“It is clear that the rule of law in the Maldives is now under siege,” said the experts in a news release issued Monday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“We call on the Government to refrain from any threats or interference that may hamper the court’s independence as the supreme guardian of the country’s constitution and legislation,” they added.
In the release, José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, the current Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and Diego García-Sayán, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and magistrates, also stressed that judicial independence, enshrined in the national constitution and in international human rights treaties, had to be guaranteed by the State.
Mr. García-Sayán also raised concern over the timing of the arrests, five days after the Supreme Court had ordered the release and retrial of nine opposition leaders, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Following the arrest of Chief Justice H.E. Abdulla Saeed and Ali Hameed Mohamed – shortly after the Government declared a state of emergency – the three remaining Supreme Court judges overturned the order to free the nine leaders.
“[This] is at best suspicious,” said Mr. García-Sayán, adding that the acts constitutes “an intolerable act of intimidation” against the highest judicial authority in the country.
In the same vein, Mr. Bermúdez underscored that Judges should be able to decide all matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts, and in accordance with the law free of any intimidation.
“[However,] this is not possible when their very liberty and security is threatened,” he stressed.
According to the news release, the UN experts have been in contact with the Government of Maldives regarding their concerns.
UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council – the highest UN intergovernmental body on all matters related to human rights – to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation.
The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
US pardons for accused war criminals, contrary to international law
A presidential pardon for two United States soldiers accused of war crimes, and a sentence reduction for a third, “run against the letter and the spirit of international law which requires accountability for such violations”, the United Nations human rights wing said on Tuesday.
“While pardons exist in international law, and can properly address issues of injustice or unfairness”, Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters at a regular press briefing in Geneva that these cases showed no circumstances to suggest anything other than “simply voiding the otherwise proper process of law in the cases”.
“These pardons send a disturbing signal to military forces all around the world”, he added.
According to news reports, Lieutenant Clint Lorance was tried and convicted for ordering the shooting of Afghanistan civilians in 2013 and handed down a 20-year prison sentence. Last Friday, he was given a full pardon.
Major Mathew Golsteyn was charged with executing an unarmed Afghan man who was a suspected Taliban bombmaker in 2010. He was scheduled to be tried in February.
And Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was charged with murdering a captive in Iraq. He was acquitted but received a demotion for posing with the corpse for a photograph. President Trump on Friday vowed to restore his rank.
“These three cases involve serious violations of international humanitarian law, both proven and alleged, including the shooting of a group of civilians and execution of a captured member of an armed group”, said Mr. Colville.
Some US news outlets applauded President Donald Trump’s reprieves, while others saw them as a sign of disregard for the decisions of military juries as well as for the judicial process itself.
“International Humanitarian Law establishes the obligation to investigate violations and prosecute war crimes”, reminded Mr. Colville.
He pointed out that by investigating the allegations, and initiating and completing criminal proceedings, the US military justice system had been in compliance with international law.
Underscoring that “victims of gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law have the right to a remedy”, Mr. Colville maintained that the pardon terminating further criminal proceedings in the case of Major Mathew Golsteyn, was “particularly troubling”.
He elaborated that remedies include equal and effective access to justice, the right to the truth, and to see perpetrators serve punishments proportionate to the seriousness of their conduct, “rather than see them absolved of responsibility”.
Rwanda: EU provides €10.3 million for life-saving refugee support measures
During his visit to Rwanda, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica has announced a €10.3 million support package to the UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) in Rwanda, which provides a life-saving avenue out of Libya for people in need of international protection, with a view to their further resettlement. The funding is provided through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. This initiative builds on the example of the ETM Niger, through which more than 2,900 refugees and asylum seekers have been evacuated out of Libya since 2017.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “The Emergency Transit Mechanism in Rwanda is a vital life-saving measure to bring people in need of international protection out of Libya. It is an important sign of African solidarity and of partnership with the European Union. It broadens the support to the most vulnerable people held in Libyan detention centres that need to be closed urgently.”
Commissioner Mimica said: “This project will support efforts of the Government of Rwanda to receive and provide protection to about 1,500 refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently being held in detention centres in Libya. Such a remarkable and powerful proof of African solidarity should be further encouraged, replicated and supported.”
The UNHCR has evacuated more than 4,250 refugees and asylum-seekers out of Libya to other countries since 2017.
However, around 4,700 people are currently estimated to be held in dire conditions inside detention centres in the country. They urgently need to be moved to safety and to be provided with protection, lifesaving assistance, and durable solutions.
Following the escalation in and around Tripoli, namely the July air strike on a migrant detention centre, the EU continues to support the vital work of the Gathering and Departure Facility on location.
The EU is also supporting the UNHCR’s increased efforts to transfer to Tripoli the most vulnerable people in need of international protection from conflict areas where they are at risk, pending their evacuation outside of Libya.
ADB Program to Help Improve Education and Health in Armenia
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $10 million policy-based loan (in euro equivalent) to assist the Government of Armenia’s efforts to improve the quality and accessibility of education and health services.
Armenia is experiencing a demographic shift with the share of children under the age of 18 declining from 37% of the national population in 1990 to 25% now, signaling an impending decline of the country’s labor force. Access to and funding for quality education and health services are poor, resulting in many people not having the skills to meet employers’ needs and avoidable ill health having a detrimental effect on the population.
In 2017, for instance, public expenditure on education was about 2.2% of gross domestic product (GDP), which is lower than the 5% recommended by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Government health spending was at 1.3% of GDP, below the 5% threshold observed by the World Health Organization as expenditure of countries with low shares of out-of-pocket payments.
To address this, the Government of Armenia has implemented reforms since 2010 to improve education and health services, with a focus on helping women and girls. A preschool law was endorsed to the National Assembly with the aim of boosting the number of children in elementary schools to 70% in 2023, from around 30% in 2017. Teachers have also been receiving training and skills development. A new set of guidelines and protocols, meanwhile, have been implemented in most of the country’s hospitals and health centers, covering topics ranging from preventing hospital-acquired infections to methods in continuing medical education.
“A well-educated and healthy population is essential for the growth and development of a country like Armenia, where human capital is significantly unrealized,” said ADB Senior Health Specialist for Central and West Asia Ms. Rouselle Lavado. “ADB’s assistance will support the government’s ongoing efforts to ensure that citizens are educated, healthy, and productive.
The main focus of the Human Development Enhancement Program is children and youth, starting from the preschool age. As well as improving the accessibility and enhancing the quality of education and health services in the country, the program will also increase financing for these efforts.
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