Saturday, 20 June 2015

PRESS STATEMENT: Response to statement issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Issued By 

20 June 2015; The Government of Maldives notes the statement of 19 June 2015, issued by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the statement issued on the same date by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and lawyers and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. 

 The UN High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteurs may wish to note of the fact that the Maldives is an emerging democracy, which is undergoing a significant period of change, development, and transition.

The Government is committed to constitutional, legislative, and judicial reform so as to enable the further development of the State.  

To this end, co-operation and engagement is welcomed, however, criticism and demands made from afar are not conducive to encouraging this position.  The Government reiterates its position that it values and encourages relationships based on mutual respect and constructive engagement. 

Within the reforms that the Government is currently undertaking, there must and will be a place for civil society, human rights organisations and State institutions alike, in particular the Human Rights Commission of Maldives, as much as there has to be respect for the independence of the Judiciary.

Such institutions must have their independence, as has been acknowledged by the fact that no restriction was placed upon the HRCM in its submission to the UPR, a process to which the Government is fully committed.

It is important to note  that the decision of the Supreme Court and 11-point guidelines contained therein do not 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.  Neither does the Court’s ruling place any restriction or limitation on the budgetary or financial aspects of the HRCM.  Rather, the Supreme Court prescribes to the HRCM, in general terms, the manner in which it should operate as an independent state institution within the existing legal and constitutional framework in the Maldives.

To suggest that the Supreme Court has, in this case, deliberately sought to curtail the activities of the HRCM, as a State institution, appears to be a mischaracterisation, in that the substance of the suo moto case is not concerned with the substance of the report prepared for the UPR, but issues concerning the compilation of that report.

It is not correct therefore to suggest that the Supreme Court is deliberately seeking to limit the activities of what is an essential and independent State institution and one provided in the Constitution. 

The Government also wishes to note that the guideline issued by the Supreme Court clearly stresses the HRCM’s  independence for the benefit of Maldivian citizens, and that its operations have to be conducted in accordance with national law and does not seek to create division within society.

It is essential to recognize that civil society groups and human rights institutions, such as the HRCM whose role has been enshrined in the Constitution, play an important role in the State's development, and in holding the executive and judicial branches of Government to account.  The Government acknowledges and welcomes this.

The statement of the UN High Commissioner draws attention to the commitment that the Government made at its recent Universal Periodic Review.  The Government does not seek to move away from that commitment, and reaffirms its position as being one of inclusivity, of transparency, and of tolerance.

A State's responsibility to its citizens is paramount, and one that is acknowledged by the Government in its commitment to further appropriate reform.

The Government considers its obligations towards legislative and constitutional reform as an integral part of this Government's development plans and takes those obligations seriously.  The strengthening of democratic principles and the rule of law are essential and the Government is committed to this process.

As a final note, the Government reiterates its commitment to the principles upon which the UN Human Rights Council and repeats its full and complete cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedures Branch.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Republic of the Maldives


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