The protestors carried signboards with angry slogans, including “Islam is not a toy”, “Ban UN” and “Flog Pillay”, and called on authorities to arrest the UN High Commisioner.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that the sizeable protest was contained and there were no confrontations.
“Police cordoned off the area so people could not enter the UN building or the roads leading to the building. The protest was pretty heated, but there were no confrontations or arrests,” he said.
After a break for Sunset Prayer, protesters renewed their efforts at the Tsunami Memorial.
Shiyam said police guarded the UN building during the evening protest, and kept appraised of its movements.
No concerns have been voiced to the police by the UN.
During a press conference on Thursday evening, Pillay again called for the government and the judiciary to issue a moratorium on flogging.
“Flogging is a form of punishment that is cruel and demeaning to women. I have as High Commissioner traveled to very many Islamic countries, and apart from the Maldives and one other country that practices stoning, flogging is not a practice that is condoned,” she said.
“The issue needs to be examined, and therefore I called for a countrywide discussion. It is much better if the issue is transparent and debated.”
Challenged by a local journalist that the Maldives was both obliged to protect the religion of Islam, she replied: “You have a constitution which conforms in many respects to universal human rights. Let me assure you that these human rights conform with Islam.”
Pillay said she had raised this matter with President Mohamed Nasheed and the judges during her visit, “and they are all looking into this matter. The President is sympathetic because each time he travels outside the Maldives the issue is raised with him. He says he can only look at it on a case by case basis, but if there is a judicial decision, that may apply to all cases.”
She renewed her call for a moratorium, and noted that the Maldives “has an excellent track record regarding the death penalty. The death penalty is unIslamic and is not practiced in the Maldives. When I travel to places where the death penalty is used, I hold up the Maldives as an example of that.”
Asked to comment on the requirement under the Maldivian constitution that all Maldivians be Muslim, Pillay respond that “Such a provision is discriminatory, and does not comply with international standards. I would urge a debate again on the issue to open up entrance of the constitution to all.”
Asked by another local journalist to respond to the religious groups criticising her requests, “my response is that as the UN High Commission of Human Rights I look at the norms and standards that all the governments of the world have drawn up.”
“It is not that I am plucking principles from the air. I point my critics to universally accepted standards on human rights are consistent with Islam. Many governments and scholars have told be there is no conflict between human rights and Islam.”
Pillay also highlighted the plight of expatriate labourers in the Maldives, who make up a third of the population and in many cases have been lured to the country by unscrupulous employment brokers.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs [Ahmed Naseem] is very aware of the suffering of foreign workers, and agreed that something needs to be done for these people,” Pillay said.
“You can’t have 60,000 people suffering here while performing work for the benefit of Maldivians and the tourism industry, and pretend this is invisible. The media has a role to give these people a voice so they can explain their problems.
“Many of them are trafficked and the little money they earn is exploited. This is of grave concern to me, because people like this are are protected under the UN Convention on Migrant Workers and their Families. I have urged the Maldives to ratify this, and regularise the presence of 60,000 people
“I also call for an end to the stereotyping of these people as a threat and unwanted.”