Parliament today voted almost unanimously that the Maldives sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the founding treaty of the first permanent international court capable of trying perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Maldivian MPs voted 61 in favour of signing the statute out of 64 members present.
Chairman of Parliament’s National Security Committee, Abdulla Yameen, presented the committee’s findings stating that signing the treaty would strengthen both criminal justice in the Maldives and the country’s commitment to human rights.
“All the countries that sign the treaty believe that such cases should be looked into with an international jurisdiction,” he said.
Former President’s Member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Aishath Velezinee, said that accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC in the Maldives raised the possibility of taking cases to an international court when a fair trial was impossible in domestic courts.
“We have a unique situation in the Maldives,” said Velezinee, who contends that the former government’s Ministry of Justice was simply reappointed as an ‘independent’ judiciary by the politically-tainted JSC, in an ongoing effort to undermine the country’s democracy.
For this reason, she said, “Crimes [allegedly committed] by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom cannot be tried domestically. We can’t take the master before the slave and ask the slave to judge him. So where else can we go?”
Attorney General Abdulla Muiz had not responded at time of press.
The ICC’s advocacy group – the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) – on May 2 submitted a letter urging the Maldives to sign the treaty, which it claimed would “contribute toward strengthening the Asia and Pacific region’s under-represented voice at the ICC. Currently, only seven Asian states Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Timor-Leste – are member states of the Court.”
The CICC’s Asia Regional Coordinator Evelyn Balais-Serrano said at the time the letter was sent that the decision would represent “a strong desire to be part of the international community’s collective efforts towards international justice”, and “signals its resolve to move forward in its goal of ending impunity locally and globally.”
Internationally, 114 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty, and 139 are signatories. According to the CICC, the ICC’s mandate stipulates that the Court will only intervene if national legal systems are “unable or unwilling” to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Six pending investigations before the court include investigations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, the Sudan, Kenya, Libya and Uganda. Three trials are ongoing, and 15 arrest warrants have been issued.