The Maldives has dismissed “unwarranted and unconstructive” calls from 41 nations at the UN Human Rights Council to immediately address a deteriorating human rights situation.
In a right to reply delivered in response to the UK-led joint statement, the Maldives permanent representative in Geneva defended the declaration of a state of emergency in response to a Supreme Court order on February 1 for the release of nine prisoners, which the government alleges was part of a coup plot to remove the president from office.
President Abdulla Yameen invoked emergency powers and suspended basic rights “primarily because the bench of the Supreme Court was beyond any measure of constitutional accountability,” Dr Hala Hameed contended, according to a statement by the foreign ministry.
Citing concerns raised by a former UN rights expert in 2013, who had described the Maldivian judiciary as “politicised, inadequate and subject to external influence,” she stressed that the conclusions were previously supported by the UK and EU as well as the UN human rights chief.
Hameed’s recognition of the longstanding criticism was at odds with her previous statements in defence of the Maldivian judiciary.
In September last year, Hameed dismissed allegations of political bias by the judiciary as “inaccurate” after the human rights chief had urged the Maldivian authorities “to respect the people’s right to an independent and impartial judiciary.”
In her remarks last week, Hameed went on to acknowledge that “much work is required for the Maldives to strengthen its democratic institutions, to enhance capacity and to foster a culture of respect for human dignity and liberty.”
Echoing a recurring complaint from the current administration, she added: “It would be completely unfair to judge the Maldives against the standards as envisaged by the United Kingdom and the European Union, and as practiced in those countries.”
Contrary to “factual inaccuracies in the joint statement”, she insisted that the Maldives has engaged with both the council and human rights high commissioner’s office, which had sent a fact-finding mission to the country three weeks ago.
Hameed’s response was also reminiscent of her scornful dismissal at the UN HRC session last year of calls to restore constitutional freedoms, allow space for political opposition, and prevent the intimidation of human rights defenders.
Last week’s joint statement by the EU and other Western countries had called on the Maldives “to address immediately the deteriorating human rights situation in the country; to end peacefully the state of emergency; to restore all articles of the Constitution; to allow the Supreme Court and other branches of the judiciary to operate in full independence; to permit and support the full, free and proper functioning of Parliament, with the reinstatement of twelve members of the Parliament as ordered by the Supreme Court, and to free political prisoners and their family members.”