HRCM sends report to UN Human Rights Committee

Endemic sexual violence against women and children, violent crime, abuse of migrant labourers and a persistent culture of torture in detention facilities are among a catalogue of serious issues facing the country, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has informed the UN Human Rights Committee.

The document summarises areas relevant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Maldives acceded to in 2006. It heavily references the Maldives Journalists Association (MJA) and several news sources, including Haveeru and Minivan News, with little reference to primary research conducted by HRCM itself.

Violence against women

“One in five women between the ages of 15 and 49 years reported physical or sexual violence by a partner, and one in nine reported experiencing severe violence,” HRCM noted, referencing a 2006 study by the then Ministry of Gender and Family.

“One in six women in the capital Male’ and one in eight countrywide reported experiencing childhood sexual abuse under the age of 15 years. Of those women between the ages of 15 and 49 years who had ever been pregnant, 6 percent reported having been physically or sexually abused during pregnancy,” it cited.

“The survey further reported that many respondents’ perceived women to be subordinate to men, and that men used Islam to justify restrictions and violence against women.”

Parallel to this, HRCM observed a particularly low conviction rate for rapists and sexual assault offenders.

Reasons for this, the report claimed, included “the absence of an Evidence Act, the lack of witness protections provisions and fear of reprisals by abusers, finding witnesses (two male or equivalent women), awareness on the side of the victim regarding the condition that she should be in while reporting, such as not showering before consulting medical personnel, lack of national guidelines on medico-legal documentation, failures of existing laws and procedures leading to re‐victimisation of the victim, and intimidation of being stigmatised by the community.”

Forced labour

Abuse of migrant workers in the Maldives is occurring on an industrial scale, with at least 30,000 foreign workers (8-10 percent of the total population of the country), completely undocumented. Most of these are Bangladeshi nationals, with 2200 of those 2700 migrant workers deported in 2009 by the Department of Immigration and Emigration of Bangladeshi origin, HRCM noted.

“The State needs to enforce existing regulations relating to work place standards and regularly monitor the same,” the report noted. “In addition, the state should develop a mechanism whereby the wages to the workers are duly paid and the travel documents of migrant workers are not held in hands of employers in order to eliminate the undue influence by employers on the migrant workers to work in unfavourable conditions, including forcing them to do labour against their will.”

Documents of migrant workers such as passports were routinely confiscated by employers, the report stated.

“In the Maldives, it is a practice to take hold of the passport of the migrant worker by his/her owner for the intention of safe keeping, and this applies to both government and private sector together with the individuals,” HRCM said.

HRCM observed that the maximum fine facing labour traffickers for fines under the Employment Act was Rf 5000 (US$324). It noted that the Maldives had conceded to ratify the International Convention on Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families (ICPRMWF).

Violent crime

HRCM noted six crime-related deaths in 2010 and eight in 2009, and stated that this was high relative to the population.

“It is to be noted that most of the people who are involved in cases of extreme violence, and murders are repeat offenders (sometimes juveniles) providing clear evidence into the failure of the criminal justice system in the country,” HRCM stated.

Factors involved, the report noted, included “inadequate legislation pertaining the criminal justice system, such as a Penal Code does not reflect the spirit of the present Constitution, inadequate legislation pertaining to evidence and witnesses, dismissal of forensic evidence by courts, absence of a witness protection program and inadequate correctional and rehabilitation system for convicted offenders.”

Detention concerns

Visits from the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to Dhoonidhoo Police Custodial in March 2011 identified that five detainees had been kept in solitary confinement cells for periods ranging from several days to up to four months, without being let outside for exercise, HRCM stated,

HRCM also raised concerns about the standard of a “hastily built” jail in Addu Atoll in 2009, consisting of metal cages, to accommodate prisoners following a prison fire in Maafushi, and the confiscation of clothing as a disciplinary measure.

HRCM noted a general failure to keep arrested suspects separate from convicted criminals, and commented on the use of Maafushi prison as a police custodial.

The report also stated that “a high profile politician, Mr Abdulla Yameen, was held under protective police custody for a short period in 2010 in a place outside the formally established places for police custody” (Yameen, the leader of the opposition-aligned People’s Alliance and the former President’s half-brother, was detained in the Presidential Retreat at Aarah).

HRCM expressed concern that “in the case of Mr Yameen, he has not been compensated so far [for his detention on the Presidential Retreat].”

Read the full report

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17 thoughts on “HRCM sends report to UN Human Rights Committee”

  1. Unpleasant and all bad thing a person can imagine of under the sun is happening in Maldivian society.
    Human right commission and NGOS speciously should think and implement adult education programs to overcome the problems.
    Writing fancy reports does not help to overcome the problems.

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  2. Government authorities, commissions and NGOs all depend on foreign agencies or governments for funding.

    1/3 of which ever funds they get are used to hire foreign consultants, to write up reports and the rest is used to print and publish the report.

    When you read the report you find that its just cut and paste from news paper articles. Or a simple find-and-replace the names from some report.

    Instead of writing up long-winded proposals to get funding from foreign sources and spending all that of some crappy report that serves no purpose but to fill your shelve! Use that time to grow some cucumbers and sell those to your sexually repressed society.

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  3. JJ - a good article, and like Neil's article recently I'm sure we'll see a large number of comments from Maldivians do impressions of Egyptians who've fallen off their boats - 'in-de-Nile'. Facts are facts, they speak for themselves.

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  4. Wonder why HRCM did not report that the Cabinet decided not to screen-out "rapists" when issuing police reports for employment !

    When the cabinet believes rape as not such a serious offence, what more is expected from their own political party, parliamentarians and the society???

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  5. Minivan News forgot to mention that on the same report HRCM also mentioned that the government and ruling party continuously harass the media and reporters are frequently summoned to police station asking to reveal the source of their information.

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  6. In Maldives and Islamic cultures good deeds are, five time prayer, Hajj, fasting, and glorifying Allah. If anyone is good in these good deeds he is the most righteous person. In other cultures good deeds are to treat others the way he wants to be treated. We can’t have human rights in such subhuman culture like Maldives.

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  7. Very true Mariyam. And on the same report HRCM mentioned that police use different tactics to disperse demonstrations of ruling party and opposition party. Top officials of Police and MNDF play a political role rather than what is required from them.

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  8. The prevalence of violence against women, especially sexual violence proves that puritanical "holier than thou" attitudes towards sex and gender relations actually contribute to the problem.

    When society is repressed enough to actually outlaw sex between consenting adults, everything sexual has become equally bad. When the stigma for being a homosexual, a nudist, a rapist, an adulterer, or even a victim of rape/molestation can be the same in society, no written law or self purported belief can provide justice to victims of sexual crimes.

    We do not even acknowledge marital rape, or rape within a relationship. Unlike in other societies there is no stigma in hitting a woman, in fact many women actually accept this.

    Clearly we are not religious enough, we commit grave crimes and injustices forbidden by religion. Why do we need these puritanical laws based on religion which when combined with our lack of faith in religion only exacerbate the problem?

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  9. As this article points out, the report displays a lack of diligence on the part of the HRCM in gathering information.

    This has led to the inclusion of isolated incidents among systemic issues. However one must concede that overall, the report does reflect goings on in Maldivian society.

    The lack of professionalism and diligence on the part of the HRCM in writing the report is fodder for Minivan and other government-aligned organizations to attack it. However one must consider the fact that Minivan itself is financed by MDP leadership, formerly headed by the President's own brother and operates from a residence in the President's own family.

    So, lack of professionalism seems to go both ways. Good luck MDP. Let us see how your contacts abroad manage this little hooplah.

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  10. Did we actually need a report to tell us this, we have reports coming out of every orifice but what has it changed?

    It us time for action, to out these monsters and perverts, why should we protect them? Recently we had all sorts of people happy to expose themselves sexually online, for the right people this meant promotion and protection, this is clearly wrong, when someone breaks the law, there should be no protection other than a fair trial. Remember someone in our society saying "No-one is above the law"?

    Time to put our house in order, clean the dirty linen and aim a little higher in our morals when it comes to those that would govern us.

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  11. Absence of witness protection program!

    If the court is open how do you protect witnesses in this tiny country? Send the witness to India under another identity? If this were to be practiced Maldives must have a special arrangement with India.

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  12. HRCM is complicit in the deteriorating status of women in this country.

    I have been waiting for an answer to a complaint I lodged with them in December 2010 on a matter in which an arbitrary regulation enacted by one court is infringing upon my rights and, along with me, the rights of all women in general.

    Despite confirmation from an HRCM lawyer in March this year that the court is acting contrary to the Constitution, the HRCM has done absolutely nothing to address the issue.

    A national Human Rights Commission in any other country would regard a constitutional matter such as this an opportunity to right a wrong.

    The HRCM has chosen instead, to act like an ostrich with its head in the sand and its thinking parts exposed for all the world to see.

    I have waited seven months for an answer and now have no choice but to obey a regulation which I know, and the HRCM knows, violates the Constitution and infringes women's rights in many ways.

    What hypocrisy now to posture like it gives a hoot about how women are treated in this society.

    People are not international donor agencies. For us, an effective human rights body needs to do more than secondary research and talk the talk in the right jargon.

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  13. Totally [email protected] We believes that HRCM is just an institution for namesake here in Maldives. The personals in this institution go and waste time in their offices probably phoning husbands, wife’s and kids wasting public funds, which is culture in Maldives.
    Moreover, we don’t think that they are any capable professional persons in that institution.

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  14. good report, but as with all other reports written it will be filed in the bin. In another few years someone else will write the same report, and that to will also go in the bin.

    Someone needs to grow a back bone and actually do something about changing these things, instead of pointing out the flaws, moaning about how bad things are, then doing nothing and forgetting all about it

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  15. Is it true that HRCM's report was based on what was reported on the media and they did not do any independent studies?

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  16. a campaign manager of an MDP high profile candidate sexually abused a woman in Island Aviation where they were both working, the Board decided to sack this person, but guess what, powers that be ordered them not to....why dont u investigate such corruption and cronysim practiced by this government rather than blame the faith of majority of maldivians in this country?

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