The Maldives government must immediately reverse the politicisation of the country’s judiciary and the erosion of rule of law in the country, said the ICJ and South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) in a joint fact-finding report released today.
The 35-page report, entitled Justice Adrift: Rule of Law and the Political Crisis in the Maldives highlights the breakdown of the rule of law and human rights protections in the Maldives, exemplified by the arrest and trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Nasheed, who had been under house arrest, was unexpectedly imprisoned again on Monday without a clear legal basis.
The ICJ and SAHR called on the Maldives government to immediately release Nasheed from detention and to ensure he receives necessary medical care and access to his family and lawyers.
A joint delegation of the ICJ and SAHR conducted a fact-finding mission to the Maldives in May 2015 to assess the human rights situation since the current government assumed power in 2013.
“We documented a serious erosion of the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary, which has resulted in the deterioration in the rule of law in the Maldives and the stalling of the country’s transition toward a more representative government,” said Hina Jilani, SAHR Chairperson and a Commissioner of the ICJ.
“This current crisis in the rule of law risks turning the country back to the authoritarian days of the past that it had so promisingly broken away from in 2008,” she added.
After decades of authoritarian rule, in 2008 the Maldives promulgated a new Constitution that established independent democratic institutions, the rule of law, human rights protections and the separation of powers.
The new report documents how the institutional and legal reforms needed to consolidate this democratic transition stalled and have endangered a backslide to the country’s authoritarian legacy.
“The political crisis in the Maldives has hurt the country’s human rights situation, and it can only be resolved with the establishment of credible and impartial institutions in the country, particularly the judiciary,” said Nikhil Narayan, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser for South Asia.
“The Maldives should take immediate steps to establish effective and independent government institutions in compliance with its international human rights obligations under Commonwealth and UN standards on judicial independence and separation of powers,” he added.
Among the specific problems identified in the report are: judicial proceedings against the national human rights commission and other independent institutions, as well as interference in other spheres, in a manner that raises serious concerns as to judicial independence and accountability; judicial conduct in high-profile criminal cases, including former President Mohamed Nasheed, which are grossly unfair and violate international fair trial standards; arbitrary and undue parliamentary interference in independent constitutional institutions; and, instances of serious violations and abuse of fundamental rights of civil society and human rights defenders, among other concerns raised.
“The Maldives must urgently implement the necessary reforms to strengthen judicial independence, the rule of law and human rights in accordance with international standards,” said Jilani.
The Maldives’ human rights record will be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council later next month as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
Member states of the UN have already made a range of recommendations to the Maldives, and can make further statements at the Council session.
The government will be expected formally to respond and indicate which of the recommendations it will commit to implement over the coming years.
The ICJ-SAHR report therefore comes at a timely moment, urging Maldives authorities to strengthen human rights protections, judicial independence and the rule of law, including by accepting and implementing key UPR recommendations as well as prior recommendations by UN Special Rapporteurs who have visited the country, and urging the international community to hold the Maldives to its obligations and commitments.
“The Maldivian government must make good on its assurances to the ICJ-SAHR delegation, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and other outside observers of its commitment to the goal of strengthening judicial independence, the rule of law, fundamental rights and separation of powers, by demonstrating real steps to implement the recommendations set out by the delegation,” said Narayan.
Nikhil Narayan, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser for South Asia, t: +977 9813187821 ; e: nikhil.narayan(a)icj.org
Deekshya Illangasinghe, Executive Director, SAHR, t: + 941 12695910 ; e: deekshya(a)southasianrights.org
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