While the spread of COVID-19 has restricted travel and kept people at home, it has not curbed the judiciary’s commitment to justice. However, fair and effective adjudication requires independence, ethics and specialized knowledge, and dedicated tools to ensure these principles are upheld. This is especially true in terrorism cases.
The Strategic Action Plan 2019-2023, drafted by the Government of Maldives to outline the developmental targets and priorities for the five-year period, identifies rule of law and judicial reform as a Government priority, highlighting their recognition of the importance of a fully functioning and well-equipped judicial system.
In order to support the judiciary in strengthening these capacities and enhancing a rule-of-law based approach to terrorism adjudication, UNODC began delivering the project “Support to Maldives on Counter-Terrorism”, in partnership with INTERPOL and with funding by the European Union.
Based in part on recommendations developed during assessment visits of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to Maldives in which UNODC’s Terrorism Prevention Branch (UNODC/TPB) participated, this initiative aims at increasing the institutional capacity of Maldives to prevent and respond to terrorism by strengthening a rule-of-law-based approach to counter-terrorism adjudication and enhancing the capacity and specific technical knowledge of judges to adjudicate terrorism cases.
Mr. Thorsten Bargfrede, Deputy Head of Mission of the European Union Delegation to Sri Lanka and the Maldives said, “Pleased to kick-off our first meeting to review and adapt the regional toolkit for judges to the needs of the Maldives. The European Union, together with UNODC and INTERPOL, will continue to support the Maldives in its counter-terrorism and judicial reform efforts. The European Union and the United Nations will also continue to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law while combatting terrorism and security challenges.”
On 3 June 2020, UNODC in close cooperation with CTED organized an online consultative meeting for the judiciary of Maldives under the framework of the initiative. Two United States District Court judges participated as subject-matter experts and introduced over 30 judges of Maldives to the “South Asia Regional Toolkit for Judges: Supporting the Development of National Bench Books for the Effective Adjudication of Terrorism Cases”.
The regional toolkit, developed by CTED with the active support and engagement of judges from all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and their implementing partner, the Global Center on Cooperative Security, provides practice-oriented guidance to judges and judicial training academies of SAARC countries on the foundations for effective adjudication, judicial management of proceedings and international cooperation in terrorism matters in the South Asia region.
“As the threat of terrorism looms in South Asia, the judiciary must continue to be supported to ensure justice is done” said Mr. Sergey Kapinos, Representative of the UNODC Regional Office for South Asia. “Only with the application of international human rights norms, standards and good practices by the judiciary can a country be truly effective in countering terrorism. Therefore, UNODC and our partners remain committed to providing judges with the tools they need to uphold the rule of law in their national terrorism cases.”
During the meeting, discussions focused on tailoring the regional toolkit to the specific context, procedures and legal frameworks of Maldives and the national counter-terrorism challenges identified by the country’s judiciary. UNODC will now begin drafting the tailored toolkit with the support of identified national counterparts and funding by the European Union.