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Supreme Court decision undermines human rights protections


The Maldives Supreme Court handed down a verdict on 16 June 2015 against five members of the country’s Human Rights Commission.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has voiced concern over a judgement issued by the Maldives Supreme Court in which the country's human rights processes appear to be severely challenged.

"The Supreme Court judgement is yet another example of the judiciary undermining human rights protection in the Maldives," Mr Zeid said in a press release.

"National human rights institutions play a pivotal role in independently monitoring and protecting human rights and should be empowered to report on rights issues without fear."

According to the High Commissioner's Office (OHCHR), the Maldives Supreme Court handed down a verdict on 16 June 2015 against five members of the country's Human Rights Commission, following its submission of a written contribution to the second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Maldives before the UN Human Rights Council.

In its submission to the UN, the Commission cited criticism of the Maldivian judicial system by the UN's independent experts.

As a result, the Supreme Court this week declared the Commission's submission unlawful and declared that the rights body would be required to abide by a set of 11 "very broad and ill-defined guidelines in carrying out its activities," OHCHR added.

"Imposing such extraordinary and broad restrictions on the Human Rights Commission, including on their engagement with international organisations, is completely unacceptable," Mr. Zeid continued.

"In this case, the Supreme Court appears to be yet again overreaching its mandate by playing a legislative role. Laws regulating the very important human rights monitoring and reporting work of civil society and independent institutions must be transparently adopted by legislative bodies following wide consultations and open debate, in line with international human rights laws and standards."

In addition, two UN human rights experts have called on the Supreme Court of the Maldives to reconsider its verdict.

"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.

Date: 19 June 2015

Source: UN News and RTT News