HRC President reaffirms critical role of NHRIs and civil society

On 26 June 2015, President of the Human Rights Council (HRC), Mr. Joachim Rücker, reiterated “the importance to preserve the cooperative, inclusive and transparent nature of the UPR, [particularly] the participation of civil society”. The statement was delivered at the opening of the General Debate on the UPR (Item 6), at the 29th Session of the HRC. Sharing with the Council that he had become seized of a specific case of State reprisal against civil society, the President recalled HRC Resolution 16/21, which strongly rejects any act of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups cooperating with the United Nations on human rights. In this regard, he urged States “to prevent and ensure adequate protection against such acts. Further emphasising the gravity of the situation, he stressed that he would “follow up bilaterally with the States concerned to make sure that civil society actors are able to cooperate with the human rights mechanisms without fear of any threat.” The President’s statement is available on webcast here.

Mr. Rücker’s express support for civil society actors implicitly refers to a recent situation in the Maldives, regarding the State’s second-cycle UPR. On 16 June 2015, the Supreme Court of the Maldives passed judgment on a written submission by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) – the State’s National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) – which it found to be “unlawful”. Though no criminal penalty was imposed on the five HRCM members, the Court ruled that any communication with international bodies must take place through relevant Government institutions.

The Council’s President is not the only UN representative to comment on the issue; the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, was also critical of the Court’s ruling, commenting that: “The Supreme Court judgement is yet another example of the judiciary undermining human rights protection in the Maldives...” Calling for increased space for civil society in the State, the High Commissioner stressed that NHRIs “play a pivotal role in independently monitoring and protecting human rights and should be empowered to report on rights issues without fear.” Read the Press Release in full here.

Image by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR)

Countries: Maldives