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The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers of the Human Rights Council, Leandro Despouy, issued the following statement today:
Geneva, 14 March 2008: The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers welcomes the decision of the Criminal Court on 5 March 2008 to acquit a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member, Imran Zahir, of the accusation made earlier of “causing disharmony through an unlawful assembly”, which is punishable under the penal code. It demonstrates the progress made by Maldives towards the independence of the judiciary since the Special Rapporteur visited the country in February last year.
Since 2004, a number of political activists were charged under the current penal code with offences such as disobedience to order, disruption of religious harmony, unlawful assembly, peace disruption and obstructing police duty. The current effort of the Government of the Maldives, through the Attorney General’s Office, to review these cases represents an important step towards the effective implementation of the human rights obligations of Maldives under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The political determination of the Government of the Maldives to comply with its international human rights obligations prior to the first multi-party election is very encouraging. The Special Rapporteur is committed to offer his assistance to support the current effort of the Government to review the remaining cases.