Maldives court decision undermines human rights protections in country, warns senior UN official

19 June 2015

The United Nations human rights chief has voiced concern over a judgement issued by the Maldives Supreme Court in which the country’s human rights processes appear to be severely challenged.

“The Supreme Court judgement is yet another example of the judiciary undermining human rights protection in the Maldives,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein affirmed in a press release issued earlier today. “National human rights institutions play a pivotal role in independently monitoring and protecting human rights and should be empowered to report on rights issues without fear.”

According to the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR), the Maldives Supreme Court handed down a verdict on 16 June against five members of the country’s Human Rights Commission following its submission of a written contribution to the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Maldives before the UN Human Rights Council. In its submission to the UN, the Commission cited criticism of the Maldivian judicial system by the UN’s independent experts.

As a result, the Supreme Court this week declared the Commission’s submission unlawful and declared that the rights body would be required to abide by a set of 11 “very broad and ill-defined guidelines in carrying out its activities,” OHCHR added.

“Imposing such extraordinary and broad restrictions on the Human Rights Commission, including on their engagement with international organisations, is completely unacceptable,” Mr. Zeid continued.

“In this case, the Supreme Court appears to be yet again overreaching its mandate by playing a legislative role. Laws regulating the very important human rights monitoring and reporting work of civil society and independent institutions must be transparently adopted by legislative bodies following wide consultations and open debate, in line with international human rights laws and standards.”

The human rights situation in the Maldives has been the focus of OHCHR’s concern in recent months, particularly following the arrest, trial and conviction of the country’s former President Mohammed Nasheed which UN rights experts have deemed as “vastly unfair, arbitrary and disproportionate.”

Meanwhile, in late March, the UN High Commissioner condemned the treatment of former President Nasheed as being riddled with “flagrant irregularities.”

In today’s press release, Mr. Zeid urged the Maldives Government to take legal steps to ensure that the independence and integrity of the Human Rights Commission remain uncompromised and that the Commission’s right to freely communicate with international human rights mechanisms be firmly preserved in law and practice.

 

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