A Maldivian government delegation sought to defend the Maldives’ human rights record and commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) before the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on Thursday and Friday.
The delegation was headed by Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel, former Justice Minister during the 30 year rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and co-author of a pamphlet entitled ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’, published in January 2012. The publication was released at a time when the home minister’s 2300 member Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) was in opposition.
Dr Jameel was accompanied by State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dunya Maumoon – Gayoom’s daughter – as well as the Maldives’ Permanent Representative in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam.
Adam and Dr Jameel first read out a prepared statement from the government in response to a list of issues raised by the UNHRC. The delegation then faced questions from the panel, and were given the opportunity to respond.
Dr Jameel began by briefly outlining the current political situation in the Maldives, noting that the country had seen “significant changes” in 2012, which had “clear implications for rights protected under the Covenant.”
He explained to the panel that President Mohamed Waheed had ascended to the presidency according to the constitution following the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7, emphasising that this elevation was “not a change of government, but a continuation of the democratic government.”
He acknowledged “disagreement over the nature and sequence of events that led to Nasheed’s resignation”, noting that this had “led Nasheed and his supporters to question the legitimacy of the new government” and “perpetrate the political tensions in the country.”
The government wished to accommodate peaceful protests, he said, but added that “Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists harass fellow citizens at odd hours of the day, conducting political demonstrations late at night without notifying authorities.”
“The government opposes acts of violence, but these protests are violent in nature,” he claimed. “Despite this police have used minimum force and shown maximum restraint.”
The UNHRC panel began by observing that the government’s list of issues had been generated in 2011, “and as the delegation has conceded, there have been dramatic developments since then.”
The panel noted that the statement given by the government had noted that the provisions of the covenant were not treated as law in the Maldives unless incorporated, noting that this “could give the impression that the covenant did not have the status of law, whereas it has the status of international law.”
While Ambassador Adam had claimed that the Covenant was “adequately domesticated” in the Constitution, “we cannot say it has been adequately domesticated when the grounds for discrimination do not include language and religion,” the panel stated.
The panel also raised the “sweeping provision” in the Constitution that no law could be enacted contrary to a tenant of Islam, and what the ramifications of this were for the government’s commitment to the Covenant.
The panel drew on a report submitted by anti-torture NGO REDRESS, containing testimonies of 28 victims of torture while in state custody.
“Forms of torture and ill-treatment included the use of suspension, lengthy use of stocks, being beaten with fists and bars, kicked, blindfolded, handcuffed, the dislocation of joints and breaking of bones, being forced to roll and squat on sharp coral, being drowned or forced into the sea, being put in a water tank, being burned, having bright lights shone in eyes, being left outside for days while tied or handcuffed to a tree, being covered in sugar water or leaves to attract ants and goats, and in one case being tied to a crocodile’s cage. Sexual assault and humiliation was also routinely used. Many testimonies suggest the only limit to the torture and ill-treatment imposed was the imagination of those whose control they were under,” a UNHRC panel member read.
“Surely this is something that refers to before 2008,” the panel member stated, “but the [present government] has a responsibility to pursue and investigate and bring to justice if these [allegations] are indeed correct. If there is an atmosphere of impunity regarding torture, I would offer that the present situation would not be treated differently by those who would want to violate the office they have, and abuse those under their care, or those going peacefully about their business.”
The panel member also raised the question of judicial flogging, and asked the delegation to identify what crimes were punishable by flogging, and to what extent it was used.
“You say you identify a notion of discrimination because more women are flogged than men, but you don’t say what you intend to do about it,” the panel member stated. “To me the easiest way to do that is to abolish flogging.”
Another panel member questioned the delegation as to whether Dr Waheed had been publicly announced as Vice President before the 2008 Presidential election, whether his name had appeared on the ballot, and asked why the government had retreated from promises of early elections.
“I am aware that at the time of the transfer of government – and I’m not using the word some others would use – there was an undertaking for new elections to be held this year. And that undertaking was withdrawn. I can certainly see why, whatever the constitutional provision, there is a sense that a retesting of the government’s legitimacy might be a good thing,” the panel member stated.
He asked Dr Jameel to clarify a contradiction in his opening statement, in which he claimed that the government was involved in diagloue to generate consensus and that as a result Maldivians had been able to “enjoy their daily lives as normal”, but then went on to describe violent protests “which are making normal life in the capital impossible.”
The panel member also raised the “troubling role of the judiciary at the centre of many of these [recent] developments.”
“The judiciary – which is admittedly in serious need of training and qualifications – is yet seemingly playing a role leading to the falling of governments,” he observed.
One panel member raised the concern of the current push in the Maldives towards the cessation of the practice of the President commuting the death penalty.
Another, identifying himself as from a Muslim country himself, asked whether the universal recognition of rights guaranteed by the ICCPR “ fully coordinated” with the status of religion accorded by the Constitution in the Maldives, and asked about the ramifications this had towards the Maldives’ treatment of women, criminal sanctions, citizenship and freedom of expression.
“We face two trends: the universalist trend which places emphasis on human rights, and the cultural trend, which places the emphasis on Islam. The problem lies in reconciling the two,” he said, asking whether the Maldives was seeking the “modernist” approach of reconciliation.
In response, Dr Jameel said human rights in the Maldives streamlined with Islam “with very few minor exceptions.”
“The general acceptance of Muslim jurists is that Islamic human rights were there long before we subscribed to universal human rights,” he said.
“We declare that there are no apparent contradictions between human rights and what is there in the Maldives constitution.”
Dr Jameel observed that on the subject of religion and language, “As I highlighted, the Maldives as a Muslim country clearly stipulates that the rights enshrined in the constitution should be interpreted in a way that do not contradict Islamic Sharia.”
The Maldives was, he said, a homogenous society that spoke one language, was of one race and one religion, and therefore there was “no debate in society calling for the removal of the provisions [relating to] language or religion, because of the characteristics of the Maldives as a society.”
Dunya noted that “being a Maldivian and being a Muslim have become interlinked and inseparable. There is strong public support for the Maldives being and remaining a 100 percent Muslim country. Indeed if anything, the introduction of democracy have intensified [this perception].”
There were no plans to withdraw the reservation, Dunya said: “This is not dogmatic government policy or preference, but rather a reflection of the deep societal belief that the Maldives always has been and always should be a 100 percent Muslim nation. Laws, like government, should be based on the will of the people.”
On the subject of justice, Dr Jameel emphasised that any citizen could bring their grievances before the judiciary, over which the executive had “little or no influence.”
Regarding the “very useful” REDRESS report containing torture victims testimonies, “I admit we have a history that we need to go back and study to avoid what we have witnessed in the past. That was the reason why the Maldives has always been a very progressive society,” Dr Jameel said, noting the improvement in consecutive constitutions.
In the light “of many unfortunate incidents in the Maldives”, Dr Jameel noted, the Maldives had no period of limitation – and that therefore incidents such as the Addu and Huvadhoo uprising and the 1988 coup would also be open for victims to seek compensation.
“As a government we believe we have an independent judiciary. We leave it to the victims to invoke these instances before a court of law,” Dr Jameel said.
“We are a very poor country. Our budget for this year is in deficit, therefore any question of compensation will put the rights of many others in jeopardy.”
On the subject of the death penalty – which Dr Jameel himself has previously stated the government was prepared to implement – he noted that the Maldives was in the grip of a crime surge “which worries many”.
“For example, this year alone we have had seven murders in a country of 350,000. The country is really struggling to address this surge of crime. It is in the light of these occurrences that this debate has occurred. There is no official government discussion, but there are scattered debates across every section of society,” Dr Jameel said.
On the subject of the transfer of power in February, “if the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) find any criminal offences that occurred during that period they may draw these to the attention of the relevant institutions, such as the Maldives police services,” Dr Jameel told the panel.
“There are various elements, this includes the judiciary and the Prosecutor General, who can order a probe if it warrants a criminal investigation, and compel police to investigate. HRCM is also mandated to investigate and appear in trials,” he said.
HRCM had already produced a report on the former President Nasheed’s “abduction of the Criminal Court judge”, Dr Jameel noted.
UNHRC Maldives webcast 1. Panel begins at ~42 min
UNHRC Maldives webcast 2
Maldives’ response to panel questions:
Maldives response and panel:
13 thoughts on “UNHRC panel grills Maldives delegation on human rights commitments”
Jameel's pronunciation is better the Kutti Nasheed. thank god he did not not go to defend Maldives. curry man
Impressed by Jameel. He certainly has more depth, substance than superficial Dr. Shaheed
The Bondibai spoke in a new kind of English, Bondibai English. Why did the coup government send such an unqualified person like Bondibai Jameel.
Jameel tried very much articulated and carefully choreographed presentation to avoid tough question, his masters knew his spasmodic dysphonia issue and was fed to his brain to utter the words like a parrot to avoid his normal behavior of loosing temper when he get stuck to formulate intelligence rational answers for difficult question. It seems this is work of Qayoom. However, It seems his constitution is like his Quran came from some irreversible divine source,
bondbaii english is only better than Kutti english haha
5 KULHAN'DU mizamaanuga madhee raajje theryeyge meehunge eh noon.
Bangaalhu meehunge. Adhi Bangaalhu meehunnnai inn'dhen ulhey meehunge!!!!
Mizamaanuga raajjetherey meehunnnah hurihaa ehchcheh in'gey.
Lol! Doesn't the Maldives have people who are much more fluent in english? This is definitely bondibai english.
Oh and it's 100% muslim? How so? I'm not muslim, and I have met many non-muslim Maldivians before. Please stop lying, Jameel and the dictator's daughter.
It is pathetic to send pathetic people like this Jameel to represent this country.
Bodibai Jameel may not be good at representing this country!
But he will be damn good at blinding (especially birds) and watch how it struggles for a living!
A sick bugger!
You've got balls Jameel. Way to go.
these MDP thugs can not digest these things . thanks Jameel and keep it up
Jameel has shamed all Maldivians in from of EU and the world. If this man is the head of delegation already people will assume that the country did not have better candidates to present Maldives. What a lot of crap with some legal jargon, no clue how to present a comprehensive report that made sense. The guy needs an English language course basic pronunciation corrected so that he can say the sounds correctly and audibly. A grade seven eight student could be more appropriate...it was disgusting. Maldives should be articulated with the stress on letter l, but the way he was saying this was moredivs, never ever heard such alien English in my life. Wrong grammar, and use of vocab wrong again, repeatedly inserting his legal jargon , even these words he could not verbalise....Shame on his doctrate, for sure he cannot be capable of writing and defending a thesis, must be a bought PHD online with some dollars taken from the countries account..as for that ambassador another laugh, just reading a dictation summary already written from some person, she had no clue and understanding of what she was reading.. she could have been running to catch a train, from a-z reading what was given, what a joke.. this was more a high school performance from Jameel and the ambassador, at least Dhuniya said her bit in an acceptable manner though women and corporal punishment were not the main issues, torture and freedom of human rights where so many other important points and issues could have been highlighted from her.But alas..this would have been too embarrassing for her after what her.If this is the level of the high level delegation people in this conferance would imagine how pr the level of the other Maldivians will be, disgrace to the Maldivians because of this Jameel and the ambassador...she was more a school girl who was asked to do loud reading from the teacher....As for this unprofessional performance of Jameel, I can only say the govt should be more selective and find people who are efficient in English language and have some capability , experience, style, to present Maldives to the international world.This guy has shamed all educated Maldivians as well as all Maldivians. Go back to high school and get your English polished, I bet you will have difficulty passing o level oral part and grammar part too....Disgraceful performance!
it was wise of Dhuniya to keep a low profile and let Jameel be the laughing matter..one would have thought this guy could have had all his necessary papers in his file and not flik it here and get the ambassador to haul it over Dhuniya's shoulder,,,,why dont you guys get some advise and training for this type of large conferences where professionals perform and d it right? His doctorate must be on this new created alien English.Appalling indeed!
You will always remain as a glitch to the country n a total defame to doctorate's in Maldives in international media....jameel better complete your homework this is only for your sake......
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