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Rule of law under siege in the Maldives, say UN human rights experts

GENEVA (12 February 2018) – The detention of two Supreme Court judges in the Maldives is an attack on the independence of the judiciary and undermines the court’s ability to work freely and effectively, a group of United Nations human rights experts* has warned.

“The independence of the judiciary is under serious threat, along with the principle of separation of powers between the State and the courts,” the experts said in a joint statement.

“This direct attack on the Supreme Court undermines its legitimacy and independence, and casts serious doubt on its ability to protect constitutional principles and to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“It is clear that the rule of law in the Maldives is now under siege. We call on the government to refrain from any threats or interference that may hamper the court’s independence as the supreme guardian of the country’s constitution and legislation.”

The experts stressed that judicial independence was enshrined in the national constitution as well as in international human rights treaties, and had to be guaranteed by the State.

One of the experts, Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, highlighted the group’s concerns over the possible motivation behind the detentions.

“The timing of the arrests, five days after the Supreme Court had ordered the release and retrial of nine opposition leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed, is at best suspicious,” he said. “This constitutes an intolerable act of intimidation against the highest judicial authority in the country.”

Following the arrest of Chief Justice H.E. Abdulla Saeed and Ali Hameed Mohamed – shortly after the government declared a state of emergency - the three remaining Supreme Court judges overturned the order to free the nine leaders.

Another of the experts, José Guevara, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said: “We are deeply concerned that the alleged arbitrary arrest and detention of the two justices is now affecting the work of the other judges. 

“Judges should decide all matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law. This is not possible when their very liberty and security is threatened.”

The UN experts have been in contact with the government regarding their concerns.

ENDS

*The UN experts: Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, current Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Diego García-Sayán (Peru) has been Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and magistrates since December 2016. 

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Councils independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights country page: Maldives

For more information and media requests, please contact: Stefano Sensi (+41 22 917 9237 / ssensi@ohchr.org) or write to SRindependenceJL@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.