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Maldives discusses intolerance, Syria, Palestine, and women’s rights at the UN Human Rights Council

Maldives’ Ambassador to the United Nations Offices in Geneva Iruthisham Adam has told the Human Rights Council of the Maldives concern over rising incidences of racial and religious intolerance around the world.

Speaking at the 26th regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) being held in Geneva  from June 10 – 27, Iruthisham said that the Maldives believes human rights are for everyone and are indivisible and interdependent.

Her comments came response to the opening statement by the departing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, whose term ends on 31 August.

In her statement, Pillay noted that effective human rights advocacy must necessarily open a Pandora’s box of hidden abuses to allow the work of ensuring better governance and justice.

“Dalit or Brahmin, Peul or Pole, gay or heterosexual, tycoon or pauper, woman, child or man – regardless of our ethnicity, our age, our form of disability, our beliefs, or our economic might, all human beings are equal in dignity,” said Pillay.

During her term, Pillay has been particularly outspoken about both flogging and the judiciary in the Maldives, with the former comments – made during a trip to the Maldives in 2011 – prompting protests on the streets of Malé.

Following the Supreme Court’s controversial intervention in the 2013 presidential elections, Pillay accused it of “subverting the democratic process”, this time drawing an angry response from the chief justice.

Continuing her response to Pillay’s statement, Iruthisham noted that it was important to highlight unique challenges and vulnerabilities faced by Small Island Developing States such as the Maldives.

Palestine and Syria

Irurhisham also called on the international community to take stronger measures to prevent conflicts from spreading into other territories, causing greater violations of human rights.

The Maldives was described as being concerned by the human rights situations in countries such as the South Sudan, Ukraine, the Central African Republic and, in particular, Palestine and Syria.

Irurhisham criticised the weak response of the international community to war crimes in Syria, calling for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Commenting on the situation in Syria she said the widespread and systematic violence in Syria today is a tragedy for the Syrian people and a failure for the cause of human rights.

Noting that the Palestinians have been struggling for a just cause for decades without any solution, Irurhisham reiterated the importance of retaining agenda item seven – ‘the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories’ – on the council’s agenda.

“The Maldives expresses its grave concern and condemns the continuation of systematic violation and abuse of human rights of the Palestinian people and the illegal settlements by Israel, the occupying power,” she said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has revealed that the Maldives will also address the human rights situation in North Korea as well as focusing on womens rights, independence of the judiciary, and climate change.

Women’s rights

The Maldives is also part of the HRC core-group leading a high level panel ‘Power of Empowered Women 2014′ on equality and women’s economic empowerment.

When commenting on the special rapporteur on violence against women’s report, delegation member Amin Javed Faizal said that “eliminating all forms of violence against women is a cornerstone of the Maldives’ human rights policy, and our work at the human rights council.”

“We have already undertaken measures to address comprehensively all the shortcomings present in the system including the issue of accountability,” said Javed, pointing out that reservations to the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have been withdrawn and a domestic violence bill enacted.

A recent EU election observation report noted that women remained “acutely under-represented” in Maldivian public life, pointing out that provisions to eliminate intentional and unintentional discrimination – as included in CEDAW – were till lacking

Among many issues on the agenda of the HRC session are Central African Republic, Syria, North Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sustainable Development, Racism, Corruption, Human Trafficking, Universal Periodic Review,

In addition to this specific panel discussions will be held on subjects such as safety of journalists, combating female genital mutilation, eliminating child, early and forced marirages and advancing rights of right of persons with disabilities.