Maldives at the Human Rights Council

by / Tuesday, 15 April 2014 / Published in News

In 2008 the Maldivian parliament ratified a new constitution that gave rise to democracy in the Maldives for the first time.

The events that followed were addressed with concern and alarm from the UN and international powers. According to the US State Department’s Human Rights Report on the Maldives in 2013 many acts against human rights were committed, which includes:[Presidential abuse of power, credible cases of police misconduct which portrayed security forces of the nation committing human rights abuses, Supreme Court interference to subvert the presidential elections process, restrictions on religious freedom; arbitrary arrests, harassment of journalists, abuse and unequal treatment of women; discrimination against migrant labourers who were subjected to labour abuses and were the primary victims of human trafficking, and corruption of officials in all branches of government..]

These acts continued, although the Maldives has been an “active” member of the human rights movement, even voted for the second term and has recently participated in the Human Rights Council at Geneva.

From all of the concerns expressed by the UN, most attention and response had been given by the Maldivian authorities to the Supreme Court related allegation; about how they had annulled the elections, citing voting irregularities.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had released a statement in 2013 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,” she said.

This was swiftly and very defensively responded to by the Maldivian authorities. Democracy had just been seeded in the Maldives, and former President Mohamed Waheed had given a statement rejecting the allegations that the Supreme Court was subverting the democratic process.

His statement said, “The United Nations must try to better understand the difficulties facing Maldives in their early phase of democracy,” – which was the most diplomatic response in comparison to “harshly condemn Navi Pillay’s  false allegations regarding the Maldives Supreme Court’s work”; the ones expressed by the Supreme Court.

The famous human rights activist Malcolm X had said long ago, “You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution.” Indeed, it was a revolution that had brought democracy and human rights to the Maldives.

The Maldivian Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon had attended the UN Human Rights Council gathering at Geneva, Switzerland with the Maldivian Ambassador for Geneva Iruthisham Adam among other officials.

Speaking at the gathering’s 25th regular session, Foreign Minister Dunya addressed the human rights abuse in Palestine, Syria and Central African Republic, stressing the importance of working to better their situations. The minister also assured the forum “of the continued commitment of the government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to uphold universal human rights norms.”

At the same time, she gave a rather unstable statement regarding the judiciary powers of the Maldives: “Whilst we in the Maldives move forward, with the lessons learned and achievements of our democratic transition, we request our international partners to support us. We request you to contribute constructively in overcoming our challenges. We urge you, not to undermine our judicial system … base your partnership with us on dialogue and cooperation, not on judgement and retribution”.

Upon the last few statements in her short speech, a lot of speculation has been made. In light of the issues expressed by the UN and the responses that had been given by the Maldivian authorities, questions are being raised regarding the meaning behind the foreign minister’s most recent statement.

Speculations suggest that her statement had been made to mildly remark on the previous exchanges between the UN’s human rights council and the Maldives in relation to the different democratic and judicial problems.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabrialla Knaul, who conducted an official visit to the Maldives at the government’s invitation in February 2013, pointed out many gaps and misinterpretations of the concepts of independence of the judiciary and their accountability. She had met with government officials, legislative and judicial authorities, as well as with lawyers, civil society organisations, and other stakeholders before she had made any report/ statement regarding the problems in the Maldivian judiciary.Although the lack of protection for judicial actors, the precarious situation of women in the justice system and the lack of public trust in the judicial system had become a major worry in both the national and international forums that are concerned with maintaining peace and democracy in Maldives, a lot of Maldivians now feel that the Maldives is finally beginning to settle within a democratic fortress, – keeping our laws, values and culture intact.

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