Foundation concludes second workshop for members of the Bar Council of the Maldives, in Malé – 23-25 April 2024

The workshop brought together thirty lawyers to discuss fair trial rights, evidence and criminal procedure. Held in Malé, the activity aimed to strengthen the knowledge and skills of practising and aspiring criminal defence lawyers, and to provide a forum to discuss shared challenges in undertaking this work.

The first day looked at the role of the criminal defence lawyer, and fair trial rights in international and domestic law. It also explored the multi-faceted challenges facing criminal defence lawyers, from moral and ethical burdens to social stigma and risks to physical safety. The day ended with an exercise to sensitise participants to the unique needs of vulnerable clients in criminal defence work. Day 2 was devoted to the new Evidence Act, which came into force in 2022. After an introductory session on an overview of the Act, local experts led sessions on specific areas such as expert and lay opinion evidence and electronic evidence. Finally, Foundation Research Fellows conducted a session on the examination of witnesses, which ended with an exercise requiring the participants to consider examination tactics in different scenarios. The final half day turned to practical considerations, with a session on a practitioner’s perspective on criminal defence being followed by a judge’s perspective. The workshop closed with a panel discussion and Q&A session with two lawyers and two judges of the Criminal Court as panellists.

The programme was delivered by Foundation Research Fellows and various local experts. These included Mr Hamza Latheef, Mr Ibrahim Shameel, Ms Aishath Zahaa, and Mr Ahmed Naufal. For the first time, the Max Planck Foundation was able to secure a regional expert to join via Zoom: Mr Hafeel Farisz, a defence lawyer from Sri Lanka who has been involved in several high-profile cases. The judges who participated were the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court of the Maldives, Mr Adam Mohamed, and Judge Ismail Shafeeu. For the second time running, the Foundation was able to bring perspectives from both the bench and bar to the workshop, which provided participants with unique and multi-faceted insights into how to best secure their client’s rights and pursue the interests of justice more generally.

This is the second workshop implemented with the Bar Council as part of the Foundation’s current project ‘At the Crossroad Between Progressive Reforms and Democratic Backsliding: Supporting the Stabilisation of the Maldives‘, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office. Further activities are planned for the year.