Denouncing the detention of two Supreme Court judges in the Maldives, United Nations human rights experts warned that the independence of the judiciary is under “serious threat” in the country, as is the principle of separation of powers between the State and the courts.
“It is clear that the rule of law in the Maldives is now under siege,” said the experts in a news release issued Monday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“We call on the Government to refrain from any threats or interference that may hamper the court’s independence as the supreme guardian of the country’s constitution and legislation,” they added.
In the release, José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, the current Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and Diego García-Sayán, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and magistrates, also stressed that judicial independence, enshrined in the national constitution and in international human rights treaties, had to be guaranteed by the State.
Mr. García-Sayán also raised concern over the timing of the arrests, five days after the Supreme Court had ordered the release and retrial of nine opposition leaders, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Following the arrest of Chief Justice H.E. Abdulla Saeed and Ali Hameed Mohamed – shortly after the Government declared a state of emergency – the three remaining Supreme Court judges overturned the order to free the nine leaders.
It is clear that the rule of law in the Maldives is now under siege — UN rights experts
“[This] is at best suspicious,” said Mr. García-Sayán, adding that the acts constitutes “an intolerable act of intimidation” against the highest judicial authority in the country.
In the same vein, Mr. Bermúdez underscored that Judges should be able to decide all matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts, and in accordance with the law free of any intimidation.
“[However,] this is not possible when their very liberty and security is threatened,” he stressed.
According to the news release, the UN experts have been in contact with the Government of Maldives regarding their concerns.
UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – the highest UN intergovernmental body on all matters related to human rights – to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation.
The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.