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Maldives Govt welcomes new Human Rights Council

Government welcomes inauguration of new Human Rights Council and states that a stronger international regime on human rights protection presents a unique opportunity for the Maldives

Male’ (Thursday) – The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, yesterday addressed the High-Level Segment of the Inaugural Session of the UN Human Rights Council, welcoming the establishment of the Council and promising to work closely with the new body in order to improve human rights protection in the Maldives.

The Human Rights Council, conceived by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to replace the Commission on Human Rights, is currently holding its first ever meeting in Geneva, Switzerland; an event attended by UN Secretary General Mr. Annan, the President of the UN General Assembly Mr. Jan Eliasson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Louise Arbour, the Director-General of the UN in Geneva Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, over a hundred national ministers, and a wide cross section of international civil society.

Addressing delegates, Dr. Shaheed congratulated the President of the new body, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, on his election and warmly welcomed the inauguration of the Council together with its stated aim of “promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner”.

Dr. Shaheed reminded the audience that: “the inauguration of the Human Rights Council comes at an important time in the democratic history of the Maldives. The country is embarked on an ambitious reform programme designed to bring its political institutions into line with modern democratic and human rights standards. The international community has played and continues to play a key role in this reform process, offering invaluable advice, support and expertise.

Building on this trend of international engagement, it is our sincere hope that over the coming years, we will be able to work closely with the newly formed Human Rights Council to bring about real and lasting improvements in human rights protection in the Maldives.”

Providing an early demonstration of this commitment, the Foreign Minister informed the Council that in April of this year the Maldives extended a Standing Invitation to visit the country to all UN human rights Special Procedure Rapporteurs, which it followed–up with personal invitation letters to those Rapporteurs with a particular interest in the country. The Minister also recalled that the Government has made a public commitment, in its roadmap for the reform agenda, to sign up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by December 2006.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Shaheed held a private meeting with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Louise Arbour, during which the Minister briefed Ms. Arbour on developments in the Maldives since their last meeting in September 2005.

The Minister’s attendance at the Human Rights Council was part of a four-day visit to the international organisations based in Geneva during which Dr. Shaheed also met with a number of UN Special Rapporteurs for human rights, senior representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Secretary General of the International Commission of Jurists, Mr. Nicholas Howen. The meetings were an opportunity to discuss progress and challenges vis-à-vis the reform agenda, and to identify potential areas for cooperation in order to move the agenda forward.

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