Published in The Business Standard on Oct. 17 ::
The United Nations today voiced “deep concern” over a crackdown by the Maldivian Supreme Court on the country’s independent rights watchdog for cooperating with the UN Human Rights Council. The five-member independent Human Rights Council of the Maldives (HRCM) faces “serious criminal charges” for submitting a report to the UN, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani confirmed.
“We are deeply concerned about the case initiated by the Supreme Court of the Maldives against the five members of the Human Rights Commission of the country,” she said in a statement.
The HRCM was being targeted for sending a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for the periodic review of the Maldives where dissidents have complained of persecution, Shamdasani said. The contents of the report were not immediately clear, but the commissioners have been accused by Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court of making false allegations against the administration.
The top UN rights body said the Male government had a responsibility to ensure a safe operating space for rights defenders to cooperate with UN rights mechanisms without fear of reprisals.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein had already written directly to the government of the Maldives to express his concerns.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed has accused the ruling party of orchestrating attacks against political rivals and stifling dissent, allegations that President Abdulla Yameen’s government has denied. Nasheed was toppled in what he called a coup supported by Islamists and elements of the military in February 2012 and has since accused the country’s judiciary of being partisan.