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Press briefing notes on Egypt, Maldives, Malaysia, South Sudan and UN Bollywood Video

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location:  Geneva
Date: 29 April 2014
Subject:   1) Egypt
                2) Maldives
                3) Malaysia
                4) South Sudan
                5) UN Bollywood Video

1) Egypt

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has strongly condemned the shocking imposition yesterday of the death penalty on 683 individuals in Egypt, after mass trials that she said clearly breached international human rights law.

“It is outrageous that for the second time in two months, the Sixth Chamber of the Criminal Court in Al-Minya has imposed the death sentence on huge groups of defendants after perfunctory trials,” she said.

“In defiance of worldwide pleas for Egypt to respect its human rights obligations after 529 people were sentenced to death in March by the same court, hundreds now face a similar fate at the hands of a judicial system where international fair trial guarantees appear to be increasingly trampled upon.”

“It is high time that Egypt takes its human rights commitments seriously,” Pillay added, noting in particular that Egypt has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to information received, the 683 defendants were charged with killing a policeman and breaking into the Edwa police station in Al-Minya on 14 August 2013, among other charges. As in the previous cases, the exact charges against each defendant are not clear, given that they were not individually read out in court.

2) Maldives

We are deeply concerned about a new regulation adopted in the Maldives on implementation of the death penalty, which effectively overturns a 60-year moratorium on the use of capital punishment in the country.

The new regulation, adopted by the Government on Sunday (27 April), provides for the use of the death penalty for the offence of intentional murder, including when committed by individuals under the age of 18. The age of criminal responsibility in the Maldives is 10, but for hadd offences, children as young as 7 years old can be held responsible. The new regulation means that children as young as 7 can now be sentenced to death.

According to the new regulation, minors convicted of intentional murder shall be executed once they turn 18. Similar provisions in the recently ratified Penal Code, allowing for the application of the death penalty for crimes committed when below the age of 18, are also deeply regrettable.

Under international law, those who are charged and convicted for offences they have committed under 18 years of age should not be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without possibility of release. International human rights treaties, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Maldives has ratified, impose an absolute ban on the death sentence against persons below the age of 18 at the time when the offence was committed.

Maldives has observed a moratorium on the death penalty for 60 years, and reaffirmed its commitment to maintain it during its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2010.

We urge the Government to retain its moratorium on the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, particularly in cases that involve juvenile offenders and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether. We equally encourage the Government to repeal the new regulations and other provisions that provides for the death penalty.

3) Malaysia

We welcome the decision of the Appeal Court last Friday declaring that section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act is unconstitutional as it criminalizes the peaceful exercise of freedom of assembly.

Section 9(5) states that a "person who contravenes [the 10 days notification before the date of an assembly] commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand ringgit".

On 7 December 2011, a group of UN independent experts warned that the new Peaceful Assembly Act may “arbitrarily and disproportionately restrict the right to assemble peacefully”, and urged the Government of Malaysia to seriously reconsider the adoption of the Act. During its 2013 UPR, the Government indicated that "Malaysia has no plans to revise this Act at this juncture" in spite of several recommendations submitted by members of the Human Rights Council.

We commend the decision of the Appeal Court and further encourage the Government of Malaysia to review the controversial provisions of the Act in line with the Constitution and international human rights standards.

4) South Sudan

Yesterday the High Commissioner met President Salva Kiir and five Ministers in Juba. Today, she is heading to Bor and has further meetings. She will hold a press conference in Juba tomorrow (Wednesday) morning around 10h00 Juba time. She then plans to proceed to Addis Ababa for talks with the African Union, among other interlocutors.

5) UN Bollywood video

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will tomorrow launch the first ever Bollywood-style UN music video at a press conference in Mumbai to promote its Free & Equal campaign for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. More details will follow in a press release tomorrow.
For more information or media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 /rshamdasani@ohchr.org or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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