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Maldives to intervene at ICJ in support of Rohingya

  • Published at 09:08 am February 26th, 2020
Rohingya Camp
File photo of a Rohingya camp Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The minister made the declaration while addressing the 43rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Tuesday

Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid has announced the Maldivian administration's decision to file a written declaration of intervention at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, in support of the persecuted Rohingya people.

The minister made the declaration while addressing the 43rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Tuesday.

In his statement, Minister Shahid noted that the government welcomed ICJ's ruling last month, which ordered Myanmar to "take all measures within its power” to protect the Rohingya from genocide.

"The Maldives intends to support the ongoing efforts to secure accountability for the perpetrators of genocide against the Rohingya people, in line with the decision taken by the OIC during the Summit held in Makkah last year," said Minister Shahid, referring to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's calls on the ad hoc ministerial committee to launch a case over Myanmar's human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims at the ICJ.

"The Maldives Cabinet has now decided that there are strong grounds for intervening in support of the Rohingya people in the case before the ICJ. We will be filing a written declaration at the appropriate time", declared the minister, hailing Gambia for taking initiative on the matter at the 14th Islamic Summit of the OIC.

In the wake of Minister Shahid's announcement, the foreign ministry disclosed that renowned humanitarian lawyer Amal Clooney, of Doughty Street Chambers, will represent Maldives in the case before the ICJ. Clooney notably represented Maldives' former president, Mohamed Nasheed, following his conviction on terrorism charges during the previous administration.

Over one million Rohingya fled the Rakhine State of Myanmar for Cox's Bazar in  Bangladesh following a severe crackdown by the Myanmar military on August 25, 2017 | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

The decision to file a declaration of intervention at the ICJ is the latest move by the government of Maldives, which has repeatedly advocated for accountability against the persecution of the Rohingya people. Previously, the archipelago initiated a nationwide movement to aid the Rohingya, raising over MVR 18 million in funds.

In addition to the Rohingya, Minister Shahid again raised Maldives' concern for the plight of Palestinians, reiterating the island nation's support for "their inalienable right to self-determination."

"The Maldives calls on the international community to collectively and decisively work towards a lasting and meaningful solution to the Palestinian question," he said.

'Committed to protecting human rights'

In his statement at the 43rd Session of the UNHRC, Foreign Minister Shahid highlighted Maldives' achievements in human rights during the incumbent administration, which took office in November 2018. Criticising the previous government as authoritarian and working with impunity, he declared that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had pledged to prioritise human dignity and the sanctity of human life, and asserted Maldives' commitment to promoting and protecting human rights.

The minister's highlights of accomplishments include Maldives ratifying the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and signing the Declaration under Article 22 of the Convention Against Torture in September 2019, as well as submitting notification to withdraw the reservations to Part 1 (b)(e)(g)(h) and Part 2 of Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

File photo: An exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touches the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, September 11, 2017 | Reuters

Looking to the future, he announced that the government will ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, but did not specify a date.

"I am also pleased to share with the Council, that for the first time since 2002, there are no longer any cases of Maldivian Parliamentarians before the Committee on Human Rights of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)", added the minister, saying it denoted the progress made by Maldives in ensuring the human rights of its lawmakers.

The minister went on to note that the new Child Rights Protection Act of Maldives, which came into effect last Thursday, conforms to the CRC, while the Juvenile Justice Act has raised the age of criminal responsibility to 15 years. Minister Shahid further touched upon the recent empowering of local councils, ensuring independence of lawyers, and the auditing of detention facilities across the country, asserting that Maldives will meet international standards including the Mandela Rules.

In his address, Minister Shahid also underscored that Maldives initiated discourse on the "human dimension of climate change" at the 7th Session of the UNHRC in 2008. Noting that the Maldivian parliament declared a climate emergency on February 12, he welcomed the UN Secretary General's Call to Action for Human Rights, which recognises the link between human rights and climate change.

In his concluding remarks, Minister Shahid thanked the UNHRC for supporting Maldives in implementing its human rights agenda.

"The Maldives will continue to promote and protect human rights of all. We are committed to work constructively with the international community to further advance and build upon the accomplishments we have achieved so far."

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