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Satement on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers by H.E. Mr Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations Office at Geneva

Statement by H.E. Mr Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives  to the United Nations Office at Geneva during the Interactive Dialogue with Mr. Leandro Despouy on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers at the Third Committee Sixty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Friday, 24th October 2008

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

The Maldives delegation has the honour of responding to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The Maldives warmly welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s Report and in particular the positive commentary on the ongoing reforms in the Maldives which are designed, inter alia, to strengthen the judicial sector.

The Maldives was delighted to welcome Dr. Despouy to the Maldives last year to assess, first-hand, the Government’s sweeping Democratic and Human Rights Reform Agenda. That Reform Agenda includes a significant judicial element, hence our interest in working with Dr. Despouy to ensure that our laws, practices and procedures adhere to the very highest international standards. The Maldives has consistently taken the view that in order to succeed; the Reform Agenda must be undertaken in full cooperation with the international community – including international human rights mechanisms. In addition to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the Maldives has also received the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, and will over the next year receive the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, on violence against women, and on the right to adequate housing. This unprecedented level of engagement and transparency reflects the Maldives’ determination to work with our friends in the UN system to build a better, fairer, more just, and more prosperous country for current and future generations.

Mr. Chairman,

As Dr. Despouy notes in his Report, the Maldives Government has been able to achieve considerable success in implementing many of the Special Rapporteurs key recommendations following his visit last year.

The Maldives’ new Constitution, ratified on 7 August, incorporates key recommendations designed to strengthen the independent judiciary including through: the establishment of a Supreme Court; the creation of an independent Judicial Services Commission to oversee the appointment and remuneration of judges, and the creation of the post of Prosecutor-General. Not only have these important new bodies been incorporated into the new Constitution; they have also been established in practice and are now fully operational. Indeed, all three have played key roles in the run-up to the Maldives first multi-party elections, the first round of which took place on 8th October. For example, shortly before the vote, the interim Supreme Court, composed of judges nominated by the Judicial Services Commission, handed down key rulings on the eligibility of two of the presidential candidates.

In addition to these keynote steps, a wide-range of other measures have also been implemented in conformity with the Special Rapporteur’s Mission Report.

The new Constitution introduces and/or strengthens key fundamental rights including: to equal treatment before the law; to fair and public trials; to protection from arbitrary detention; the right to bail; freedom from forced confession; right to legal aid; right to appeal; and the prohibition of torture.

The Maldives has also taken significant steps to promote the role of women in the judicial and political classes. In July last year, the Maldives took the historic step of appointing its first-ever female judges. Building on this, the new Constitution also removes the gender bar that previously prevented women from running for President.

Other recommendations by Dr. Despouy that have been implemented or are being implemented include: new laws to provide legal aid; the adoption of new and strengthened sentencing guidelines – especially for sexual offenders; the adoption of a completely new and modern Penal Code; the launch of a Drugs Control Master Plan; the creation of a national bar association; and police training in human rights norms.

In short Mr. Chairman, thanks to these and other steps, the Maldives now enjoys a robust separation of powers between the three branches of government – including a strong and independent judiciary. We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s recognition of our efforts and we in-turn congratulate him for his role and timely input.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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