A team of independent experts has conducted a capacity assessment on the Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM), recommending the institution remove the proviso in its regulations which stipulates all members must be Muslim.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Chris Sidoti from the Asia Pacific Forum said he hoped the recommendation would not be overplayed as the constitution already mandated that only Muslims can be citizens of the Maldives.
The team of four, including delegates from UNDP and the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, made two further recommendations after shadowing the HRCM for the past two weeks.
They advised the commission to open up the nomination of its members to the public and non-governmental institutions. At present, names are proposed by the president and approved by parliament.
A third recommendation involved changing the commissionâ€™s regulations to allow for greater engagement at an international level.
HRCM President Ahmed Saleem said, â€œThe recommendations in the draft are very valid and well thought out.â€
Sidoti said if all three recommendations were fulfilled, the HRCM would receive international accreditation, allowing it to participate fully in all human rights forums.
He added the changes would improve the Maldivesâ€™ chances of getting elected to the UN Human Rights Council.
Sidoti praised the commissionâ€™s efforts over the past three years, which have seen the institution grow from four employees to around fifty.
â€œWithin such a rapidly changing climate and despite the geography of the country and lack of higher education, these commissioners have produced a very good organisation with very good staff,â€ he said.
On the financial constraints currently faced by the HRCM, Sidoti said that while the commission was not legally obliged to comply with the governmentâ€™s request, he was positive the institution would want to â€œcontribute as much as anyoneâ€.
The ministry of finance has requested the HRCM impose pay cuts for all employees in line with its cost-cutting measures. This month all civil servants had their salaries reduced by up to 20 per cent, while political appointees had their reduced in September.
But at a meeting with President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday, the heads of six independent institutions said there was no specific law which empowered them to reduce the salaries of their employees.
The human rights experts met with the home affairs committee yesterday, requesting their assistance in implementing recommendations, said Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South Mohamed Nasheed, chairman of the committee.
The question of the HRCMâ€™s financial independence was raised at the meeting, he said, adding once parliament had approved the commissionâ€™s budget, the governmentâ€™s only responsibility was to â€œwrite the chequeâ€.
â€œThey wanted us to bring amendments to reflect full financial independence,â€ he said.
Nasheed said MPs would now complete a report and submit it to the floor for approval. Further, once parliament adopted the new rules of procedure, a human rights committee would be established, providing a platform for debate on the HRCMâ€™s findings.