A United Nations expert has lauded Maldives' efforts to bring about human rights reforms but noted that the island nation still did not "fully satisfy" the requirements of international principles.
Although she welcomed the adoption of a law on the country's Human Rights Commission, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief Asma Jahangir noted that the reforms must also take into account religious freedom.
"I am fully aware that all Maldivians are Muslim yet to unduly stress this as a qualification of the members of the Human Rights Commission defeats the very spirit of seeking to uphold human rights," the noted Pakistani human rights activist said in a statement on Thursday.
"Maldivians are eagerly looking forward to and preparing to embrace political changes in the country.
Yet, open and honest discourse on the question of freedom of religion or belief is vigorously denied and the few that dare to raise their voices are denounced and threatened," Jahangir, who recently visited the country, said.
Jahangir, who serves the UN in an independent capacity, stressed that any reform in the field of human rights has to go hand in hand with freedom of expression and association, independence of the judiciary and the mainstreaming of freedom of religion and belief.
Commenting on her visit to Maafushi Prison in Maldives, she said she would recommend in a report to the Human Rights Council, the introduction of "religiously-sensitive" rules of detention, including respect for the spiritual and dietary needs of foreign prisoners.