President Mohamed Nasheed has said dealing with the human rights violations of the past was one the most difficult issues confronted with the government. He made the observation in a letter sent to the Director-General of UNESCO Mrs Irina Bokova.
In his letter, the President also congratulated Mrs Bokova on her recent assumption of the office as the head of UNESCO. Mrs Bokova was elected as the tenth Director-General of UNESCO on 15 October 2009 by the 35th Session of UNESCO General Conference. She is the first woman to hold the post since the foundation of UNESCO in 1945.
President Nasheed’s letter to Mrs Bokova reads as follows:
“On behalf of the Government and the people of the Maldives, I would like to congratulate you on your recent assumption of the office of UNESCO Director-General. Please be assured of the Maldives’ full support during what I am sure will be an extremely successful term.
As you may know, the Maldives has recently emerged from a long period in which human rights were routinely violated and in which many people, including members of the new Government, were tortured. Thankfully, the country has been able to turn its back on such times and is now busy establishing itself as a modern liberal democracy with a full separation of powers and strong human rights safeguards.
One of the challenges facing the new Government as we look to consolidate democracy, rule of law and human rights is how to come to terms with the difficult episodes in our past without jeopardising our future. Dealing with the issue of torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is without doubt one of the more difficult issues we are confronted with, especially in our small closely-knit community. Our favoured approach is to avoid retribution and instead to recognise, come to terms with, and learn from such tragic episodes as a means of ensuring that the memory of the victims is honoured and that we avoid repeating the same mistakes.
In this regard, we are very interested in UNESCO’s work on “memory for education” (such as the Holocaust remembrance, and the Buenos Aires memory archives). The Maldives would like to explore with UNESCO the possibility of expanding the organisation’s work on memory for education to cover the issue of torture remembrance. In particular, the Maldives would like to lead an initiative within UNESCO to create a system of internationally-recognised, -certified and -supported memorials to the victims of torture. The memorials would have a remembrance, educational and preventative function.
We have already spoken to other UN Member States with an interest in torture prevention and their response has been positive. We have also spoken to UNESCO’s Geneva Office on this issue. We would very much appreciate your advice on how we might now proceed.”