No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan
The Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) has urged President Abdulla Yameen to ensure the independence of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives and guarantee immunity from prosecution for its members.
All five members of the HRCM are currently on trial at the Supreme Court, which has initiated suo moto proceedings against the commission on charges of undermining the constitution by allegedly including false information in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission to the UN Human Rights Council.
“With the greatest respect, we urge you to preserve the independence of the HRCM and guarantee the immunity of members of the HRCM. The APF is willing to provide you any assistance you think fit on this matter.”
The APF is a member organisation of national human rights bodies of the Asia Pacific region with a membership of 22 institutions.
In its letter, APF noted that the HRCM was “a highly valued and respected member” of the organisation and expressed “gravest concern” over the Supreme Court’s actions.
The ongoing trial was “a concerning threat to the independence of the commission,” the organisation said.
The APF referred to Article 27(a) of the HRCM Act, which grants members immunity from prosecution for “committing or omitting an act in good faith”.
Moreover, Article 27(b) states that the commission could only be sued regarding published reports following an inquiry which establishes the falsehood of a component of the report.
“In addition, the UN international standards relating to NHRIs, the ‘Paris Principles’ set out, that in terms of a NHRIs independence, competence and responsibilities a NHRI is able to ‘contribute to the reports which States are required to submit to United Nations bodies and committees, and to regional institutions, pursuant to their treaty obligations and, where necessary, to express an opinion on the subject, with due respect for their independence,'” the APF letter stated.
At last week’s second hearing of the suo moto trial, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain slammed the commission for basing its observation – that the Supreme Court controlled and influenced the judiciary to the detriment of lower courts – on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul.
On Tuesday (September 30), the European Union (EU) delegation in Colombo and EU member states expressed concern with the Supreme Court trial undermining the HRCM’s independence.
Meanwhile, former Justice Minister Ahmed ‘Seena’ Zahir called on the public last week to speak out for judicial reform and warned of a burgeoning “judicial dictatorship.”