Agenda Item 73(b): Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Intervention by Ms. Farzana Zahir, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Report by the Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Mr. Michel Forst
United Nations, New York, 22 October 2015
Thank you Distinguished Chairperson,
The Maldives takes positive note of the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Secretary General and we wish to thank him for his presentation.
The Maldives appreciates the extensive engagement of human rights defenders to identify the diverse concerns at hand. During the past few years, Maldives has pursued an active policy in promoting its international human rights obligations. The Government of Maldives is fully committed to strengthening the human rights situation in the country, and have allowed maximum flexibility with our engagement. The inclusion of civil society organisations in the recently reconvened Standing Committee of the Universal Periodic Review – one of the most important human rights mechanisms – is a clear demonstration of it.
The Freedom of Association Act of 2013 safeguards the right to peaceful demonstration, ensuring that everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly without prior permission or registration, a right guaranteed under the Constitution. We welcome the constructive engagement of Special Rapporteurs and other special procedure mandate holders and have to date hosted six visits. My Government is keen to welcome a visit by the Special Rapporteur in 2016 on mutually agreeable dates. The Maldives wishes to encourage the mandate holders to take into account the challenges small States such as the Maldives faces, not the least of which is man power and expertise, in our endeavours towards the promotion and protection of human rights. The Maldives further expects ALL mandate holders to ensure that their engagement remain neutral and non-speculative and make fact-based informed decisions, as the Maldives' believes that their opinions hold great value at this Assembly and among the international community.
The Maldives takes note of the references to the 'war against terrorism' being used to target defenders. The Maldives urges the Special Rapporteur, Member States and international community to take into consideration, the crimes and the degree of human rights violations committed by persons sentenced on terrorism, before being labelled as acts of reprisal against human rights defenders.
The Maldives agrees (para 43 of report) that the difficulties "are exacerbated by ignorance among defenders themselves of the mechanisms they can resort to and levers they can pull to boost their visibility and strengthen protection", due to the sensitivities that surround the work of human rights defenders at times, engagement can be untrusting. My question to the Special Rapporteur is: Can you highlight good practices by human rights defenders, as well as States, that could enhance productive, constructive engagement?