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APF concerned about trial of HRCM Commissioners

Graphic: NHRI Logo

The APF Chairperson has raised concerns about the Supreme Court trial of the five Commission members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives.


24 September 2014

H.E Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom
President of the Republic of the Maldives
The President's Office
Boduthakurufaanu Magu
Male'
REPUBLIC OF MALDIVES

Dear Mr President,

Re: The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and Supreme Court action

I write to you on behalf of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF). The APF is a member organisation of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) of the Asia Pacific region. Our membership consists of 22 human rights institutions including the Maldives, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Oman, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) is a highly valued and respected member of the APF. As you know, the HRCM is an independent and autonomous constitutional body established under Article 189 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Maldives (2008) and by the national law of the Parliament of the Maldives to promote and protect the human rights of Maldivians. The Human Rights Commission Act (Act No: 6/2006) sets out the Commission's objectives, functions and powers.

Mr President, the APF is writing to you as the head of State and Government to express our gravest concern on developments relating to the Supreme Court's decision to begin a trial against the HRCM based on the Commission's report to the United Nation's Universal Periodic Review. We understand that the five Commissioners have been summoned to the first hearing of the trial today, the 24th September 2014. This action by the Supreme Court against the Commissioners is a concerning threat to the independence to the Commission; an official body that has been established by the national parliament of the Maldives.

As you would be aware under the Act the HRCM has the powers to, amongst other things, 'increase awareness on human rights and promote a high regard for human rights amongst the citizens of the Maldives and foreign nationals' [Section 20 (j)] it can 'publicise propositions and recommendations of the Commission through the media on the protection of human rights' [Section 20 (l)] and it may 'undertake additional tasks from those mentioned above to protect human rights' [Section 20 (m)].

Moreover, in the performance of its responsibilities of the Commission is protected by Immunity under the Act. The relevant sections relating to Immunity under the Act include [Section 27 (a)]: 'No criminal or civil suit shall be filed against the President or Vice-President or a member of the Commission in relation to committing or omitting an act in good faith whilst undertaking responsibilities of the commission or exercising the powers of the Commission or the powers conferred to the Commission by a law'; and [Section 27 (b)]: 'The Commission can only be questioned or a suit can be filed against the Commission in court regarding a component in a report published by the Commission following an inquiry, should sufficient evidence be available to prove the component is false'.

In addition, the UN international standards relating to NHRIs, the 'Paris Principles' set out, that in terms of a NHRIs independence, competence and responsibilities a NHRI is able to 'contribute to the reports which States are required to submit to United Nations bodies and committees, and to regional institutions, pursuant to their treaty obligations and, where necessary, to express an opinion on the subject, with due respect for their independence'.

In expressing its considered opinion to the UPR, the HRCM is fulfilling its official and legal mandate.

With the greatest respect, we urge you to preserve the independence of the HRCM and guarantee the immunity of members of the HRCM. The APF is willing to provide you any assistance you think fit on this matter.

Yours sincerely and with our highest consideration,

Dr. Ali Ben Smaikh Al-Marri

Chairperson, Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and
Chairperson, National Human Rights Committee of Qatar

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On 25 September 2014, the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions shared its concerns about the trial of HRCM Commissioners in a letter to relevant UN mechanisms and agencies.

On 30 September 2014, the APF sent a second letter to the President of the Maldives, highlighting the recent UN Human Rights Council resolution on NHRIs, co-sponsored by the Maldives, which includes specific references to protecting NHRIs from reprisals.

Read the September 2014 Universal Periodic Review submission by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives.


Image credits

  1. NHRI Logo - Human Rights Commission of the Maldives