UN Human Rights Council mulls action against Maldives

The President of the UN Human Rights Council has called the imposition of 11 guidelines on the Maldives human rights watchdog by the Supreme Court as “unacceptable,” and said he stands ready to take appropriate actions within his mandate.

“National human rights institutions play a pivotal role in independently monitoring and protecting human rights. The imposition of restrictions on the HRCM [Human Rights Commission of the Maldives] for its engagement, in particular, with the Human Rights Council, and its mechanisms is unacceptable,” said Joachim Rücker in a letter to a New-Delhi based advocacy group.

The Supreme Court had found a human rights assessment submitted by the HRCM to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review unlawful, and set several guidelines prescribing how it should operate within the law.

The guideline bars the HRCM from communicating independently with foreign bodies, and orders it to protect unity, peace and order, and uphold Maldivian norms and faith.

The Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) on June 26 had urged Rücker to condemn the Supreme Court’s judgment against the HRCM, stating that “the act of reprisal” is unheard of.

If the UN human rights council fails to condemn it, it would set dangerous precedent across the world, the NGO warned.

In reply, Rücker said: “Please rest assured that I will continue to closely follow this case, continue the dialogue with the Government of the Maldives, as Member State of the Human Rights Council, and stand ready to take appropriate actions within my mandate.”

The issue had been raised at a human rights council meeting on June 26, and had been discussed at a bureau meeting with vice-presidents, he said. Concern had been raised with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon as well.

The ACHR had previously called on the UN Human Rights Council to suspend the Maldives from the council.

Suhas Chakma, the Director of the ACHR, on Wednesday called upon President Abdulla Yameen to place a new bill in the parliament to revoke the Supreme Court’s verdict against the HRCM before the end of the ongoing UN Human Rights Council.

The 29th session of the UNHRC is taking place from June 15 to July 3 in Geneva, Switzerland. The inter-governmental body is comprised of 47 member states and meets for 10 weeks every year, in March, June and September.

The Maldives was first elected to the council in 2010 and re-elected for a second term in November 2013.

The ACHR has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and provides information and complaints to national human rights institutions and the UN bodies and mechanisms.

The government had previously defended the court’s judgment, insisting that the court’s decision “clearly stresses” the commission’s independence.

The foreign ministry said the guidelines “do no stipulate, in any specific terms, any restriction or limitation on the HRCM’s ability to submit reports to the UN or any other national or international organ in the future.”



Maldives calls for action against Israeli leaders

The Maldives called on the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza last year and urged “prompt action to be taken against Israel and its leaders.”

The Maldives made the call in a statement delivered at the 29th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council at an interactive dialogue with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict.

“The Maldives also noted with deep regret the complete non-cooperation of Israel with the Commission, where the Israeli Government did not allow the Commission to enter the territories,” the foreign ministry said in a statement today.

“The Maldives condemned the well planned attacks, which were carried out during very specific times, such as ‘iftar’ and ‘suhoor’ – the Ramadan meal times, which maximised the number of civilian casualties.”

The Maldives also called on Israel to “respect the inalienable rights of the people of Palestine to self-determination and statehood.”

The foreign ministry explained that the United Nations Human Rights Council considers the plight and situation of human rights of the people of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, under item seven of its agenda, “which faces resistance from the United States of America and some Western States.”

“The Maldives has on every occasion reiterated its strong position that Agenda Item 7 should continue, as long as the occupation continues,” the foreign ministry said.

In August last year, the Maldivian media organised a ‘Help Gaza’ telethon and raised a record MVR29.4 million (US$1.91 million). The funds have since been used by the International Federation of Red Crescent (IFRC) to construct 100 housing units in Gaza for displaced Palestinian families.


UN urged to condemn guideline for human rights watchdog

A New Delhi-based human rights NGO has called upon the UN human rights council to condemn a Maldives Supreme Court judgment barring the human rights watchdog from communicating with foreign organisations without government oversight.

In a letter to the council’s president Joachim Rücker, the Asian Center for Human Rights (ACHR) urged the UN to “take measures to rescind” the apex court’s judgment and to ensure accountability by “bringing the perpetrators, i.e. judges of the Supreme Court who initiated the suo moto proceedings against the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) to, justice.”

The court’s ruling on June 16 found a human rights assessment submitted by the watchdog to the UN unlawful, and imposed an 11-point guideline prescribing how the HRCM should operate within the law.

The ACHR warned that the “act of reprisal” against the HRCM for “cooperating with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is unheard of and will set dangerous precedent across the world” if the UN human rights council fails to condemn it.

The 11-point guideline states that the HRCM must protect unity, peace and order, and uphold Maldivian norms, faith, etiquette and the rule of law.

The Supreme Court also said that the HRCM must not overstep its mandate, while ordering the independent body to cooperate with government institutions, communicate with foreign bodies through the relevant government institutions, and protect the Maldives’ reputation.

The verdict “has the potential to frighten the national human rights institutions and encourage dictatorial regimes across the world to take such repressive measures to prohibit cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms,” read the ACHR’s letter.

The ACHR has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and provides information and complaints to national human rights institutions and the United Nations bodies and mechanisms.

In its submission to the UN Universal Period Review, the HRCM said the Supreme Court controlled and influenced the lower courts to the detriment of the Maldivian judiciary.

Days after the report was publicised, the Supreme Court brought charges against the HRCM members under controversial suo moto regulations that allow the apex court to prosecute and pass judgment.

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed said the September 2014 report by the HRCM was biased and undermined judicial independence in the Maldives.

The HRCM’s submission to the UPR was based on reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul.

The apex court said it had previously rejected Knaul’s report as invalid and reprimanded the HRCM for its alleged failure to consult the Supreme Court in writing the UPR submission.

The government has meanwhile defended the court’s judgment, insisting that the court’s decision “clearly stresses” the commission’s independence.

The foreign ministry said the guidelines “do no stipulate, in any specific terms, any restriction or limitation on the HRCM’s ability to submit reports to the UN or any other national or international organ in the future.”


Diplomatic pressure ramps up on Maldives

The Canadian government and the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) have called for international action to secure the release of “political prisoners” in the Maldives.

Canada called on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to “urgently put the deteriorating situation in the Maldives on its formal agenda,” while the ACHR called on the the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to adopt a resolution demanding the “unconditional release of all political prisoners” in the Maldives, including former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The ACHR has special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and provides information and complaints to national human rights institutions and the United Nations bodies and mechanisms.

The organization also called on the UNHRC to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Maldives and to make a recommendation to the UN General Assembly to suspend the Maldives from the Human Rights Council.

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

Last week, US senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.

Commonwealth values

Canada also called on the Maldivian government to release jailed opposition politicians.

“On June 12, protestors gathered in the Maldives capital, Malé, to call for the release of political prisoners,‎ an independent judiciary, an end to politically motivated charges, and respect for freedom of expression and fundamental democratic values,” Canadian foreign minister Rob Nicholson said in a statement yesterday.

“Canada strongly supports these objectives, which are consistent with Commonwealth values and principles as set out in the Charter of the Commonwealth.”

In March, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon slammed alleged attempts to place the Maldives on the CMAG agenda over Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

Former foreign minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Dr Ahmed Shaheed said Canada’s call shows “that countries in the commonwealth care about the Maldives.”

Suspension from UNHRC

The 29th session of the UNHRC is taking place from June 15 to July 3 in Geneva, Switzerland. The inter-governmental body is comprised of 47 member states and meets for 10 weeks every year, in March, June and September.

The Maldives was first elected to the council in 2010 and re-elected for a second term in November 2013.

The prosecution and imprisonment of political opponents constitute “gross and systematic violations of human rights” as provided under the General Assembly resolution establishing the Human Rights Council and justifies the proposed measures, the ACHR said in a statement yesterday.

As the European parliament has adopted a resolution calling for Nasheed’s release, the ACHR suggested that European Union members on the council should sponsor the resolution.

The foreign ministry said yesterday that the Maldives delegation will focus on “issues of priorities such as women’s rights, children’s rights, climate change, rule of law, among others.”

“Trumped up charges”

The ACHR meanwhile accused President Abdulla Yameen of jailing political opponents under “trumped up charges” to bar rivals from contesting the 2018 presidential election.

“While key democratic leaders have been put behind bars under terrorism charges, President Yameen has taken little or no measures to counter real terrorists: over 200 Maldivians are currently fighting for Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria with at least four of them having died in the fighting,” the ACHR claimed.

The judiciary remains unreformed since the 30-year autocratic reign of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the ACHR continued, and currently serves as the “handmaiden” of President Yameen – “a replica of the rule by the Rajapaksa brothers which ended in neighbouring Sri Lanka in January 2015.”

Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, and JP council member Sobah Rasheed have also been charged with terrorism and accused of inciting violence at a mass protest on May 1.

The terrorism charges cast doubt on the government’s sincerity in calling for talks with opposition parties, the ACHR suggested.

The organisation noted that Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges in March after a 19-day trial was widely criticised over apparent lack of due process.

Amnesty International called the conviction a “travesty of justice” while the UN human rights chief said Nasheed was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial” and noted “flagrant irregularities.”

The UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers noted “serious due process violations” such as denial of the opportunity to present defence witnesses, which led her to believe “the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”


Foreign minister ‘misled’ UN on Nasheed trial

The office of former president Mohamed Nasheed has accused foreign minister Dunya Maumoon of “deliberately misleading” the UN Human Rights Council regarding the opposition leader’s terrorism trial.

During the Maldives’ Universal Period Review in Geneva on May 6, Dunya claimed that Nasheed chose not to appeal his 13-year sentence and that due process concerns regarding the trial were procedural and not substantive.

Criticism of Nasheed’s trial had “mainly focused on the process and not the merits,” she said.

But Nasheed’s office contends he was deliberately denied the right to appeal after the criminal court failed to provide necessary documentation within the ten day appeal period specified by the Supreme Court.

“The Maldives’ criminal court refused to release the transcript of the trial — information vital to the launch of an appeal — until 11 days after conviction, thus deliberately preventing Nasheed’s legal team from appealing,” reads a statement released yesterday.

It added that Nasheed’s lawyers informed the court of their intent to appeal four days after the conviction on March 13.

“The lawyers repeatedly asked the criminal court for the trial transcript, but the court refused to release it until the window for appeal had closed. When the transcript was finally released, it had been doctored and was full of irregularities,” the statement continued.

President Abdulla Yameen and other senior government officials have repeatedly advised Nasheed to appeal. Prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin told Minivan News last week that the High Court could accept an appeal despite the expiration of the 10-day period.

“I personally think this case has a high possibility of being accepted at the high court since Nasheed is a former president, since it is related to a judge and since it is a terrorism charge,” he said.

But Nasheed’s lawyers say the Supreme Court, in the same ruling that had shortened the 90 day appeal period to ten days, had removed the High Court’s discretionary powers.

The apex court in January had voided Article 42  of the Judicature Act which set out appeal deadlines and gave judges discretionary powers in accepting late appeals. The 90–180 day appeal period obstructed justice, the Supreme Court said. A new 10-day appeal period was set out, but the apex court was silent on procedures for late appeals.

Nasheed’s lawyer, Hisaan Hussain, told the press today there was no “legal basis” for the government’s stance.

She suggested the government was encouraging Nasheed to appeal because it could determine the outcome through its undue influence over the judiciary.

“The government is saying in the same breath that it does not meddle in court cases but that there is still the opportunity to appeal despite the 10-day period elapsing,” she said.

Nasheed wanted to appeal, but was effectively deprived of the right to appeal due to the criminal court’s “deliberate” refusal to release the transcripts until the 11th day after sentencing, she said.

The legal team reiterated calls for president Yameen to exercise powers under clemency laws to pardon and release Nasheed.

Lawyer Hassan Latheef claimed 10 countries had called for Nasheed’s release during the UPR session, warning that the Maldives could face international sanctions if the government does not comply.

Nasheed was found guilty on terrorism charges relating to the detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Amnesty called the conviction a “travesty of justice” while the UN human rights chief said Nasheed was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial” and noted “flagrant irregularities.”

The special rapporteur noted “serious due process violations” such as denial of the opportunity to present defence witnesses, which led her to believe “the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

The European parliament meanwhile adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of the trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.


Global spotlight poses ‘enormous challenges’ to Maldives democracy

The global spotlight on the Maldives has exacerbated challenges to consolidating democracy following the introduction of a multi-party system of governance, the government has told the UN.

The 2008 constitution established independent state institutions and “diluted” the power of the executive branch, “posing considerable challenges to maintaining political order in the society,” states the government’s submission to the UN human rights council’s Universal Period Review (UPR).

“These challenges have been exacerbated by the realities of having to nurture and cultivate an entirely new system of governance under global spotlight,” reads the national UPR report.

“The level and depth of international scrutiny means that it has been an enormous challenge to ensure that the Maldivian state and its institutions are given the necessary space to make their own decisions, and emerge as an organic set of institutions tailored to provide local solutions to local challenges.”

The UPR process involves a periodic examination of the human rights situation of all member states based on submissions from the state, the human rights body, and NGOs.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon is currently in Geneva to attend the Maldives’ review scheduled to take place tomorrow. The country’s first review took place in 2010.

A working group comprised of the human rights council’s 47 member states will conduct the Maldives’ review. Several Western governments have submitted questions on judicial reform, former president Mohamed Nasheed’s trial, the reintroduction of the death penalty, and lack of religious freedom.

The second review comes amid a deepening political crisis and growing international and domestic pressure for the release of imprisoned opposition politicians, including Nasheed, ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, and leaders of allied opposition parties arrested in a crackdown on a mass anti-government rally on Friday.

The national report went on to say that “prolonged political tensions generated by political opposition, and continuous international scrutiny of the government’s attempts in reducing such tensions meant that the government is required to spend more time in explaining its actions to international partners, instead of focusing on governance, and implementation of its political and international obligations, including those on human rights.”

The scrutiny has also led to “disillusionment in some quarters of the population about the true spirit and gains of democracy, and for others to believe that the ultimate remedy for any local political grievance is to be found at the international level, instead of through local institutions established by an ardours [sic], yet democratic, process.”

The conviction of ex-president Nasheed on terrorism charges after a 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, the UN, and Amnesty International over the apparent lack of due process. However, the government has remained defiant in the face of international criticism and “meddling” in internal affairs.

In contrast, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party yesterday welcomed statements from the US, UN and Canada as well as a resolution by the European parliament calling for Nasheed’s release.

The government meanwhile stated that despite numerous challenges, the country’s “democratic growth trajectory is continuing in a steady upward momentum”.

The country has made progress with free education, universal health care, and 2,630 social housing units built to date, the report continued, while the Maldives has achieved three millenium development goals with infant and maternal mortality rates on par with developed countries and eradication of polio, malaria, and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

The report also noted the enactment of legislation on anti-torture, prisons and parole, anti-money laundering and terrorism financing, extradition, and the passage of a new penal code.

Legislation on anti-domestic violence, sexual offences, sexual harassment, and disabilities represented “significant gains in protecting the rights of vulnerable groups.”

The persisting challenges include geographic dispersion of the small population, climate change, lack of capacity and technical expertise.

“Emerging challenges such as religious issues posed by differing interpretations of religious teachings, the high prevalence of drug abuse, and closely related issue of gang violence will bring up new issues in realising human rights in the country,” the report stated.


CEDAW committee welcomes progress on women’s rights, expresses concern with child marriages, flogging and gender stereotypes

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has welcomed the Maldives’ progress on protecting women’s rights whilst expressing concern with child marriages, flogging and gender stereotypes in society.

In its concluding observations released last Friday (March 6) on the combined fourth and fifth periodic reports of the Maldives – reviewed at meetings on February 27 with a high-level delegation led by Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – the committee welcomed progress achieved since the last review in 2007, including the adoption of a new penal code that includes a definition of rape.

The committee noted other legislative reforms such as the Sexual Harassment and Abuse Prevention Act of 2014, the Sexual Offences Act of 2014, the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act of 2013, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act of 2012, the Employment Act of 2008, and the new Constitution in 2008, “which removes provisions barring women from being elected as President and Vice-President.”

The committee also noted the establishment of the Family Protection Authority in 2012 and welcomed “forthcoming amendments to the Family Act to regulate the distribution of matrimonial assets upon divorce.”

The Maldives acceded to the UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in July 1993 with reservations to article 16, which deals with equality in marriage and family relations.

“We strongly believe that equality of women in all walks of life, within the family, and in public life, is indeed a prerequisite for social justice and inclusive development that benefits all segments of society,” said Foreign Minister Dunya in her opening remarks at the treaty reporting session.

She reiterated the government’s commitment to addressing emerging challenges such as stereotypical practices that hinders equal representation of women in society.

Issues of concern

Whilst welcoming legislative initiatives on improving access to justice, the committee expressed concern with “persistent barriers faced by women in accessing justice”.

Of particular concern was the “insufficient independence of the judiciary, bias and gender stereotypes among judges and law enforcement officials, the absence of gender sensitive procedures and the limited capacity of the police to deal with complaints from women about violations of their rights in a gender-sensitive manner.”

Noting “the high number of unregistered marriages in rural and remote areas, including child marriages,” the committee recommended setting an age limit of 16 for exceptional cases of underage marriages.

The committee also recommended the abolition of flogging for fornication “as a matter of urgency,” noting that flogging “disproportionately affect women and girls and deter them from reporting sexual offences.”

Moreover, the committee noted the “existing discriminatory provisions regarding the participation of women as witnesses and delays in amending the stringent evidentiary provisions required for sexual violence offences.”

The committee noted that marital rape was not criminalised in law, the lack of enforcement of the anti-domestic violence law, and the lack of resources for the Family and Child Service Centres and safe houses.

The committee suggested that social stigma attached to women who report abuse as well as the perception that domestic violence cases were private family matters deters reporting.

Traditional stereotypes regarding the role and responsibilities of women in society meanwhile remain deeply entrenched, the committee observed, “which overemphasise the role of women as wives, mothers and caregivers, as well as prevent them from asserting their rights and actively participating in decision-making and other aspects of political and public life.”

The committee also expressed concern at “the growing trend in conservative interpretations of religion which encourage stereotypical patterns which negatively impact women and girls, as acknowledged by the State party during the dialogue. The Committee is further concerned about the emergence of cases of female genital mutilation in the State party, despite legislative prohibitions.”

Stereotypes as well as geographic constraints also limit girls’ access to higher education, the committee observed, noting “de facto restrictions on the re-entry of pregnant adolescent girls and married girls under the age of 18 in the formal educational system.”

Whilst noting the high representation of women in political parties, the committee noted that “social and cultural barriers continue to stigmatise women wishing to participate in political and public life which prevent them from running for public office.”

The committee noted the underrepresentation of women in parliament, the executive, the judiciary and decision-making level posts in the civil service.

“Further, it regrets the limited participation of women in local governance at community level, in particular in atolls, islands and city councils,” it stated.

On anti-trafficking, the committee expressed concern over “delays in establishing shelters for victims of trafficking and the absence of procedures for early victim identification, case management, and victim protection” and noted the “risk of internal trafficking for women and girls from remote islands placed in households in Male to access higher education opportunities.”

On health issues, the committee noted “limited access to obstetric health services, including pre- and post-natal services, for women living in remote areas,” “restricted access, in practice, to sexual and reproductive health services, for unmarried women and girls,” and “the absence of a study and data on the prevalence of unsafe and illegal abortion which is reportedly increasing.”


The committee urged the Maldives to honour its commitment to withdraw its reservation to paragraph two of article 16, which states: “The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.”

The committee also recommended a review of the reservation to paragraph one of article 16, “with a view to fully withdrawing it, taking into consideration practices of countries with similar religious backgrounds and legal systems which have successfully harmonised their domestic legislation with international human rights obligations”.

Despite its ratification in 1993, the committee noted that the convention “has yet to be incorporated into its domestic legal system and can therefore not be applied by the courts” and expressed concern with the delay in conducting a gender impact analysis of existing laws.

The committee called on the state to pass gender equality legislation with a definition of discrimination in line with the convention.

Referring to the restructured Ministry of Law and Gender headed by the Attorney General, the committee said the move “weakened [the national machinery’s] institutional capacity to develop coherent and sustainable plans and policies and to ensure effective gender mainstreaming across relevant sectors” and expressed concern about the “the insufficient financial, human and technical resources” available to the ministry.

On the Supreme Court’s suo moto proceedings against members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) concerning its submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Period Review last year, the committee said “such actions seriously undermine the independence of the commission.”

Related to this story

Amnesty calls for moratorium on flogging in Maldives

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

Supreme Court slams HRCM for basing rights assessment on “rejected” UN rapporteur findings


Maldives’ human rights worsening, Amnesty tells UN

The human rights situation has deteriorated in the Maldives over the past four years, says Amnesty International in its report to the UN Human Rights Council.

In its submission for the country’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) titled ‘Republic of Maldives – Ignoring Human Rights Obligations’, the NGO accuses the government of having failed to implement recommendations made in 2011.

“Furthermore, it has effectively been undermining human rights protection by failing to strengthen the independent institutions of the state including the judiciary, which needs urgent reform.”

The report – made public for the first time last week – notes the “emergence of vigilante religious groups”, “fundamental flaws” within the judicial system, and the “feared abduction” of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

It also accuses the government of not defending the independence of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), which is currently being prosecuted by the Supreme Court as a result of its own submission to the UPR.

The UPR is a state-driven process that reviews the human rights records of all 193 UN member states every four years, based on submissions by the government, the UN, NGOs, and national human rights commissions.

mid-term assessment of the Maldives’ conformity with the 2011 recommendations found that it had “fully implemented” only three of the 145 recommendations – with 12 recommendations “partially implemented”, and 33 “not implemented”, 96 recommendations receiving “no response”.

Abductions and impunity

The report also observes the lack of prosecutions for the perpetrators of a series of abductions reported last year, as well as a failure to bring the investigation into Rilwan’s disappearance to a conclusion.

“Impunity for human rights violations, especially for torture and other ill-treatment and for unnecessary or excessive use of force by police against demonstrators has been a persistent failure of the government,” reads the report.

Amnesty highlights the non-disclosure of information regarding alleged excessive force during the raid on the Anbaraa music festival in April last year, as well as the lack of prosecutions for acts of police brutality carried out on February 8, 2012.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil told the Majlis last August that the cases of five officers were ongoing. The Commonwealth-led Commission of National Inquiry described an “urgent need” for accountability and sanctions more than two years ago.

The report accuses the government of failing to protect the rights of freedom of expression and conscience with regards to the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, the brutal attacks on blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed and journalist Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed.

“These attacks took a new form in June 2014 when a vigilante religious group kidnapped several young men, held them for hours, ill-treated them and warned them not to promote ‘atheism’.”

“None of the kidnappers have been brought to justice, even though the identities of some of them are allegedly known to the victims.”

Victims of the attacks have identified four individuals familiar with police in two abduction incidents last June, and another in November. The victims were accosted in order to obtain log-in details for online groups in which religion and gang activity were being openly discussed.

The report went on to recommend a moratorium on flogging – which Amnesty regards as “inhumane” and discriminatory in practice, and the death penalty, which the current government has pledged to reintroduce.

“Amnesty International is disappointed that the Maldives did not accept recommendations to remove restrictions in law and practice on freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” it continued.


The report reserves significant space to highlight deficiencies within the judicial system, arguing that a lack of judicial independence and impartiality continued to “undermine fair trials”.

“Since the last UPR, the government has taken no visible action to ensure that standards of judicial independence and impartiality are upheld and monitored,” said Amnesty.

Most importantly, states the report, there has been no action to strengthen the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

“There is a perception in the Maldives, frequently voiced by judicial and government authorities to Amnesty International, that the principle of judicial independence would not be upheld if the government were to scrutinize the conduct of the judiciary.”

After repeated investigations into the alleged appearance of Justice Ali Hameed in a series of sex tapes in 2013 failed to find adequate evidence for disciplinary proceedings, Hameed was himself appointed president of the commission earlier this month.

“While Amnesty International would oppose interference by the executive in the affairs of the judiciary, it considers that statutory state organs entrusted with maintaining judicial accountability, such as the JSC, should monitor and take action against any breaches of impartiality,” read the UPR submission.

The JSC came in for particular criticism for its role in the dismissal of two Supreme Court judges last month. In a decision slammed for its lack of transparency, the commission found Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasin Adnan unfit to sit on the bench.

After Majlis members voted through the JSC’s recommendations, local and international groups expressed concern over the decision’s impact on judicial independence.

After the HRCM’s UPR report – criticising the centralisation of judicial power in the Supreme Court – ‘suo moto’ proceedings were initiated against it last September, prompting Amnesty to call for the commission’s independence to be guaranteed.

Related to this story

Maldives “fully implements” three of UN’s 145 human rights recommendations: UPR mid-term assessment

Women’s rights and treatment of migrant workers needs improvement: UN review

Supreme Court initiates suo moto proceedings against Human Rights Commission


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.