Male ’Maldives: The following statement is made by the United Nations in the Maldives, concerning allegations of human rights abuses in connection with recent demonstrations and civil unrest there.

The United Nations in the Maldives is aware of the concerns expressed by a number of human rights organizations regarding alleged human rights violations related to recent demonstrations and civil unrest. The UN regrets that events of 12-15 August lead to confrontation and encourages all stakeholders to ensure that dialogue continues towards democratic reform within a realistic timeframe. Human rights are a key concern for the United Nations in this country and across the globe.

The UN is committed to creating a universal culture of respect for human rights and is closely monitoring the situation in the Maldives. Allegations of human rights violations, including those which inhibit the right to freedom of opinion and expression; protest within the law and the right to freedom of association are viewed very seriously by the UN. We have appealed to the government to urgently look into these allegations and to ensure that all detainees are granted their full rights in line with international conventions.

The UN takes note of the government’s assurances that those arrested in connection with the events of 12-15 August will be “granted their civil and legal rights, including the involvement of legal counsel at all stages”. We encourage the government to keep the public informed and to remain open to the possibility of trial proceedings being conducted in the presence of international observers.The Government of the Maldives has taken positive steps towards democratic reform, including the registration of political parties. A broad national dialogue must continue on how these reforms will progress. We are encouraged that the government is working towards ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which will reinforce the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and to protest within the law.

We welcome therefore, the government’s recent moves to facilitate a broader spectrum of public opinion in the national media. The UN stands ready to support this dialogue, including the drafting of an appropriate legal framework for a more independent media and strengthening capacity for reporting according to internationally recognized standards.The UN has supported the establishment and work of the Human Rights Commission.

We urge members of parliament to ensure that the Human Rights Commission Bill is fully aligned with internationally recognized principles which guarantee autonomy, adequate resources and powers of investigation (as per the Paris Principles). The UN supports a wide range of other important reforms, such as the revisions of the Penal Code and Criminal Procedures Code, which are currently with parliament for their consideration.

We hope that this important legislation, which is vital to protecting fundamental human rights in the Maldives will be enacted as soon as possible. The President, in his June 2004 speech on political reform, said he wanted to “bring about major corrective reforms needed by this country, for the peace and development of the people and for these reforms to be undertaken in consultation and in agreement with the people.” The UN looks forward to the full realization of this powerful vision for the Maldives.

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