ANNI Letter of Concern over Reprisals against Human Rights Commission of Maldives
2 October 2014 6:45 pm

 

2 October 2014

H.E Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom

President of the Republic of the Maldives

The President’s Office

Boduthakurufaanu Magu

Male’ REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES

By Fax: (960) 332 5500

Dear Mr. President,

Re: ANNI Letter of Concern over Reprisals against Human Rights Commission of Maldives

We register our strongest condemnation of the summons and subsequent charges filed against all members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) by the Supreme Court of Maldives in relation to the stakeholder report submitted for the second cycle of the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to be conducted in April 2015.

The HRCM, in preparing the stakeholder submission for the Maldives UPR, had acted well within its purview as provided for in Sections 20 and 21 (i), (j) of the Human Rights Commission Act (2006). These include providing an authoritative and independent assessment of the country’s human rights situation as well as commenting on the status and implementation of recommendations since the first UPR cycle.

We also stress that cooperation and interaction with the international human rights system is an essential requirement of the Principles Relating to the Status of National Institutions (Paris Principles), which informs the effective work and functioning of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs).

Section 27 of the HRC Act protects members of the HRCM from legal liability for discharging their duties in an official capacity and acting in good faith. Substantive evidence must also be produced to show that the information published is untrue. The guarantee of functional immunity is a hallmark of an NHRI’s independence and serves to promote the security of tenure of its decision-making body as well as its ability to engage in critical analysis and commentary on human rights issues.

In that regard, we also raise our concern at the recurring pattern of reprisals leveled at HRCM members. This latest incident follows a series of alleged attacks against the HRCM, such as the pending contempt of court charges brought by the Juvenile Court, as well as open and public threats of dismissal and intimidation by politicians and Members of the People’s Majlis.

The UPR is an essential mechanism to hold states accountable to their international obligations. All member states have the opportunity to respond, including through oral and written interventions, during the course of the UPR process. We appeal to the Government of Maldives to utilize such platforms rather than employing judicial threats and harassment. The HRCM is one of the key and primary actors in human rights governance in the country and we call upon the Supreme Court and your good office to respect the role and duties of the Commission.

Finally, we call your attention to the recently adopted Resolution A/HRC/27/L.25on National Human Rights Institutions at the 27th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, of which the Maldives is a Member State. The resolution highlights and reaffirms the role of NHRIs in engaging with and contributing to the international human rights mechanisms and unequivocally condemns acts of reprisals and intimidation against NHRIs for activities undertaken in accordance with their respective mandates.

We urge the Government of Maldives and the Supreme Court to withdraw all criminal charges against members of the HRCM and take decisive and timely steps to ensure that the HRCM is able to operate in an enabling environment in fulfillment of its human rights mandate without any fear of threats, intimidation, harassment and reprisals. The government and the various branches of government must bear in mind that the HRCM is not an “alibi” institution of the State.

Yours sincerely,

Evelyn Balais-Serrano

Executive Director
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Secretariat of the Asian NGO Network on NHRIs (ANNI)

About the Asian NGO Network on NHRIs (ANNI)

The Asian NGOs Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI) is a network of Asian NGOs and human rights defenders committed to the strengthening and promotion of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) towards better respect and protection of human rights in Asia. Established in December 2006, ANNI has published annual Reports on the Performance and Establishment of NHRIs in Asia as a monitoring and advocacy tool to enhance the effective work and functioning of NHRIs so that they can continue to play their role as public defenders and protectors of human rights on the ground. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) serves as ANNI secretariat.

ANNI Report on the Performance and Establishment of NHRIs in Asia (2014): http://www.forum-asia.org/?p=17635

Click here to download the open letter (PDF)