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UN rights expert welcomes appointment of first female judges in the Maldives

UN rights expert welcomes appointment of first female judges in the Maldives

A United Nations independent expert on judicial independence today welcomed the appointment of the first-ever women judges in the Maldives and called on authorities in the Indian Ocean archipelago to continue to take steps towards “an appropriate gender balance within the judiciary.”

Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, issued a statement in Geneva after the Maldives appointed two female judges on Wednesday and announced that a third woman was due to be appointed next week.

The appointments are being made a month after Mr. Despouy tabled his report to the UN Human Rights Council, following his five-day official visit to the Maldives earlier this year, in which he stressed the urgent need to end gender discrimination within the country’s judiciary and promptly nominate women judges.

Today Mr. Despouy welcomed the Maldivian authorities “for having promptly implemented this very important recommendation, which is part of the broader judicial reform,” and reflects the international obligations to which the Maldives have subscribed.

Mr. Despouy also welcomed the decision of the Special Majlis, or the constitutional assembly, to adopt a new constitution by 30 November this year. A previous Government-set deadline of 31 May had not been met because the ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and the opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) could not reach agreement on some parts of the draft constitution.

“The adoption of a new constitution is essential in order to guarantee to the Maldivian people the establishment of democratic institutions and the respect for human rights in their country,” Mr. Despouy said, adding it is also “a key prerequisite” for the nation’s first ever multi-party elections to be staged by the end of 2008.

The Special Rapporteur called for “a successful transition towards a democratic system of governance based on a separation of powers.”

But he voiced concern about the pace of the constitutional reform process after the Speaker of the Special Majlis indicated last Sunday that he did not plan to resume the work of the assembly for 10 days – even though the Special Majlis had previously agreed to convene four times a week so that it can meet the 30 November deadline.