courts to develop a public persona to enhance trust in their work. Justice Mathilda Twomey, Justice of the Court of Appeal of the Seychelles, detailed the relationship between transparency and judicial independence and impartiality, emphasising the importance of open justice. Professor Dr. Guntur Hamzah, Secretary-General of the Constitutional Court of Indonesia, introduced participants to innovative public relations strategies and provided practical guidance to Court Public Relations Officers based on the Indonesian experience.

The fourth panel explored the balance judges must strike between their personal and professional lives. Justice Twomey examined the challenges to independence and impartiality unique to small island nations and provided the participants with practical advice to manage these challenges.  A Research Fellow from the Foundation explored the limitation of judges’ rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly by virtue of their judicial office.

The fifth panel examined how independence within the judiciary can be maintained. Justice Saldi Isra, Justice of the Constitutional Court of Indonesia, detailed how to shield oneself from influence by other judges within the judiciary, and balance the need for collegial working relationships with one’s independence and impartiality. Jordanian judge, Judge Alsamham explored how the courtroom arrangement and infrastructure may impact on perceived independence and, from a comparative perspective, detailed innovative approaches to enhancing accessibility and openness of courts.

The final panel discussion focused on institutional independence. Justice Saldi Isra discussed the importance of the separation of powers and the role of judges in protecting this principle. Following this, participants engaged in a robust discussion of this principle as a manifestation of judicial independence.

Throughout the three-day event, participants were encouraged to ask questions and share their personal experiences. The Roundtable panel discussions were closed by Justice Aishath Shujune Muhammad and one of the Managing Directors of the Max Planck Foundation, Johannes Krusemark-Camin.

The Foundation’s engagements in the Maldives are generously funded by the German Federal Foreign Office as part of the ongoing “Strengthening the Rule of Law in the Maldives” project.