Maldives discusses intolerance, Syria, Palestine, and women’s rights at the UN Human Rights Council

Maldives’ Ambassador to the United Nations Offices in Geneva Iruthisham Adam has told the Human Rights Council of the Maldives concern over rising incidences of racial and religious intolerance around the world.

Speaking at the 26th regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) being held in Geneva  from June 10 – 27, Iruthisham said that the Maldives believes human rights are for everyone and are indivisible and interdependent.

Her comments came response to the opening statement by the departing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, whose term ends on 31 August.

In her statement, Pillay noted that effective human rights advocacy must necessarily open a Pandora’s box of hidden abuses to allow the work of ensuring better governance and justice.

“Dalit or Brahmin, Peul or Pole, gay or heterosexual, tycoon or pauper, woman, child or man – regardless of our ethnicity, our age, our form of disability, our beliefs, or our economic might, all human beings are equal in dignity,” said Pillay.

During her term, Pillay has been particularly outspoken about both flogging and the judiciary in the Maldives, with the former comments – made during a trip to the Maldives in 2011 – prompting protests on the streets of Malé.

Following the Supreme Court’s controversial intervention in the 2013 presidential elections, Pillay accused it of “subverting the democratic process”, this time drawing an angry response from the chief justice.

Continuing her response to Pillay’s statement, Iruthisham noted that it was important to highlight unique challenges and vulnerabilities faced by Small Island Developing States such as the Maldives.

Palestine and Syria

Irurhisham also called on the international community to take stronger measures to prevent conflicts from spreading into other territories, causing greater violations of human rights.

The Maldives was described as being concerned by the human rights situations in countries such as the South Sudan, Ukraine, the Central African Republic and, in particular, Palestine and Syria.

Irurhisham criticised the weak response of the international community to war crimes in Syria, calling for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Commenting on the situation in Syria she said the widespread and systematic violence in Syria today is a tragedy for the Syrian people and a failure for the cause of human rights.

Noting that the Palestinians have been struggling for a just cause for decades without any solution, Irurhisham reiterated the importance of retaining agenda item seven – ‘the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories’ – on the council’s agenda.

“The Maldives expresses its grave concern and condemns the continuation of systematic violation and abuse of human rights of the Palestinian people and the illegal settlements by Israel, the occupying power,” she said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revealed that the Maldives will also address the human rights situation in North Korea as well as focusing on womens rights, independence of the judiciary, and climate change.

Women’s rights

The Maldives is also part of the HRC core-group leading a high level panel ‘Power of Empowered Women 2014′ on equality and women’s economic empowerment.

When commenting on the special rapporteur on violence against women’s report, delegation member Amin Javed Faizal said that “eliminating all forms of violence against women is a cornerstone of the Maldives’ human rights policy, and our work at the human rights council.”

“We have already undertaken measures to address comprehensively all the shortcomings present in the system including the issue of accountability,” said Javed, pointing out that reservations to the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have been withdrawn and a domestic violence bill enacted.

A recent EU election observation report noted that women remained “acutely under-represented” in Maldivian public life, pointing out that provisions to eliminate intentional and unintentional discrimination – as included in CEDAW – were till lacking

Among many issues on the agenda of the HRC session are Central African Republic, Syria, North Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sustainable Development, Racism, Corruption, Human Trafficking, Universal Periodic Review,

In addition to this specific panel discussions will be held on subjects such as safety of journalists, combating female genital mutilation, eliminating child, early and forced marirages and advancing rights of right of persons with disabilities.


Comment: Justice elusive for female victims of violence

Violence against women remains one of the greatest scourges of our time. It is disgraceful that even today, for many women and girls everywhere, violence is lurking around street corners, in workplaces or in their very own homes. And too often, justice is elusive.

In Busia, Kenya, in June this year, a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped and thrown into a six-metre-deep pit latrine, breaking her back and leaving her with obstetric fistula. Police chose not to prosecute the men, instead ordering them to cut grass around the police station as punishment. The news unleashed a rare outpouring of public indignation and a petition was signed by 1.4 million people. The “Justice for Liz” campaign led the Chief Justice of Kenya to call for immediate action in the case.

Why did it take agitation by 1.4 million people to begin the process of justice which is the victim’s fundamental human right?

Halfway around the world, in Auckland, New Zealand, when a 13-year-old girl had gone to the police to report that she had been raped by three young men, one of the first questions she was reportedly asked was: “What were you wearing”. This was in 2011. Two years later, after many similar attacks by the same gang, it took a public exposé to rattle the authorities into action. The Independent Police Conduct Authority of New Zealand has been ordered to look into the handling of these cases and police are now finally conducting the investigations they should have begun two years ago.

Sadly, these are not isolated cases. Such crimes occur on a daily basis in countries across the world, but they rarely make headlines or lead to public outrage and action by high-level officials. In most parts of the world, women are too ashamed or fearful to report violence, particularly sexual violence, to the police. And when they overcome various societal barriers and taboos to file a complaint, they are all too often met with callous, insensitive official reactions, effectively blocking all access to justice.

Violence against women and girls has been perpetuated by centuries of male dominance and gender-based discrimination. Building on deeply entrenched social norms that frame women’s worth around discriminatory notions of chastity and “honour”, violence is often used to control and humiliate not only the victims, but also their families and communities. It is essential to challenge such notions, which often permeate the justice system itself, resulting in a vicious cycle of impunity and further violence.

The UN Committee on the Elimination on Discrimination against Women and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women have been documenting violence against women, its causes and consequences in all parts of the world and recommending measures to eliminate such violence and to remedy its consequences. These recommendations must be taken seriously. States are obliged by international human rights law to ensure that the criminal justice system, at every stage, is free of gender bias, including in investigation, prosecution, interrogation and protection of victims and witnesses, and in sentencing.

The suggestion that women have a propensity to lie and that their testimony must be corroborated or treated with caution should be eliminated from every level of the judicial process, as must the idea that women invite sexual violence by being out late or by dressing in a particular manner.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let us do our part to eliminate the harmful gender stereotypes that help perpetuate a climate where violence against women is considered acceptable or “deserved”. Violence is simply and totally unacceptable – no matter what she was wearing.

Navi Pillay is the UN Human Rights Commissioner

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Week in review: October 26 – November 1

The biggest headlines in the Maldives this week came out of the People’s Majlis, beginning with the MNDF going into the parliament to block the entrance of two opposition MPs who had been stripped of their seats by the Supreme Court.

After some scuffles, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim was handed over to police, who subsequently extended his detention to 15 days.

Azim had arrived to take part in the emergency session which eventually passed a motion supporting the transition of presidential power to the speaker of the house should no president-elect be determined by November 11.

After calling on the MNDF to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision to remove Azim and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP Mohamed Nashiz, Speaker Abdulla Shahid took the decision to appoint a serjeant at arms to oversee future security at the Majlis.

The constitutionally protected status of the Majlis premises was used to full advantage by MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor this week who sought sanctuary from arrest by police who wished to present him in court in relation to drug and alcohol offences.

After threats to try Hamid in absentia, the Criminal Court sentenced him to six months in prison for failure to attend hearings.

The Majlis also found time this week to receive the MVR16.4 billion (US$1 billion) budget for 2014, as well as accepting a bill that would criminalise calling for, endorsing, or taking part in a tourism boycott.

One person not present in the Majlis this week was now-former Attorney General Azima Shukoor, who was removed in a unanimous vote of no-confidence. This day’s proceedings were not without additional incident, however, as mysterious pills – rumoured to be laxatives – were found in a Majlis’ coffee machine.

The week’s events will not have reassured the Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, who wrote to Speaker Shahid requesting an urgent visit to the country to assess the situation.

Mandatory excess

MPs were not the only ones feeling persecuted this week, as Supreme Court took aim at MDP aligned broadcaster Raajje TV for allegedly defaming its reputation.  The station – decimated in an arson attack earlier this month – also reported fresh threats against its premises.

The Maldives Media Council and Reporters Without Borders joined station management in arguing that the police were acting outside of their mandate, encroaching upon an investigation that rightly fell within the purview of the broadcasting commission.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz warned media outlets that action would be taken against anyone found to be reporting “invalid information, if it relates to courts or judges”.

After levelling similar accusations against the police in relation the delayed election, the Human Rights Commission this week told Minivan News that it felt the police were now attempting to intimidate its staff.

It was the Supreme Court itself, however, that came in for the most stinging criticism this week as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay launched an offensive on the apex bench, accusing it of “interfering excessively in the Presidential elections”.

After being accused of “subverting the democratic process”, the Chief Justice quickly hit back, labelling Pillay’s comment “irresponsible” and “poorly researched”.

Reputation at stake

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office also expressed its concern this week that repeated delays to the presidential election could hurt the Maldives’ economy as well as its international reputation – something not helped by an attack on the Indian High Commissioner’s official vehicle.

FCO minister Hugo Swire urged stakeholders to allow the Elections Commission “the space needed” to prepare for the elections – a request not heeded by either the government nor the presidential candidates who pleaded with the EC to move polls forward in order to avoid the impending constitutional void.

The Elections Commissioner responded that an expedited poll was not possible, regardless of any amount of government assistance – not even the police’s new-found ability to verify fingerprints at 25 times its previous speed.

Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek also revealed that the EC had found at least four of the 18 people deemed dead by the Supreme Court annulment to be alive and “quite fed up”.

MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed told the press of diplomatic murmurings regarding likely economic sanctions should no new president be found by November 11.

He went on to suggest the way out of the impasse might be for either one of the three candidates to pull out of the  poll, or for the Supreme Court to un-annul the first round – making the November 9 poll a two horse race.

Finally, the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index found the Maldives a mediocre place to be a woman, with the country scoring highly in terms of education and health but falling behind in economic and political parity.


“Supreme Court is subverting the democratic process”: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has released a statement on Wednesday expressing concern about “the dangerous drift in the democratic process in the Maldives largely as a result of the Supreme Court’s repeated interventions in the presidential election process”.

“I am alarmed that the Supreme Court of the Maldives is interfering excessively in the Presidential elections, and in so doing is subverting the democratic process and violating the right of Maldivians to freely elect their representatives,” the statement read.

The Supreme Court immediately hit back today, with Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz describing Pillay’s comments as “poorly researched” and  “irresponsible”.

“The Supreme Court nullified the first round of the Presidential Election of 7 September 2013 on the basis of irregularities in the process, despite the general conclusions by national and international observers that the election was free and fair,” read Pillay’s statement.

Pillay also described the court’s election guidelines as “onerous” and “difficult to satisfy”.

“There have been longstanding concerns about the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in the Maldives, which both the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, addressed during official visits to the country in 2011 and 2013,” added Pillay

“I am normally the first to defend the independence of the judiciary, but this also carries responsibilities. Judges should act in accordance with the principles of impartiality, propriety, equality and due diligence, as reflected in the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of Judiciary, the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, and Maldives’ own code of conduct,” Pillay stated.

The statement further also expressed concern regarding the court’s threats to charge lawyers, media and civil society groups for challenging its decisions, as well as “the reactivation of old cases to arrest opposition MPs or bar them from Parliament.”

“The Supreme Court appears set on undermining other independent institutions, stifling criticism and public debate, and depriving litigants of the legal representation of their choice,” Pillay stated.

Chief Justice’s response

“I harshly condemn UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s  false allegations regarding the Maldives Supreme Court’s work to uphold its constitutional duties and responsibilities. I do not believe she has any authority to speak in such terms,” responded Chief Justice Faiz today.

Defending the court’s neutrality, Faiz argued that Pillay’s statement was unacceptable for an official operating under the UN’s mandate to protect the rights of large and small states alike.

“False allegations by any party on the Supreme Court’s work does not aid strengthening democracy, administration of justice in the Maldives or uphold the rule of law. It does not encourage the promotion of democracy, rule of law or protection of human rights,” read Faiz’s statement.

The first round of the Maldives presidential election – held on September 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court earlier this month, with a fresh round of elections arranged to be held on October 19.

The re-scheduled vote, however, was also cancelled after police obstructed the Elections Commission, citing the Supreme Court’s issued 16 regulation as justification.

As well as condemning the police for the delay, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has also condemned the police for “acting beyond its mandate”, while a leaked report by the commission questions the credibility of the evidence used by the apex court in its annulment of the first round of elections.

A joint statement by the International Federation for Human Rights and local NGO Maldives Democracy Network has described the court’s verdict as being founded on “materially baseless arguments”, after the first round was “applauded as a success by the international community.”

A new first round is now scheduled for November 9, with the EC President Fuwad Thowfeek maintaining it will not be changed despite requests to expedite the polling date from both the current government and the contesting presidential candidates.

Government-aligned parties go to SC for political solutions

Progressive Party of Maldives lawyer Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed submitted a case to the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking a ruling on the motion passed by the parliament to appoint Speaker Abdulla Shahid as interim head of state in the instance that an elected president cannot be installed by the constitutionally mandated date, November 11.

Waheed is quoted in local media as saying the parliamentary motion has been passed against the constitution and the verdicts of the Supreme Court.

On the same day, Wadde has also submitted another case to the court asking it to rule that the MDP MP Ahmed Hamza’s appointment to the judicial watchdog – the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – was conducted in breach of the constitution.

In this case, Wadde argued that Hamza is a person who works “against the judiciary” and so he finds it “unacceptable that such a man can serve in the JSC”.

Earlier this month Wadde, alongside Jumhooree Coalition member ‘Madhanee Ihthihaadh’ (Civil Alliance) President Sheikh Mohamed Didi, filed a case in the apex court challenging opposition Maldivian Democratic Party candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s candidacy.

The petition gave as grounds Nasheed’s criticism of the judiciary, as well as his “outright criticism towards Islam and iposing Islamic Sharia’ in the Maldives”.

Jumhooree Coalition’s Presidential Candidate Gasim Ibrahim has also this week called on President Dr Mohamed Waheed to seek advice from the apex court on the course of action he should take should there not be an elected leader by November 11.

Speaking at a party rally, Gasim stated that as Waheed has previously written to the parliament for advice, he believes the president should also seek the opinion of the Supreme Court.


Sri Lanka rejects Human Rights Commissioner’s critique

Sri Lanka has rejected United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay’s critique that the country has neglected its investigation of war crimes allegations and is leaning towards authoritarian rule, the Financial Times reports.

Sri Lanka’s civil war with the Tamil Tigers ended in 2009, with a civilian death count of approximately 40,000. International bodies and Western powers have been pushing for thorough investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by the government.

Concluding a high-profile week-long visit to Sri Lanka, Ms. Pillay said on Saturday, “I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.”

On Sunday, Sri Lanka’s information ministry claimed that Ms. Pillay’s critique “clearly transgresses her mandate and the basic norms which should be observed by a discerning international civil servant.”

Financial Times notes that Sri Lanka’s resistance to international input is uncomfortably timed. In March, the UN Human Rights Council passed a US-sponsored resolution criticizing Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for limiting independence in the parliament, judiciary and media.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already made clear his decision to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) summit, due to take place in Sri Lanka in November, on account of the country’s poor human rights record.

Speaking to Financial Times on condition of anonymity, one Western diplomat claimed that “America has lost patience with the Sri Lankans, but there is now real worry about credibility…If the US and its allies can’t even get a small country like Sri Lanka to behave itself, what hope does it have in more difficult cases, let alone somewhere like Syria?”

The Sri Lankan government reportedly took limited steps to address international critiques immediately before Pillay’s arrival, including the establishment of a commission to examine civilian disappearances during the civil war.


Maldives government to review laws that “victimise” sexually abused minors

The Maldivian government has today said it will review and potentially “correct” laws in the country it claims victimise young women and minors who have suffered sexual abuse.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News the government would be holding consultations with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and other relevant authorities to discuss how minors who have been sexually abused were being treated in the country.

The comments were made as the Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office today confirmed it had pressed charges against a 15 year-old girl from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll for having “consensual sexual relations”.

A spokesperson for the PG’s Office said the charges against the minor were unrelated to a separate case against the girl’s stepfather over allegations he had sexually abused her.

“Protected, not punished”

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad said that from government’s perspective, the 15 year-old girl was a victim who needed to be protected, not punished by authorities.

“We will be talking with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs over this manner and will review and correct the problem,” he said.

Masood claimed that the Maldives had experienced a number of similar cases of late where young women had been victimised and punished by authorities – a situation he said the government was looking to prevent.

“We are reviewing this right now and if we have to go to the extent of changing existing laws then we would look to do this,” he said.

While unable to comment on specific cases at time of press, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) Vice President Ahmed Tholal told Minivan News that he was hugely concerned about the number of reports of sexual abuse against minors in the country.

Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human rights Dr Mariyam Shakeela and Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed were not responding to calls at the time of press.

The reported handling of the case by authorities has garnered significant attention this week in both local and international media.


A PG’s Office spokesperson today confirmed that the charges against the minor were related to a separate offence of Sharia Law, which had been filed back on November 25, 2012.

The 15 year-old last year gave birth to a baby that was discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of a home on Feydhoo – her stepfather was later charged with sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing murder without intent.

The spokesperson said that another charge was filed against the girl’s mother over claims she had failed to inform authorities of the alleged sexual abuse of her own child.

Judicial authorities told Minivan News earlier this week that the charges against the 15 year-old were yet to be filed with the Juvenile Court at the time.

Director of the Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid was not responding to calls at time of press.

NGO criticism

The charges against the 15 year-old girl have been slammed as an “absolute outrage” by NGO Amnesty International.

In a statement released yesterday, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher Abbas Faiz stressed that suspected victims of rape and sexual abuse required counselling and support rather than facing prosecution.

“We urge the Maldivian authorities to immediately drop all charges against the girl, ensure her safety and provide her with all necessary support,” the NGO’s statement read.

Amnesty Intentional also raised concerns that should the minor be found guilty of “fornication” as reported in the media, she could potentially be flogged in line with sentencing for similar cases held in the country.

“If found guilty of ‘fornication’ the girl could be punished with flogging. She would likely be kept under house arrest until she turns 18 when, under Maldivian law, the flogging can be carried out. Flogging is a violation of the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment,” Amnesty International stated.

“The Maldivian authorities should immediately end its use regardless of circumstances. The fact that this time a 15-year old girl who has suffered terribly is at risk makes it all the more reprehensible. Flogging is not only wrong and humiliating, but can lead to long-term psychological as well as physical scars.”

Fornication offence

Back in September 2012, a 16 year-old girl was sentenced to house arrest and 100 lashes for fornication with a 29 year-old man.

Permanent Magistrate of Raa Atoll Hulhudhuhfaaru, Magistrate Abdul Samad Abdulla, sentenced the girl to eight months under house arrest, and for public flogging once she reaches the age of 18.

Ali Rashid, an official of the Hulhudhuhfaaru Magistrate Court, said at the time that the girl had been sentenced for fornication because she had confessed to it. However, the 29 year-old male with whom she was co-accused had denied the charges.

“The man said he hadn’t committed fornication, but he admitted to having hugged and done certain other things with the girl. This amounts to sexual assault of a minor under the law. That’s why he has got the minimum sentence possible under the relevant law, 10 years in jail,” Rashid explained.

The official of the Hulhudhuhfaaru Magistrate Court referred Minivan News to Article 25 of the act detailing special actions to be taken in cases of sexual offences against children (Act number: 12/2009).

Article 25 says: “Unless proven otherwise, it cannot be considered that a child between ages 13-18 had given consent to committing a sexual act. And unless proven otherwise, it will be considered that the sexual act was committed without the child’s consent.”

In November 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, speaking in parliament, raised concerns about the issue of flogging in the Maldives.

Speaking on the issue, Pillay said at the time, “This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country.”

Her statements and calls for discussion on the issue were met with outrage from then political opposition and religious conservative Adhaalath party, giving rise to protests and demonstrations. The Foreign Ministry, under the former government, dismissed the calls for discussion on the issue, stating: “There is nothing to debate about in a matter clearly stated in the religion of Islam. No one can argue with God.”


The President will not apologise for Pillay without Parliament: Zuhair

President Mohamed Nasheed will neither condemn nor apologise to the people over the statements made by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay about flogging, Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair has said.

Zuhair explained that the comments were made before Parliament, which has not yet spoken against the comments.

He said the President would respond after “the head of the particular state body cites a valid reason to speak against Pillay’s comments.”

During her visit in November, Pillay told Parliament that flogging as a punishment for extra-marital sex was one of the most degrading punishments for women, and asked that the government issue a moratorium on the Shariah-based penalty.

According to Haveeru, Zuhair said that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom earlier made statements similar to those of Pillay.

The demand that the President apologise for Pillay’s remarks is one of five demands made the coalition which protested in defense of Islam on Friday, December 23. Since then, the government taken steps to address the demands which include removing SAARC monuments in Addu, preventing Israeli airlines to operate flights into the Maldives, closing down brothels and places where prostitution is practiced, and reversing the decision to declare areas of inhabited islands uninhabited in order to permit the sale of alcohol.


MDP to hold rally at Haruge as government considers demands

Ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has cancelled its protest, announced during last night’s MDP rally, because no opposition parties have announced plans to hold similar demonstrations.

MDP will instead hold a rally at 8:30 at Haruge this evening.

The MDP protest was announced as party members rallied last night in response to the demands made by leaders of the protest to “Defend Islam”, held yesterday by a coalition of opposition parties and religious NGOs at the Tsunami Monument area.

Demands of the government included removing SAARC monuments in Addu, four of which have been vandalised or stolen; condemning UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay for her comments about flogging as a penal response to extra-marital sex; denying Israeli airlines permission to operate flights to the Maldives; closing down Male’ brothels and reversing the decision to declare of inhabited islands uninhabited in order to permit alcohol sales.

As the night drew to a close, MDP party members issued statements claiming that they would march against the “Defend Islam” protest if it did not end by midnight.

The statement was respected, and aside from one protestor who was hassled as he passed MDP headquarters at Haruge on his way home, no confrontations occurred.

President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair has said that although the government is unclear on which legal grounds and by which exact group the demands were made, the large public demonstration in support for these demands has prompted to government to give them due consideration, reports Haveeru.


Maldives a proud part of ICC: Ghafoor

The Maldivian government has said it supports the mandates and standards of human rights and legal processes held by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in conjunction with the United Nations Charter.

Gender violence and social unrest were among the issues raised during the session.

Permanent Representative Ghafoor Mohamed addressed the Tenth Session of the Assembly of State Parties to the ICC last week. The session began in New York City on December 12 and will conclude on December 21.

Reaffirming the Maldives’ commitment to the Rome Statue, Ghafoor said the country is “proud to be among the group of countries who have committed themselves to combat impunity, in respect of international law and to provide justice to those victims who have often been forgotten in the labyrinths of diplomacy.

“We strongly believe that the rule of law in societies, at all levels is a crucial ingredient to the realization of socio economic objectives, and a reinforcement of core democratic principles. We are a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court and its conformity with the United Nations Charter in strengthening the rule of law and the respect for human rights”, he stated.

Reflecting on the protests and revolutions unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa, Ghafoor pushed for governments to carefully consider their peoples’ voices and visions for their states.

The Maldives demonstrated its commitment to democracy during the Arab Spring and recently over the Syrian revolution.

The Maldives was one of the first three countries to recognise Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya’s sole legitimate representative. In a letter sent to chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil, expressed the President’s hope that Libya would “emerge as a free and democratic country, in which fundamental human rights can be enjoyed by all.”

Earlier this month, the Maldives exercised its powers as a member of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council to help convene a UN Emergency Session on human rights in Syria. The Maldives supports increased foreign intervention regarding the state crackdown on civilian protestors.

However, Maldivian police have lately extended controversial blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed’s detention over his role in a peaceful silent protest for religious tolerance without charges.

On the other hand, religious Adhaalath party has agreed to meet with ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to discuss issues surrounding the upcoming protest to defend Islam, scheduled for December 23. MDP is meanwhile planning to hold a counter-rally on the same day.

Gender crimes were also raised as an issue of high importance.

“Gender crimes are one of most heinous forms of crimes against humanity and it is imperative that the Court continues its case law and jurisprudential work,” Ghafoor said.

A related topic was recently raised in the Maldives when UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay called for a moratorium on flogging of women as a punishment for extra-marital intercourse. The punishment is primarily administered to females in the Maldives, where paternity tests are unavailable.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem rejected Pillay’s view on the grounds that Islamic law is inarguable.

This is the first time the Maldives has participated in an Assembly of State Parties to the ICC since acceding to the Rome Statue earlier this year. Other new members include the Philippines, Cape Verde and Vanuatu.