Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon has called on the international community to refrain from undermining the Maldives’ judicial system.
“We request our international partners to support us. We request you to contribute constructively in overcoming our challenges. We urge you not to undermine our judicial system,” said Dunya during the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council yesterday.
“We call on all to respect our institutions, young though they may be. And we urge you to base your partnership with us on dialogue and cooperation, not on judgment and retribution,” she added.
She pledged the government’s commitment to “uphold universal human rights norms and values” without compromising the country’s “religious and cultural identity and heritage in the process of change”.
The Maldives Judiciary have been the subject of criticism from a number of UN and other international bodies in recent months.
The UN Human Rights Committee on civil and political rights has said it is “deeply concerned about the state of the judiciary in the Maldives”, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last year accused the Supreme Court of “subverting the democratic process”.
UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul expressed concern over the judiciary in a 2013 report, with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) had in 2011 stated that the Maldivian courts were failing to serve the public impartially.
As recently as last week the US state department described the Maldives’ judiciary as “not independent and impartial” and “subject to influence and corruption”.
The Supreme Court is currently pursuing contempt of court charges against the Elections Commission over comments made in a privileged parliamentary committee regarding the annulment of last year’s presidential election first round.
European Union and civil society groups have expressed concern over the courts current proceedings.
Democratic transition and human rights
Dunya said the country’s “long walk towards consolidating human rights” began with her father, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s reform agenda in 2004 and it was this agenda that brought a democratic constitution and “full separation of powers” to the Maldives.
Acknowledging that some “setbacks” were faced in the journey, she said that the Maldives has today reached further maturity in its democratic evolution with the “peaceful conclusion” of a “fully transparent” presidential elections.
Stating that president Abdulla Yameen, her uncle, had brought stability to the Maldives, Dunya highlighted the ratification of anti-human trafficking and anti-torture acts.
“The government of president Yameen has proven to be resilient and committed to ensuring a free and fair environment for the people in exceeding their political rights as citizen”. She said.
Referring to the controversial transfer of power in February 2012, Dunya suggested that the people of Maldives had since shown their commitment towards “actualizing democracy through due process” even when faced with international criticism and political upheaval.
Addressing the council for the first time since Maldives’ re-election for a second term as a member of the council, the minister said that being a member had helped Maldives to take ‘some unprecedented and bold measures’ to bring national human rights mechanisms up to international standards.
Dunya said the Maldives had been vocal against terrorism, religious extremism, and Islamophobia throughout its first term, while also speaking for the people of Palestine, Libya , Syria, and all those affected by climate change – with a special focus on the rights of women, children, and persons with disabilities.
She reiterated the Maldives’ call to cease all acts violence against innocent civilians of all communities in the Central African Republic. She said Maldives will continue to stand by “brothers and sisters” in Palestine and called for it to be recognised as an independent and sovereign state with full membership of the United Nations.
The foreign ministry has stated that Dunya will meet UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Mr Iyad Ameen Madani, and other bilateral and multilateral partners, during her stay in Geneva.
The Maldives council delegation will discuss issues such as human rights and the environment, and freedom of expression and opinion, and will also discuss freedom of religion or belief with the OIC.
The foreign minister’s statement at the council can be viewed here.