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Maldives seeks UN human rights advisor

The Maldives requested the UN human rights chief in January to appoint a human rights advisor to help the embattled government “develop policies and guidelines that are consistent with international human rights standards,” Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told diplomats in Sri Lanka yesterday.



The Maldives requested the UN human rights chief in January to appoint a human rights advisor to help the embattled government “develop policies and guidelines that are consistent with international human rights standards,” Foreign Minister Dunya has said.

Briefing diplomats in Sri Lanka on the Maldives’ political situation Tuesday, Dunya stressed that the Maldives is also seeking technical assistance from the Commonwealth and the European Union “in implementing the necessary reforms to strengthen the democratic institutions and to accelerate democratic consolidation”.

She described the Maldives’ decade-long democratisation process as “a work in progress”.

“The government, therefore, recognises the need for bringing necessary reforms to the governance system that will, first of all, cultivate a culture of democracy in society,” she said.

“Towards that end, on 3 April 2016, President Yameen announced that the government will implement a National Governance Reform Plan to strengthen the country’s governance system.”

The reform plan – formulated with the help of the National University of Singapaore – is yet to be made public. The foreign ministry declined to share the document with The Maldives Independent despite repeated requests.

“This plan has a particular focus on strengthening the justice sector and improving the quality of services provided by the State. Reforms that are being implemented under the plan include capacity building in criminal and civil justice sectors and improving the capacities of the investigative and prosecution agencies,” Dunya told diplomats.

The acknowledgement of the need for democratic reforms and the plea for foreign assistance follows threats of action by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group if progress is not made by September to resolve a year-long political crisis sparked by the jailing of opposition leaders.

Speaking to The Maldives Independent, MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, spokesperson of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said: “The MDP believes that the international community has an obligation to guide Maldives in consolidation of democratic values and in ensuring the Maldivian peoples human rights are respected.”

However, he added, President Abdulla Yameen’s public remarks are at odds with statements made by ministers overseas.

In the face of persisting criticism of the current administration’s human rights record, Yameen has repeatedly slammed alleged interference in Maldives domestic affairs by “Western imperialist powers.”

Yameen had also called the CMAG’s April statement on the Maldives “unacceptable,” despite his ministers’ vowing to implement its recommendations.

Imthiyaz said the conflicting statements “clearly illustrates the government’s insincere attitude.”

Dunya meanwhile told the diplomatic corp accredited to the Maldives that “very encouraging” progress has been made during proximity talks mediated last month by a special advisor to the UN department of political affairs.

“President Yameen expressed his appreciation for the manner in which the last round of talks progressed, and that it provided a sound basis on which future talks could be held,” she said.

Initiating dialogue with opposition parties was top of a six-point reform agenda laid out by the CMAG.

But Tamrat Samuel, the UN’s special envoy to the Maldives, left Maldives after two weeks with little sign of progress in resuscitating all-party talks.

Major differences still remain on a way forward, Samuel said. He was, however, encouraged by the desire for talks by all sides, the UN said in a statement.

The MDP and ally Adhaalath Party have refused to engage in talks until its leaders – former President Mohamed Nasheed and Sheikh Imran Abdulla – are released from prison.

Nasheed, whose jailing on a terror charge in March 2015 triggered the ongoing political crisis, is currently in the UK on government-authorised medical leave. The government revoked a decision to extend the opposition leader’s leave, but is reviewing the decision.

Sheikh Imran, the president of the Adhaalath Party, and two former defence ministers have been transferred to house arrest for 30 days.

Pressure has meanwhile been mounting on the government to release jailed opposition politicians.

The US Senate unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution in early-April calling on the Maldives to “redress” the injustice of Nasheed’s jailing, while top Senators have urged Secretary of State John Kerry to consider all options at his disposal to end the ongoing crackdown on democracy.

The parliament of the European Union adopted a similar stance in December, passing a resolution urging member states to impose asset freezes and travel bans against Maldivian government officials and their supporters in the business community.