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Maldives: UN experts urge Supreme Court to reconsider decision against Maldivian Human Rights Commission

GENEVA (19 June 2015) – Two United Nations human rights experts today called on the Supreme Court of the Maldives to reconsider its verdict against the Maldivian Human Rights Commission, after the Commission cooperated with a key UN human rights mechanism.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is purely and simply an act of reprisal against the Human Rights Commission for its legitimate cooperation with the UN human rights system and its mechanisms,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, and on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst.

“It is an undue interference into the independent work of the Commission and their right to share information freely with the UN,” the experts stressed, recalling the Commission’s submission to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States by other States, in order to improve the situation in all countries and address violations wherever they occur.

On 16 June 2015, the Maldivian Supreme Court ruled that the Commission’s submission to the review of the Maldives, which was held in May 2015, was unlawful, biased and undermined judicial independence in the country. The submission included criticism of the judiciary and the Supreme Court, with reference to a report* presented by Special Rapporteur Knaul following her 2013 visit to the Maldives.

In its verdict, the Supreme Court also imposed an 11-point set of guidelines, including ensuring that their activities are “conducted with the full cooperation of other state institutions” and that they “will not ruin the reputation of the Maldives”. The experts believe that this is “an attempt to strip the Human Rights Commission of its independence de jure and de facto and to severely limit its constitutional prerogative to promote, as well as monitor and assess observance of, human rights in the country.”

“The Supreme Court has acted with complete disregard not only for the country’s international human rights obligations, but also for the Maldives’ Constitution which enshrines the independence and powers of the Human Rights Commission,” the experts stressed.

“While the judiciary is to decide matters before it without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, or threats, it is bound by the powers granted by the Constitution and the laws and must function in full compliance with the State’s international human rights obligations,” Ms. Knaul and Mr. Forst concluded.

Previously, in October 2014, the two UN experts wrote to the Maldivian authorities regarding the charges brought by the Supreme Court against the five human rights commissioners. “We deeply regret that the Government of the Maldives has failed to respond to this letter and urge the Government to respond to the questions addressed in it in a timely manner,” the Special Rapporteurs said.

(*) Check Ms. Knaul’s 2013 report on the Maldives (A/HRC/23/43/Add.3): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/Visits.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Learn more, log on to:
Independence of the judiciary: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx
Rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States by other States, in order to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. While ensuring equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed, the UPR provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. The UPR process reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Maldives: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MVIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Amanda Flores (+41 22 917 9186 / aflores@ohchr.org) or write to srindependencejl@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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