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Maldives tells UN it has made progress to promote human rights

Press Trust of India  |  Geneva 

Amid questions raised over Maldives' religious stance and the controversial trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldivian Foreign Minister today told the UNHRC that her country has made progress in domestic reforms to promote human rights.

"All systemic restrictions on freedom of expression and media have been abolished," said Maldivian Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Mammon.

"Maldives has been a Muslim country for the last 800 years...Islam forms the basis of our Constitution, and all our laws. Calls to introduce values and practices that are contrary to the values of Islam, such as non-traditional forms of families and LGBT, will not be entertained by the people of Maldives," she told the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

"And while we continue to allow non-Maldivians to practice their own faith in private: for Maldivians, this basic belief in Islam as an integral part of our Maldivian identity, I assure you, will not change," she added.

During the second UPR of the Maldives, member states have raised several questions over the problems in the judiciary and the controversial trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader.

The questions came at a time when the international community had severely criticised the terrorism allegations against Nasheed, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in March.

India's permanent representative to the UN Office at Geneva, Ajit Kumar said: "We have seen reports by UN agencies that press freedom is being abridged. The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers has also reported their increased politicization. The space for legitimate political dissent must be safeguarded."

Some delegations, including from the US, the UK, and Canada, raised the issue of former President Mohamed Nasheed's "unfair" imprisonment.

The US delegation said: "We are concerned that non-Muslims cannot become citizens and the government controls all religious matters.

"Politically motivated prosecutions without minimum fair trial guarantees, such as that of Nasheed should end," the US stated.

Mona Rishmawi, Chief of the Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said last week that "the trial of Mr Nasheed had been vastly unfair and his conviction had been arbitrary and disproportionate" and "there was no proper evidence code or procedural code, and the judges had extreme discretionary powers."

Maldives is one of the 14 States whose human rights record is being reviewed by the UPR Working Group.

The UPR is a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States.

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First Published: Wed, May 06 2015. 22:28 IST