Thirty nations in a joint statement voiced concerns over the state of human rights in the Maldives at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on Wednesday, which the island nation has countered.
The joint statement of 30 countries, including the United States and European nations, was read by the representative of the United Kingdom at the ongoing 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
The statement read that despite the right of freedom of expression accorded by the Maldivian Constitution and international pacts, the right has now been curtailed in the Maldives. The statement called for the freedom of gathering, freedom of expression and opposition's political activities in order to strengthen democracy. The 30 countries also stressed the importance of maintaining the autonomy of independent institutions and separation of powers.
Moreover, the statement shed light on the murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed in March this year. Noting that Yameen Rasheed had presented the case of missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan at the UN Human Rights Council, the statement welcomed the government’s efforts to conduct an independent investigation into his murder.
The statement concluded calling on the Maldives’ government to take action against those working against human rights, and expressing hopes for the Maldives’ support in improving human rights in the country. The countries also vowed cooperation and assistance in achieving the goal.
The Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the UN, Dr Hala Hameed, countered the joint statement of the 30 countries, declaring that its contents are framed to paint a misleading picture of the Maldives.
She stated that the points raised in the statement are fictitious and form misconceptions regarding the Maldives, adding that it seeks to influence the nation's political situation.
Dr Hala Hameed highlighted that strengthening and maintaining human rights in a small country lacking in resources such as the Maldives is an arduous and challenging feat. However, she said that the government had increased efforts to ensure human rights in recent years and duly informed the UN Human Rights Council of its achievements in detail.
She went on to point out that the issues highlighted in the joint statement are concerns that the UN has voiced over the state of the United Kingdom as well. She noted that the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association had earlier stated that the actions of the UK government have curtailed the freedom of gathering and key human rights in the kingdom as well.
Dr Hala also responded to the statement’s points on Yameen Rasheed, asserting that Maldives Police Service is conducting a full investigation into his murder. Noting that Police have arrested everyone involved in the crime, she voiced concerns over the actions of certain entities seeking to politicise the case.
She ended her response saying that the Maldives recognises the concerns raised by the countries and asserted that the Maldives will continue to strengthen human rights in the future. She called for patience and the cooperation of the international community to aid the archipelago in its efforts.