Intervention made by Ms. Rishfa Rasheed, Assistant Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Third Committee of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, 21 October 2011
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We thank the Special Rapporteur Ms. Gabriela Knaul for her thorough coverage and excellent report on the role of women in the judicial branch and criminal justice system. We look forward to her visit in early 2012 as a follow-up to the work of her predecessor. We wish to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude for her invaluable guidance to us in establishing a proper independent judiciary under our new constitution.
The Maldives was very pleased by the report’s recognition of legitimacy as the key to the authority of an independent judiciary. We also agree with the Special Rapporteur’s suggestion that a judiciary will gain more legitimacy when its make up reflects that of the population over which it presides, specifically by including proportionate numbers of women at all levels. Maldives has begun to make progress in this area, with substantial numbers of women members on the Faculty of Law, and the first women appointed to the bench in the past couple of years.
We are particularly proud of the achievements of Honorable Ms Aisha Shujune Muhammad, a Judge of the Maldives Civil Court, recently elected to and now serves as one of four Vice Chairs to the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. In addition, we are pleased to report that we successfully implemented two of the key recommendations from the previous Special Rapporteurs report,having passed a Court Bill establishing our Supreme Court, intermediate courts, and lower courts, and a Judicature Bill which lays out the procedures and jurisdiction of the various courts.
Ours is still a young democracy, and we recognize that we have many steps to take as our judicial institutions mature into fully effective and respected independent bodies. First however, we must overcome the divisive politics that have at times blocked qualified candidates for discriminatory or other unfair reasons. We are aware that perception is as important as reality when it comes to legitimacy, and we are, therefore, attempting to reconcile the differences between the various domestic political parties. We hope our efforts lead to greater confidence in our judicial branch.
My Government recognizes, and as my President very recently stated, that independence, professionalism, and accountability and acceptance of the judiciary by the people are the key challenges that we face in our democratic transition. To this end, we pledge to continue to work closely with the Special Rapporteur and the International Commission of Jurists and look forward to working with Ms. Knaul during her follow-up visit in the early part of 2012 to pick up where Dr. Despouy’s work left off.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman