“Pathetic state of judiciary”, religious intolerance Maldives’ major human rights failures: Dr Shaheed

Former Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Dr Ahmed Shaheed has welcomed the Maldives’ selection as a Vice President of the UN’s Human Rights Council for 2013, stating that the nomination can help strengthen society against domestic abuses.

Speaking to Minivan News by e-mail today, Dr Shaheed said significant human rights concerns remained in the Maldives, including the “pathetic state of the judiciary”, lack of an educational focus on rights, and little scope for “informed discussion” on religious freedom.

However, Dr Shaheed added that the Maldives’ election to the council reflected the strong reputation of its diplomats over the last six years in “championing” human rights causes, even despite developments such as February’s controversial transfer of power that saw a new government installed following a police and military mutiny.

“If you look at the Maldives’ voting record in Geneva and in the Third Committee in New York, it is as if there has been no change in the government in Male’. The Maldives still supports country-specific mandates, country-specific resolutions, and progressive positions in human rights debates, including on issues of defamation of religion,” he said.

“The Maldives will continue to get challenged in places like the Human Rights Committee but in the political councils of the world, the spokespersons for the Maldives continue to be professional diplomats, and they are doing a good job to limit the influence of radical Islamists on foreign policy.”

News of the Maldives’ election to the Human Rights Council was broken yesterday by the Reuters news agency, which noted that the country had the same day been criticised for its stance on banning religious freedom in a report compiled by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) NGO.

The IHEU, which describes itself as an “umbrella organisation embracing Humanist, atheist, rationalist, secularist” organisations around the world, yesterday published its report, ‘Freedom of Thought 2012’ , which details international examples of discrimination against non-religious people.

The report, which was welcomed by UN Special Investigator on Freedom of Religion and Belief Heiner Bielefeldt, concluded that the Maldives did not prohibit discrimination on a religious basis, while also making practising Sunni Islam compulsory for Maldivian citizens wishing to vote or stand for office.

Pointing to prominent cases of discrimination, the IHEU highlighted the case of 37 year-old Mohamed Nazim, who in 2010 faced public calls for his execution after standing in front of a crowd of 11,000 people in Male’ and declaring himself “Maldivian and not a Muslim”.

After two days of religious counselling in police custody, Nazim repented before television cameras at an Islamic Ministry press conference and gave Shahada – the Muslim testimony of belief.

The report also highlighted the case of 25 year-old air traffic controller Ismail Mohamed Didi, who was found hanged from the control tower of Male’ International Airport in an apparent suicide.  He had previously sought asylum in the UK for fear of persecution over his stated lack of religious belief.

“Ismail Mohamed Didi faced the same choice as Mohamed Nazim: believe or die. He chose death,” the IHEU stated.

Speaking to Minivan News, IHEU Communications Officer Bob Churchill said the NGO did have some concerns over the Maldives’ election to the Human Rights Council considering its attitudes to non-Muslims and non religious peoples.

However,  Churchill added that the Maldives was not the first country to hold such a position in the UN council while also having questions over its own work on human rights abuses.

The IHEU added that the report has been put together in order to stand as a reference for alleged abuses of non-religious peoples on countries all over the world.

Churchill suggested that the high-profile focus may help “shine a light” on wider abuses occurring in the country and allowing for some form of redress.

However, in the case of the Maldives, where the country’s religious ideals are enshrined in its constitution, Churchill accepted that effecting any sort of change would be much harder.

“However, just because an issue is a sovereign matter and has a vocal majority it does not mean that people are not suffering,” he said. “People at present are having to hide their beliefs for fear of oppression.”

“Good reputation”

Despite the concerns of the IHEU, Dr Shaheed said he was optimistic about the Maldives’ new role on the council.

“The Maldives [UN] delegation still enjoys a good reputation in Geneva and is still playing a very constructive role. I believe the position would militate in favour of improving the domestic human rights situation,” he said. “I would like to congratulate Ambassador Iruthisham [Adam] and her team for this fine achievement.”

Addressing the issue of freedom of religion in the Maldives, which he stressed was a fundamental human right, Dr Shaheed said that any nation choosing to impose any particular faith on its people or discriminate along the same lines would face “stiff international opposition”.

“A number of NGOs have been raising the issue of religious intolerance in the Maldives, and the notion of sovereignty does not trump human rights obligations. There is indeed scope for informed discussion in the Maldives on religious freedom,” he said.

“Perhaps a good place to start would be to lift the ban on the book co-authored by Dr Hassan Saeed – the current Special Advisor to President Waheed – which argues that there is no apostasy in Islam. This is a position that is upheld by a growing number of reputable scholars in the Islamic world and elsewhere.”

“Biggest breakthroughs”

Beyond the issue of religion, Dr Shaheed claimed that the Maldives had over the last decade pressed ahead with a number of significant developments in bringing the country in line with human rights regulations.

“The biggest breakthroughs, in my view, were the ratification of the core international human rights treaties, and the establishment of an independent human rights commission, as well as freedom of the press, and the separation of powers,” he said, but emphasised that there remained room for improvement.

“The major failures include the pathetic state of the judiciary, which is not only corrupt, but also coming under the influence of radical Islam, even to the extent of violating codified laws of the Maldives and clear international obligations,” Dr Shaheed added.

“Disregard for rule of law has also meant that a culture of impunity is deeply entrenched, rendering many of the human rights of the people meaningless. It is also very disappointing that respect for human rights has not been made mainstream in our education system, because human rights safeguards are not only about litigation and legislation, but also about ideas and values, which are formed and transmitted through the education system.”


23 thoughts on ““Pathetic state of judiciary”, religious intolerance Maldives’ major human rights failures: Dr Shaheed”

  1. Dr Shaheed, any attempt to reform the judiciary is against the so-called constitution of Mordis.

    You don't 'reform' criminals of that caliber. You hunt them. And then you display their skin as a victory trophy.

  2. This report reminds us that Dr. Shaheed, for all his faults, is one of the best our country has to offer.

    Of course with a growing population proficient in both English and internet-browsing, MDP and Ex-President Nasheed risks his bid for the Presidency when Minivan which is widely perceived as an MDP mouthpiece publishes reports such as this one.

    Although I do not support religious persecution or forcibly imposed religious uniformity, the better part of the voting public are strongly opposed to religious freedom at the moment. Nasheed by endorsing religious pluralism lost support across the country.

    His rather late attempt at bringing fundamentalists in his party to the fore has failed to change his image among the Maldivian people. His PR stunt by endorsing the recently published translation of the Wahhabi tome "Sahih Bukhari and Muslim" has also failed to project Nasheed as a voter-friendly.

  3. The cases and issues surrounding religious freedom are very sensitive.

    This sensitivity is being exploited by everyone. Mostly the politicians, for their benefit. Business men pump money to politicians and community, to play this to their maximum benefit.

    On reality front, the introduction of debates on the religion, will definitely have to pass through rough times, before it would get better. It gets more difficult when the millionaires pull strings to their benefit.

    All politicians are very aware of this. Just as everyone knows reducing the number of inhabited islands is our only choice forward. But the question is do they want to tread this path. It may be a very short career, if not handled right.

  4. Three cheers to Minivan and Dr Shaheed for bravely speaking out on the issue of religious freedom. With interviews like these, Dr Shaheed is probably killing off any prospects of resuming his political career in a country like Maldives. And it just this kind of candor that got him into trouble with former governments in Maldives. But it is heart-warming to see a politician speak about such a highly-charged issue without blaming other politicians! Gosh! Did he really not mention Gayoom, Waheed or Nasheed in the interview at all?????

  5. Shaheeds 'welcome' should not be a surprise to any one at the Foreign Ministry who knows how the Maldives diplomatic apparatus works. Still most ambassdors and staff are either cronies of shaheed (through Male family club)

    Shaheed and Faraha wields considerable influence informally in the foreign Ministry and is probably getting updated and briefed on everything better than Dr. Samadh.

  6. Ctrl+F in this article gives 2 instances for a sear word of "intolerance". The first word appears in the heading and the next instance is contained below.

    "A number of NGOs have been raising the issue of religious intolerance in the Maldives..."

    The point i am making is this is another useless story by Minivan to say bla-bla about religious intolerance in Maldives. the only place where i see intolerance is Minivan news. There simply is no substance to this topic. The heading of the essay is always constructed to include these 'magic words' which are so endearing to the western media. The idea is to portray islam as bad and negative. wherever islam is its religious fundamentalism.

    here is a programming loop to do this construct.

    Sub lie()
    x="a big fat lie"

    while truefalse
    print x & " is not a lie"

    end sub

    # and the sheep will believe it!

  7. I am cautiously impressed by Dr. Shaheed's
    statements. I say cautiously because I'd heard of another Maldivian in the UN, all pro-liberal talking, but once he came into power, he started calling his followers his Mujahudin and all this. Can't remember his name, but, how liberal are these guys and...WHY.

  8. If anyone ever gave a trophy for causing the biggest damage to ones own country Dr. Ahmed "janaza" Shaheed will win it.

  9. Maldives election to the Human Rights Council. Give me a break. Is this a joke? This shows the deluded state of UN.

    The Maldives is a state that violates every aspect of human rights. Child abuse, human trafficking, gender discrimination, forced labor, arbitrary arrest, prison torture, corrupt judiciary, political imprisonment. And now since 7th February it has become a failed state. Yet UN couldn’t find a better candidate than Maldives, What are the other states that were selected as vice chair to HRC, Myanmar, Rwanda, Iraq?
    UN is failing as world governing body and advocator of rights.

  10. @ A Fahmee

    Because of crazy xenophobics like you islam gets a bad name.

    Fahmee take my advice, go for jihad in pakistan or cleanse yourself with ZamZam water Intravenous therapy, Go occupy an airport in the name of islam, Freeze an infrastructure project in the name of islam.

  11. @ Barbarian
    I was thinking of asking you to go back to your cave!....but your observation about Maldives Human Rights is spot on like mine..so go on keep hurling rocks

  12. Dr. Shaheed's favorable or non-threatening words to the Government and Dr. Hassan Saeed may be a SIGN of things to come prior to 2013 election.

    May be the old 'new maldives Doctors' are regrouping perhaps as a 'newer Mordix' group and fielding a candidate..

  13. Next move, I don't think Dr Shaheed was saying anything favorable about Dr Hassan Saeed. I think he was very subtly calling Dr Saeed a hypocrite, and reminding the religious voting population that Dr Saeed's views on apostasy are against Maldivian sensibilities!

  14. The work of Gayoom is big inside M.D.P and one is out open is Saragu Adan Manik and still there are many more. If the back Maummon Abdull Gayoom as any thing the human wright goal cannot me achieve in Maldives the crime rate of 30 years regime is bid and they have been using police for this.

    I spoke to Adam Zahir on Phone one day he told me these are not done by if its me you will know this i would have finish this by now

  15. @Next

    I heard a similar story about Dr. Shaheed’s change of heart regarding the coup government. I hope it’s not true and wish Dr. Shaheed to remain a reformer server the ordinary people of maldives.

    The question is Dr. Shaheed's being on the payroll of UN, can he challenge the decision by UN to appoint Maldives as vice president of HRC.

    Challenging days are ahead for the Maldives, with critain rights that is sweeping across the south asia and the world.

  16. Is Dr Shaheed on the payroll of the UN? I thought Rapporteurs are unpaid and that he was making money as Visiting Professor in City University of New York and Essex University. He may also be working for Universal Enterprises! At least that is what his twitter profile suggests!

  17. this is how democracy works!
    majority has the right to kill or torture minorities or "outlaws" as we please

    The one with the power can do what ever to the minorities

    like how israel can bomb & kill off the majority Palestine & convert the survivors to jews

    counties majority has the right to choose what everyone has to believe

  18. you are absolutly wrong democracy,writing crap
    true israel can be accused of displaying heavy handedness but to accuse them of genocide/minority obliteration is absolutely false. no muslims in israel/palestine are prevented from practicing their faith openly or indoors,nor are mosques banned in israel.nor is there a systemic goverment program designed to harass and intimidate the minorities in israel,but certain islamic countries can be accused of minority harrassment and minority obliteration prognoms

  19. hey cabs.
    hindhu kolhu aissa tha thi hiree?
    {that means something like, are you on dope?}

    Only yesterday the Israelis killed a Palestinian teenager with a toy gun who was deaf, and you call that democracy? Remember the black youth killed by a hispanic man in US, the uproar over that issue? That kind of sympathy Palestinians don't get because of fools like you who read the Isreali thought police trolls white wash.

    Its not only muslims who see the tyranny of Israelis, the South Africans see that, the south Americans see that, the Chinese, Indians in fact the whole world agrees that Israel is the aggressor and the Palestinians are the victims. But there is a problem. The media is controlled by the Jews who are of course sympathetic to their illegal state.

    Its mass media that make or break politician's careers. Thats why the politicians in the western world dare not offend the Israelis. They can offend God, Jesus, Rama, Lama or anyone else for that matter but not Israel. The moment you say something negative about Israel you say bye bye to politics. Kapito? Its that simple actually.

    There is great wisdom in the saying that a foolish friend is worse than a wise enemy.

  20. @fahmee ,your reply shows your state of education and brainwashing in some madrassa in despotic pakistan. you remain silent on the topic of religious persecution committed on nonmuslims,look into the state of atrocities committed by fanatics following the salafi school of thought besides you seem to be neo Hashashin

  21. The barbaric policies pursued by Israel does not justify stone-age policies pursued by Maldives! What the early Muslims sought was religious freedom! It was for religious freedom that Muslims migrated to Medina! There was religious freedom in the Treaty of Hudaibiyya! There was religious freedom in the Muslim-Jewish Federation that was established in Medina. It is only in Mullah Maldives that there is no religious freedom!

  22. Dr Shaheed is a product of the foresight of the former authoritarian MAG. He along with Dr Hassan Saeed and Kutti Nasheed were the young intellectuals that saw through MAG's democratic reforms.

    What will be very hard to forget is Dr Shaheed and his buddy Faraha in London who went out of the way to tarnish the image of Maldives in the international fora -in spite of the findings of the CoNI report. How can one ever forget both Dr Shaheed and Faraha joining forces with X Strongman Nasheed in undermining the tourism industry in the Maldives, by calling for tourists to boycot the Maldives so as to bring back Nasheed to power.

    They were in effect undermining thousands of Maldivians livelihood. This is to me demonstrative of their true worth to Maldives & it's people.

    Also reading Dr Shaheed, Faraha's & Nasheed's pronouncements one is struck by their inability to read the Maldivian public & their poor understanding of democratic principles. They consistently fail to Understand that the vast majority of Maldivians are very comfortable having their lives lead according to the precepts of the Koran & Hadis. As such the vast majority of Maldivians do not want to formalise the right to apostasy in the Maldives.

    Unfortunately for Nasheed & his mouth pieces in Dr Shaheed, & Faraha in London There is ample proof that the vast majority of Maldivians are practicing Muslims and have have made their life choice in Islam. They are faced with the fact and insurmountable obstacle in that Maldivians have enshrined their belief in Islam in the Constitution in spite of very telling efforts by Dr Shaheed.

    As of now the Maldivians are firmly against the right to apostasy & still remain a Maldivian citizen.

    Unbearably for Dr Shaheed, Faraha & Nasheed their undermining of Islam in Maldives is opposed by the religious scholars and with their efforts a more and more assertive Maldivian public as witnessed by the incredible ouster of GMR from the Maldives. What Dr Shaheed, Faraha & Nasheed should understand is that the religious scholars are turning to the people of MALDIVES, & sparing no effort to convince the people to their way of thinking and do their bidding.

    Maybe Dr Shaheed, Faraha, Nasheed & his cabal need to take heed & take lessons of Democracy from the Religious scholars. After all the free will of the people is supreme in a Democracy. All incdications are that the people of Maldives are being convinced by the religious scholars that the way forward is the Koran & the Sunnah - to earn the best in this life and the next.

    It's Ill- thought and myopic to resort to labelling the scholars with labels; it might win support in the West but cut no ice with the Maldivian public.

    They would be well served learning from Dr Waheed's example - who has demonstrated his democratic credentials by being in tune with the Maldivian electorate and being firm in his adherence to Democratic principles. He is building without destroying.

    Thankfully Dr Waheed has been able to translate his education & training to the common good of Maldives. But then he has Stanford pedigree & lived & breathed democracy - & not let the high principles of Democracy run off him like water falling on a Duck's back. 🙂


  23. There is no question that the majority of the Maldivians follow Islam! Question is what is Islam to these people? If it is talking about it, I can assure you, the Majority does a great job. But when it comes to practising this beautiful way of life, we see comments like the above. We attack people.

    The people who attack Dr.Shaheed will want to prove he is non Islamic, a Christian, a Zionist! Who are we do that? God? islam does not allow us to do anything of this nature. Do you want to be a good Muslim? If so we better correct our ways first and be a good human, who knows how to care and empathise. Lets pray five times, do our Sunnahs, and read the Holy Quruan and find out its meanings. If we did that we will have no time to attack people, belittle them and am sure we will be smiling more!


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