“Joint Statement led by UK is tantamount to a small nation being targeted by a large one”

7 June 2017, Male’;

  • Statement is unwarranted and unconstructive, misrepresenting the reality in the Maldives and unduly attempting to affect domestic politics in the country
  • Guaranteeing human rights requires constant vigilance and effort, with multiple challenges for a small country with limited resources like the Maldives
  • Politicization of Yameen Rasheed’s death, and its subsequent relation to an alleged narrowing of democratic space is of great concern
  • According to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the UK has many human rights violations. The UN says the standards for human rights that UK calls internationally are not implemented domestically.

The Government of Maldives has taken note of the statement delivered by the United Kingdom against the Maldives at the 35th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva today.

In a right of reply delivered by Ambassador Hala Hameed, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations Offices in Geneva, the Maldives noted that it is “unwarranted and unconstructive, misrepresenting the reality in the Maldives and unduly attempting to affect domestic politics in the country”. In the statement, the Maldives further noted that guaranteeing human rights requires constant vigilance and effort, with multiple challenges for a small country with limited resources like the Maldives.

The Maldives also noted some human rights violations and areas lacking in human rights promotion and protection by the initiator, United Kingdom. This includes lack of addressing issues for hate crime, closing of space for civil society, lack of freedom of expression and association. Most importantly, the UN has noted that it is “imperative that the same standards on civil society space that the Government calls for internationally are implemented domestically.”

The statement made by the UK focused on the murder of blogger and social media activist Yameen Rasheed. In the response made by the Government of Maldives, it briefed on the developments made in the investigation. In the statement, the Maldives also noted that the Government’s efforts to consolidate democracy and ensure a safe space for democratic congress in line with our international obligations are ignored or mischaracterized.

The Maldives has at the highest level, strongly condemned the murder and committed full support for the investigation.

Read full statement:

 

Maldives Right of Reply to the UK Joint Statement 

Thank you Mr President,

The Republic of Maldives takes note of the joint statement on the Maldives, initiated by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and supported by the members of the European Union and WEOG .

We acknowledge the concerns expressed under this agenda item. However, it is the position of the Government of Maldives that the proposed joint statement is unwarranted and unconstructive, misrepresenting the reality in the Maldives and unduly attempting to affect domestic politics in the country. It is concerning that we see this pattern repeats itself.

The Maldives has made remarkable progress in terms of social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights over the past 2 decades. Our developments and challenges are presented regularly here, at every HRC session.

Mr President,

Guaranteeing human rights requires constant vigilance and effort, with multiple challenges for a small country with limited resources like the Maldives. The same issues faced by the Maldives, are however, not only confined or unique to the Maldives. For instance, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his follow-up mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has noted “with concern that a series of separate measures by the Government, have negatively impacted the exercise of the rights to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, and in general, are resulting in the closing of space for civil society. He is also concerned that, put together, these measures suggest that the Government has a negative view of civil society as a critical partner that can and should hold it accountable”. Most importantly, the SR noted that it is “imperative that the same standards on civil society space that the Government calls for internationally are implemented domestically.”

According to 2016/2017 Amnesty International Report on the UK, “counter-terrorism powers and related policy initiatives to counter “extremism” continued to raise concerns”. Plans for a Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill were announced in May, but no concrete legislative proposal had been tabled by end of year. In April, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association warned that the Government’s approach to “non-violent extremism” risked violating both freedoms.

The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council’s official statistics in June and September showed a 57% spike in reporting of hate crime in the week immediately following the EU membership referendum, followed by a decrease in reporting to a level 14% higher than the same period the previous year. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed his concern in June. Government statistics published in October showed an increase in hate crimes of 19% over the previous year, with 79% of the incidents recorded classified as “race hate crimes”. In November, the CERD Committee called on the UK to take steps to address the increase in such hate crimes.

Official statistics published in June by the Legal Aid Agency in UK showed that legal help in civil cases had dropped to one third of pre-LASPO levels. In July, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights called on the government to reassess the impact of reforms to the legal aid system. The UK government failed to establish a review.

Mr President,

With regards to the focus of this joint statement, a young charismatic blogger, Mr Yameen Rasheed, was brutally cut down before he had even reached his prime, this past April. Being a nation where willful murder is relatively uncommon, this event shocked the country’s collective social conscience. H.E. Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, President of the Republic of Maldives, noted in a statement that “in his death we have lost a young energetic, voice full of potential that contributed heavily, and responsibly, to the social and political discourse of our nation. He was … everything the youth of this nation should aspire to be and more.” The Maldives Government also immediately qualified the attack against Mr Rasheed as an attack against all journalists, freedom of the press, and the democracy of the Maldives. To date, the Maldives Police Service, with the full support of other Government offices, have led a comprehensive investigation, arresting all those suspected of involving in the attack. The politicization of this young man’s death, and its subsequent relation to an alleged narrowing of democratic space is of great concern.

The true reality of the situation in the Maldives is being misrepresented. Links that do not exist are being drawn. And our efforts consolidating democracy and ensure a safe space for democratic congress in line with our international obligations are ignored or mischaracterized. This joint statement further misrepresents the Maldives consistent position and efforts since 2006 to cooperate fully with all special procedures. The complete lack of recognition for commendable policies is worrying.

Mr President,

It is indeed true that whenever a country like the Maldives achieves immense developmental benchmarks in a short period, it is inevitable to attract attention and become scrutinized in the process. However, human rights continue to enjoy a central place in our democratic consolidation process. Human Rights is enshrined in our constitution, and its ideals are pervasive throughout our institutions. This statement blatantly politicizes the issue of religious extremism, undermines the initiatives of the Maldives Government, and in particular the efforts of the Maldives Police Service. Given the only three working days provided for any consultation or consideration of this statement, there has been only a token effort at being constructive, and is tantamount to a small nation being targeted by a large one. We take all comments positively, and the Government of the Maldives will continue to work towards guaranteeing fundamental human rights and democratic reform.

We only ask to be measured by the same benchmark, for a little bit more patience, encouragement and support from our multilateral partners. As High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein noted in his annual report at the opening session of this Council Session, scrutiny must be objective and constructive.

Thank you.

 

 ENDS