The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has been summoned to the Juvenile Court for a report that gave a “negative impression” of the court’s conduct during the sentencing of a 15 year old rape-victim to flogging and house arrest.
Following the release of the confidential report, the Juvenile Court has sent an order to every individual involved from the HRCM, summoning them to a court hearing this Wednesday (March 12) at 1:30pm.
The HRCM stated that they will release an official press statement after the court summons this Wednesday.
On February 26 2013 the Juvenile Court convicted the 15 year old girl on the grounds of fornication and sentenced her to 100 lashes and 8 months house arrest. The case attracted global concern from both local and international organisations, and the charges were later annulled in August of the same year.
Although the sentence was eventually annulled, the case attracted international attention to the Maldives’ juvenile court system and their policies in dealing with victims of sexual abuse.
Speaking with Minivan last year, HRCM member Jeehan Mahmoud said that the sentence represented a “continuous failure” on behalf of the whole state to protect children and other victims of sexual abuse.
The HRCM submitted an investigative report on how the court handled the case, taking into account safeguards, rights, and protections afforded to a victim of child abuse under the Maldivian constitution, Islamic Shariah, and international human rights standards.
Spokesperson for the Juvenile Court Zaima Nasheed explained that some points outlined in the HRCM report were not reflective of how the court conducted its work. She noted that it portrayed a negative impression of the court and tried to exert undue influence on its work.
Zaima added that the HRCM did not hold any discussions or ask for any questions from the Juvenile Court while they were compiling their review.
The Juvenile Court wished to clarify that they sent a letter to the HRCM last month to arrange a meeting, though the commission said that it would not be able to attend.
Following this, the court compiled a written document with all of its concerns and shared this with the HRCM. In addition to this, the court asked to meet again with the HRCM yesterday (March 9) at 10am. The HRCM did not respond to the letter and failed to attend the meeting, said Zaima.
In light of this, the HRCM was in breach of the constitution’s Articles 141, said Zaima. These state that no officials performing public functions can “interfere with and influence the functions of the courts”, instead they must “assist and protect the courts to ensure the independence, eminence, dignity, impartiality, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.”
Following the 15 year-old’s conviction, local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) called on the Maldivian government to pass legislation concerning the treatment of sexual abuse victims.
ARC also previously called for reforms of the juvenile justice system and reform of the current protection mechanisms provided to minors who are kept in state run institutions, such as homes and foster programs.