HRCM questions police conduct in raid of ex-defence minister’s apartment

The failure to videotape a midnight raid on the apartment of then-defence minister Mohamed Nazim on January 18 “raises questions about the actions of police officers,” the human rights watchdog has said.

The retired colonel was found guilty of weapons smuggling and sentenced to 11 years in prison in March after police discovered a pistol and bullets in his bedside drawer. Nazim maintains that he was framed by rogue Specialist Operations (SO) officers acting on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Following an inquiry to determine whether Nazim’s human rights were violated, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) found that the police acted in accordance with the law, but questioned the decision not to seek assistance from the military despite suspecting that Nazim possessed dangerous weapons and an improvised explosive device.

“The investigation noted matters that raise questions about the actions of police officers in searching G. Enif due to the carelessness of the police officers and because the search was not videotaped,” reads a 35-page confidential HRCM investigation report obtained by Minivan News.

However, the report concluded that police acted lawfully in arresting the former defence minister on February 10 and that his human rights were not violated under police custody.

In four recommendations to the Maldives Police Service, the commission advised making it mandatory to take video footage of police operations, involving officers of both genders in raids, and respecting human rights while searching private residences.

The police told the HRCM investigators that Nazim’s apartment was not raided based on intelligence information.

The decision was made by senior officers based on information from a credible source, according to statements from anonymised police officers.

Some police officers involved in the operation said they did not know who ordered the raid and some were unaware of the target when they prepared for the operation.

A SWAT team officer said he only knew it was Nazim’s apartment upon seeing the defence minister inside.

The police said they also found a pen drive with documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen.

The raid

The police SWAT team raided Nazim’s eighth floor apartment around 3:30am and broke down the doors of the house, the apartment, and family rooms.

The family told HRCM investigators that SO officers used obscene language and forced Nazim and his wife to kneel down while they searched the master bedroom for about 15 minutes.

A second search team then went into the room and called Nazim and his wife over.

An investigation officer showed Nazim the search warrant about 25 minutes after the SO officers broke into the apartment, the family said.

The family alleged that SO officers also broke down the door of Nazim’s daughter’s room and that her finger was injured when she was dragged out to the living room.

The family said the raid was traumatising and that Nazim’s daughter still faced difficulty sleeping.

Family members also stressed that police had not searched the rest of the apartment after finding a black bag from Nazim’s room. The SO officers took out the bag’s contents and Nazim denied that it was his.

The police did not take forensic samples, the family noted.

Nazim has meanwhile appealed his conviction at the High Court, which began hearings late last month. The appeal has been stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two judges in the five-member panel to an appellate branch in the south.

The ex-defence minister’s lawyers have highlighted several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses, discrepancies in testimony by anonymous police officers, and the police’s alleged failure to follow the law and standard procedures in the midnight raid.

Nazim maintains that the weapons were planted on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb after the pair fell-out over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT officers to commit criminal activities. Adeeb has denied the claims.


Some police officers believe women to blame for domestic violence, says HRCM

Some police officers believe violence against women is caused by women failing to fulfill their duty as submissive wives, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has said.

In a report to the UN Committee on Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the HRCM said that meetings held with police during monitoring visits in the atolls revealed some police officers’ “initial belief is that the role of women is to raise children, take care of her family and be submissive to the husband”.

“Also, they have the notion that violence against women is mostly the result of women not fulfilling their duty as submissive wives.”

Reporting of violence against women is “proportionally low”, the HRCM said, noting it had received only 16 such cases in the period between 2008 and 2013. The Family Protection Authority had meanwhile received 19 cases in 2013 and 154 cases in 2014.

“The lack of confidence in the system, fear of intimidation, inadequate information on protection measures, stigmatization by the community along with lack of opportunities for economic empowerment are some of the factors that hold the victim from reporting to authorities,” the HRCM said.

Women’s empowerment is showing a negative trend, the commission continued, noting that conservative beliefs are fuelling an increase in the attitude that women’s role in society is to be submissive wives and to raise children.

Further, the report said there are an estimated 1,139 female sex workers in the country, while studies have shown children as young as 12 are involved in commercial sex, and that eight percent of female sex workers from 12 islands were under the age of 18.

The report also expressed concern over health risks to women, under-representation of women at policy and decision-making levels, high rates of unemployment among women, and high levels of sexual harassment at work.

Health risks

Basic health services including access to gynecologists, gynecology services, sexual and reproductive health services are not fully and easily accessible to people living in the atolls, the report said.

It also noted a high number of unsafe abortions in the country, indicating prevalence of sexual relations among teens and unmarried adults.

However, age appropriate sex education is not provided at schools and parents are against the idea of sex education. Meanwhile, access to contraceptives in the atolls is largely limited to married couples.

The commission said the government must take proactive measures against female circumcision, noting several NGOs have raised concern over religious scholars endorsing the practice as obligatory in Islam.

The report added, however, that the Ministry of Law and Gender has informed the HRCM there was not enough information to suggest female genital mutilation is an emerging issue that needs to be addressed.

The HRCM also expressed concern over a rise in marriages out of court, stating children born to such marriages would face legal issues and difficulties in accessing fundamental rights and freedoms. Women in such marriages “are bound to face social and legal consequences,” the commission said.

High unemployment

Women are far more disadvantaged than men in the labour market, the report continued, with unemployment levels among women at least a third higher than among men.

Women’s labor participation had declined from 42.1 percent in 2006 to 38.2 percent in 2010, the report said. Women earned less than men, with a mean monthly income of MVR4,674 (US$303) for women as compared to MVR7,036 (US$456) for men.

Almost half of women in the working population are economically inactive and women account for 68 percent of the economically inactive population. Preoccupation with household chores and raising children appears to be the predominant reason for female unemployment, the report said.

According to the HRCM, “sexual harassment at the workplace is a daunting reality and an accepted norm for most employed women,” but women do not take action for fear of disbelief and stigmatisation, embarrassment and shame.

The report also noted women’s underrepresentation at the policy and decision-making levels. Only three out of 17 cabinet ministers are women, and only five out of the 85 MPs are women.

There are no gender differences in primary school enrolment, but the HRCM noted a growing concern that parents are turning to home based education for girls with the increase in religious conservatism.

There are more female students at local higher education institutes, where they dominate in programmes associated with education, health sciences, and management. Measures must be taken to increase the enrolment of females in conventionally male dominated fields of study, the HRCM suggested.

Related to this story

Maldivian youth need access to sexual reproductive health education, services: Department of National Planning

Figh Academy VP endorses female genital mutilation

Parliament passes sexual harassment and sexual offences bills

Abortion in the Maldives: the untold story


Asia Pacific Forum urges president to preserve independence of HRCM

No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan

The Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) has urged President Abdulla Yameen to ensure the independence of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives and guarantee immunity from prosecution for its members.

All five members of the HRCM are currently on trial at the Supreme Court, which has initiated suo moto proceedings against the commission on charges of undermining the constitution by allegedly including false information in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission to the UN Human Rights Council.

“In expressing its considered opinion to the UPR, the HRCM is fulfilling its official and legal mandate,” reads a letter from APF Chairperson Dr Ali Ben Smaihk Al-Marri sent to President Yameen on September 24.

“With the greatest respect, we urge you to preserve the independence of the HRCM and guarantee the immunity of members of the HRCM. The APF is willing to provide you any assistance you think fit on this matter.”

The APF is a member organisation of national human rights bodies of the Asia Pacific region with a membership of 22 institutions.

In its letter, APF noted that the HRCM was “a highly valued and respected member” of the organisation and expressed “gravest concern” over the Supreme Court’s actions.

The ongoing trial was “a concerning threat to the independence of the commission,” the organisation said.

The APF referred to Article 27(a) of the HRCM Act, which grants members immunity from prosecution for “committing or omitting an act in good faith”.

Moreover, Article 27(b) states that the commission could only be sued regarding published reports following an inquiry which establishes the falsehood of a component of the report.

“In addition, the UN international standards relating to NHRIs, the ‘Paris Principles’ set out, that in terms of a NHRIs independence, competence and responsibilities a NHRI is able to ‘contribute to the reports which States are required to submit to United Nations bodies and committees, and to regional institutions, pursuant to their treaty obligations and, where necessary, to express an opinion on the subject, with due respect for their independence,'” the APF letter stated.

At last week’s second hearing of the suo moto trial, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain slammed the commission for basing its observation – that the Supreme Court controlled and influenced the judiciary to the detriment of lower courts – on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul.

Faiz said the judiciary had rejected Knaul’s report as invalid. In June 2013, the government accused Knaul of undermining the Maldives’ sovereignty and jurisdiction.

On Tuesday (September 30), the European Union (EU) delegation in Colombo and EU member states expressed concern with the Supreme Court trial undermining the HRCM’s independence.

Meanwhile, former Justice Minister Ahmed ‘Seena’ Zahir called on the public last week to speak out for judicial reform and warned of a burgeoning “judicial dictatorship.”


Human Rights Commission summoned to Supreme Court

Members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) have been summoned to appear before the Supreme Court next week.

The summons closely follows the HRCM’s report for the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review, submitted earlier this week which criticised the court’s growing powers.

“Judicial system is controlled and influenced by the Supreme Court, weakening judicial powers vested in other superior courts and lower courts,” wrote the commision for the HRC’s examination of human rights in the Maldives.

Members of the commission have revealed that the summons, originally for today (September 18) has been delayed until September 22 due to the current absence of members from the capital, Malé.

The President’s Office has today criticised the report, suggesting in particular that sections on the death penalty could mislead international opinion.

Minivan News understands that the letter of the Supreme Court summons says only that the HRCM is being summoned “for the purposes of the court”.

Changes to contempt of court regulations made in June authorised courts to initiate legal proceedings and punish individuals for any expression, action, gesture, or piece of writing “inside or outside a courtroom” that could be considered contempt of court.

Contempt of court charges were also used to dismiss senior members of the Elections Commission (EC) just weeks before March’s Majlis elections.

Constitutionally protected testimonies given to the Majlis was included in evidence used to remove EC President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz for violating article 141 of the Constitution – which prohibits interference with the functioning of the courts.

The HRCM was accused of interfering in the work of the Juvenile Court earlier this year following a report on the infamous case of an abused 15-year-old sentenced to flogging. The court summoned commission members after suggesting the report contained false information.

Through a raft of regulations enacted in recent months, the Maldives Supreme Court has sought to consolidate control over administrative affairs of the judiciary.

The HRCM report to the UN said that “due to shortfalls in judicial system, functioning of the judiciary is often questionable on various grounds including independence, transparency, interference, influence, competency, consistency, and accessibility”.

Criticism and confusion

The report – part of a study of the human rights records of all 193 UN member states – has been criticised by the President’s Office, which has suggested the report was “very confusing” on the death penalty issue.

The ‘Child Rights’ section of the report calls for the abolition of the “death penalty” for minors after moves to end the 60-year moratorium earlier this year.

While the revised Penal Code, passed in April, ensures those under 15-years cannot be held criminally responsible, minors can still be charged for Hadd offences, with death sentences not carried out until 18-years of age.

“The Government of Maldives is not going to give the death penalty to children,” President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz told Minivan News today.

Comments from the Swiss delegation on the Maldives’ death penalty policy, made during the general debate session of Tuesday’s HRC meeting, prompted an angry response from Maldivian counterparts.

After being criticised by the Swiss for changing legislation “to permit the death penalty for children as young as 7 years old”, the Maldives itself attacked statements “rooted on misrepresentation and media speculation”.

Legal sources told Minivan News that, while the new Penal Code does include the “immaturity excuse” – removing criminal responsibility from those under 15, Article 15c still allows for minors to be held accountable for hadd offences.

Human Rights Commission member Jeehan Mahmood has defended the overall report submitted for the UPR.

“It’s the one chance we get to bring the world’s attention to issues that the state chooses to ignore on domestic forums”.


MPs clash over amendments to Human Rights Commission Act

Pro-government MPs clashed with MPs of former coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today over amendments proposed to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) Act of 2006.

During debate on the government-sponsored amendments, JP MP for Dhagethi, Ilham Ahmed, objected to giving powers to the HRCM to suspend employees of state institutions for two weeks for not complying with the commission’s orders.

The proposed amendment to Article 26(b) of the HRCM Act also confers the authority to impose a fine of between MVR3,000 (US$195) and MVR25,000 (US$1,621) for non-compliance.

The JP deputy leader contended that the powers could be misused to either arbitrarily fine or “bring into disrepute” a state employee over “simple matters,” adding that HRCM members would be “under the control” of the majority party in parliament.

Some members of independent commissions have “for sale boards on them,” he alleged, and could be bribed to issue reports.

Responding to the criticism, Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan noted that the existing law empowers the HRCM to place individuals under house arrest for three months over non-compliance with orders.

Moreover, the commission has the authority to dismiss employees of state institutions for non-compliance.

Attempts to mislead the public were “regrettable” as the government’s intention was to “provide relief”, said the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) parliamentary group leader.

The amendments (Dhivehi) were submitted on behalf of the government at today’s sitting of parliament by PPM MP Jaufar Daood.

The purpose of the legislation was to bring the HRCM law in line with the new constitution adopted in August 2008, he said.

Some provisions in the HRCM law – enacted two years before the ratification of the new constitution – conflicted with articles 189 through 198 of the constitution, which specifies the responsibilities and powers of the commission, Daood said.

During the debate, PPM MP Saud Hussain argued that the current administration inherited the task of amending laws for adherence to the new constitution as the previous parliament failed to do so during the past five years.

Opposition MPs, however, contended that the then-opposition parties used their provisional majority in parliament to obstruct the MDP government.

The amendments to the HRCM Act are among a number of bills drafted by the Attorney General’s Office to bring outdated laws in line with the new constitution.

The current administration’s the legislative agenda is comprised of  207 bills, including 98 new bills and 109 amendments to existing laws.

During today’s debate, JP MP for Kendhoo, Ali Hussain, meanwhile contended that parliament and not the executive should decide among candidates who apply for HRCM membership.

The president should not have “all the powers” to decide whom to appoint as members of the HRCM, he added.

PPM MP Ali Shah noted, however, that the Majlis had the authority to reject nominees forwarded by the president for parliamentary consent.


JP and PPM coalitions unite in condemnation of the Elections Commission

“The Supreme Court’s verdict very clearly says the elections commission planned and systematically attempted to commit electoral fraud,” said Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed last night.

Rasheed spoke during a joint press conference held by the three government-aligned parties still contesting in the presidential election.

Representatives of the Jumhooree Party (JP), the Adhaalath Party (AP), the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), and the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) also took turns to denounce the Elections Commission (EC).

“If the lawful punishment for these people is a jail sentence, then we will not hesitate to do that. There is no other way but resignation for them,” said JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed.

“I call on the police, the attorney general and the prosecutor general to investigate [EC Chair] Fuwad Thowfeek and his allies and file the case at court through the prosecutor general,” he continued.

The press conference came shortly before the EC revealed the schedule to be adopted for what will be the third attempt at completing the presidential election.

September’s poll – won by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed- was later annulled by the Supreme Court which ruled that the preparations of the EC had “broadly facilitated fraud, undue influence and corruption”.

The second attempt to hold the election on October 19 failed after police withdrew their logistical support, informing EC staff that they would be prevented from moving any election-related documents out of the commission’s premises.

The decision to delay the election brought consternation from the international community as well as renewed messages of support for the EC, which has received praise from over 1000 local and international observers for its conduct in the first round.

After consulting with the government and political parties, the EC yesterday announced the decision to hold the first round on November 9, and the run-off – if needed – on November 16.

“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast”

The police’s decision to obstruct polls – decried by both the Police Integrity Commission and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives – came after the PPM/MDA and JP/AP/DQP candidates had refused to sign the voter registry as mandated in the court’s ruling.

The allied parties yesterday called for the EC to abide by the Supreme Court’s guidelines when holding the re-vote.

“There is only one choice. If some of the points in the guidelines are difficult for them, then there is no other way but to seek to change those points,” Ilham said.

Adhaalath President Sheikh Imran Abdulla called for the EC to resign if it could not act according to the court’s guidelines.

“We, the two coalitions, remain steadfast. God willing, there will be no election in the Maldives at this time unless it is an election that follows the SC guidelines.”

During its own press conference last night, the EC announced it would continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but would seek to change them in the future.

“I hope the government considers these restrictions in the future and finds a solution. Otherwise, holding elections will become impossible and that affects the most fundamental [right] in a democracy,” said EC Chair Thowfeek.

Both MDA Deputy Leader Ahmed Amir and PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof expressed doubt that a free and fair election can be held as long as the EC members stay in place.

“Maldivian citizens know there is nothing we will not do for this nation. That we are not divided. This press conference shows we are together. God willing, we will remain like this,” Riyaz said yesterday.

Yesterday’s show of unity comes after relations between the parties and their candidates had appeared at a low ebb.

Following the October 8 decision to re-hold the first round of polling, initial suggestions that the parties might back a single candidate failed to result in consensus.

The PPM subsequently accused Gasim of being overly-influenced by MDP sympathisers within his party, whilst Gasim himself suggested that Yameen’s record during the autocratic rule of his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom meant that he would never win the popular support of the people.


Police ask HRCM to substantiate claims of malpractice regarding role in delayed vote

The Maldives Police Service has requested that the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) substantiate its claims that police exceeded their mandate during the delaying of the presidential election on October 19.

The scheduled poll failed to go ahead after police informed the Elections Commission that it would not support the election. The commission reported that police officers had informed them no document related to the election could leave their offices.

Maldives ‘police life’ website reported that the statement claims “actions of the Police on the 19th of October were based on the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives and the Supreme Court verdict, SC-C/42/2013, along with ensuring the rights of every individual who can vote”.

“The document goes on to state that the Maldives Police Service had prepared in advance for the election on the 19th with Officers being sent to the atolls on the 18th, being sent abroad as per the instructions of the Elections Commission and with separate Officers being sent with the voting list and vote slips being transported by air,” read the police website.

On the day scheduled for the vote. the HRCM released a statement arguing that the police service had “acted outside of their mandate in obstructing elections.”

“Point one of the Supreme Court’s 16 point guideline orders all institutions to provide cooperation to hold an election before October 20th. And yet, today Police had obstructed EC and brought the election to a halt. Even if there are concerns, the Elections Commission is the authority mandated by the Constitution of Maldives to stop an election if there is a need for it,” the HRCM continued.


Human Rights Commission condemns government’s “intimidation” of NGOs

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has condemned the government’s use of  “threats and intimidation” against civil society groups.

HRCM officials have also met with the Maldives Police Service to discuss allegations of the misuse of strip searches following recent demonstrations.

Writing to the Home Ministry, the commission reported that it had “condemned the infringement of the right to freedom of association as [an] expression of these two organisations”.

The letter also called upon the ministry to refrain from “unlawful sanctions” and activities that prevent such groups from working for the protection of human rights.

The HRCM pointed to Article 2(c) of the Human Rights Commission Act, which obligates it to support and protect these NGOs in the their work.

State Minister for Home Affairs and the Registrar of NGOs Abdulla Mohamed last week declared that the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM) and Transparency Maldives (TM) were under investigation for “unlawful acts” and warned NGOs that organisations acting outside of law would be dissolved.

The Maldivian Democracy Network has also condemned the minister’s remarks.

Transparency has publicly called for the Supreme Court to respect the constitutionally mandated election schedule, after it noted no significant issues during its extensive observation mission covering the first round of presidential polls.

The group has also questioned the integrity of the Supreme Court bench prior to its decision to delay the second round of voting.

The integrity of the court has become a running theme during the ensuing demonstrations, with particular attention drawn to Justice Ali Hameed’s alleged appearance in a string of sex-tapes.

TEAM – an industry body representing some 5000 resort workers – has threatened prlonged strikes, saying that the Supreme Court order “destroys the principles of democracy we have embraced and voids articles of the constitution.”

Transparency Maldives – an affiliate of Transparency International – states its mission as improving “transparency and accountability in all sectors” as well as increasing awareness of “corruption and its detrimental effects on society and development”.

The HRCM has also met with the police after being made aware of allegations that strip searches were being used in an unnecessary and discriminatory manner following the arrest of protesters.

Allegations of arbitrary and frequent use of pepper spray, beating, strip-searching, frisking, handcuffing and drug testing of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters were heard during the Parliamentary Privileges Subcommittee this week.

During the HRCM’s meeting with police, it stressed its belief that strip searches were a “degrading and inhuman treatement” that was to be avoided whenever possible.

The HRCM urged the police to obtain the detainee’s consent and the authorisation of a senior officer before conducting such a search, as well as ensuring that those carrying out the search are adequately trained.

In a statement issued on Wednesday (October 2), police said they were authorised to frisk and conduct strip-searches under Articles 32-36 of the the Police Powers Act.

The articles state that police are authorised to use such procedures if they have reasonable grounds to believe the detainee may hold an object to harm themselves or another, or an object for intoxication, or an object to commit an illegal object.


HRCM claims mandate pushed to limit over 15 year-old’s flogging sentence

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has said its mandate has been pushed to the limit after “braving” the country’s courts to oppose a controversial flogging sentence handed to a 15 year-old sexual abuse victim that was overturned this week.

The flogging sentence handed to the minor by the Juvenile Court in February was  overturned by the High Court yesterday (August 21) after the girl denied confessing to having had consensual sex with an unknown partner.

HRCM member Jeehan Mahmoud said that the decision to punish the minor, which has since garnered global media attention, represented a “continuous failure” on behalf of the whole state to protect children and other victims of sexual abuse.

She therefore called on all stakeholders to strengthen their internal mechanisms for protecting vulnerable people in the country.

“Lots of money has been invested, but we have failed to uphold a system,” said Jeehan. “There must be a better translation into reality. We need to ensure that the group works for all cases – rather than the one or two that gain international attention.”

Jeehan said that as part of efforts to appeal the flogging sentence handed to the minor, the HRCM had adopted what she called an unprecedented tactic of “braving the courts” as a third party by directly approaching the judiciary.

“We required permission from the courts,” said Jeehan. “This was a groundbreaking opportunity…we pushed our mandate to its limits.”

Authorities had previously said that the minor had confessed to having consensual sex during a separate investigation into her alleged abuse that had resulted in the birth – and subsequent murder – of her baby.

On the back of the High Court’s ruling yesterday (August 21), Amnesty International – which has previously warned that the 15 year-old’s case was the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the country’s treatment of victims of sexual offences – has released a statement welcoming the decision.

“Annulling this sentence was of course the right thing to do. We are relieved that the girl will be spared this inhumane ‘punishment’ based on an outrageous conviction,” said Amnesty’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director Polly Truscott.

Amnesty went on to argue that the sentence ought not to have been imposed in the first place, before calling for a moratorium on flogging.

Despite the moratorium calls, President Dr Mohamed Waheed defended the wider use of Islamic Sharia in the country’s courts, while expressing his satisfaction with the High Court verdict this week.

“I also note that [the] verdict has established beyond doubt the sound principles of Islamic Shariah for such cases and became part of the country’s legal framework,” said the president in a statement.

“Considering the state of the country today, with sexual violence against women and children increasing daily, it is essential for the criminal justice system to ensure that women and children do not become prey to further abuse. I believe that establishing procedures necessary for the legal framework to protect such children is a welcome development to ensure that such tragic incidents do not repeat.”

Waheed added that he saw the decision as “major progress” in the protection of children’s rights. He concluded by saying that the child was still under the state’s care.

“The state will continue to provide the assistance she needs to overcome the tragic ordeals she endured and live a happy life in our society.”

Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukhoor echoed President Waheed’s comments today, arguing that Islamic Sharia is perfectly well-equipped to protect the rights of children.

The AG also spoke of an online Avaaz petition calling for both the minor’s sentence to be overturned as well as an end to flogging, criticising those she said had “politicised” the issue, arguing that they had made the work of Maldivian authorities difficult.

The online petition was signed by over 2 million people – a group more than six times the population of the Maldives.

The Maldivian judicial system currently practices a combination of common law and Islamic Sharia. Article 142 of the country’s constitution mandates that any matter on which the constitution or the law is silent must be considered according sharia.

Maldivian civil society group Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) meanwhile has continued to press the government for ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure.

This protocol provides an additional avenue of complaint should the state fail to uphold the rights of a child, which ARC mantain would greatly improve upon current domestic mechanisms.

“The case of the 15- year old girl is a good example of how the procedure could have been used to approach the UN Committee,” the group’s co-founder Zenysha Shaheed Zaki told Minivan News.