Closing geographical gap, Maldives Judiciary continue justice services to people in remote islands amidst COVID-19

Posted September 17, 2020

UNDP provided digitalization support in partnership with Judicial Service Commission, Department of Judicial Administration, Employment Tribunal and Australian Government

UNDP provided digitalization support in partnership with Judicial Service Commission, Department of Judicial Administration, Employment Tribunal and Australian Government

New equipment strengthens business continuity under COVID-19 new normal

In a bid to facilitate justice sector services to remote populations through digital means under COVID-19, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Maldives, working in partnership with Judicial Service Commission, Department of Judicial Administration, Employment Tribunal and the Australian Government, today handed over digital devices to the judicial entities and the Tribunal - including equipment and tools for video conferencing and live broadcasting of court hearings. UNDP joins hand with partners to ensure justice continues to be dispensed in an appropriate and transparent manner during the crisis.

“Access to justice cannot be placed under lockdown nor can we let it be a victim of COVID-19. Judicial sector and its partners must rise to the challenge and work towards providing the services expected of us,” said Uza.Hisaan Hussain, Chairperson, Judicial Service Commission speaking at the handover ceremony held at the Judicial Service Commission today. 

UNDP Resident Representative Akiko Fujii hands over equipment to Judicial Service Commission.

As Judiciaries around the world set in motion business continuity plans amidst the unfolding situation of COVID-19, Maldivian Judiciary set to work on continuing its services to the people remotely, to ensure access to justice and safety for all the people.

“UNDP is honored to support business continuity of essential judicial services. During a crisis, vulnerable people are most at risk, in need of justice and support.  We are pleased to hand over these digital devices to facilitate the vital justice sector work remotely,” said UNDP Resident Representative Akiko Fujii.

This support strengthens business continuity of the services provided by courts and other justice sector institutions during the crisis. In particular, the broadcasting of court hearings will enhance transparency and lead to increased public trust in the justice system.

“As we celebrate the establishment of a wide area network connection between the Department of Judicial Administration and all the courts in the Maldives, it is crucial to remember that the biggest part of this digital transformation is changing the way we think in the Judiciary,” said Dr. Abdulla Nazeer, Judicial Administrator, Department of Judicial Administration.

Akiko Fujii hands over equipment to Department of Judicial Administration.

Joining the ceremony with the Judiciary virtually was a representative from the Australian High Commission to the Maldives, who delivered a message from HE David Holly, High Commissioner. “Australia is proud to support the Government of Maldives in its priority justice sector reforms. Australia is pleased to assist, through partnership with UNDP, in enabling remote judicial services during the pandemic, and to help build public transparency and accountability in the sector.  Australia looks forward to continuing to work with Maldives as an Indian Ocean neighbour.”

Most court processes still require physical submission of forms, which amplifies existing challenges for vulnerable groups in the community such as women, during crises such as COVID-19. This poses challenges particularly for those residing in outer atolls and outside the central region of the Maldives, as appeal courts are situated in the capital city Malé. Introducing technological solutions to court processes can address geographical challenges, bridge the gap between courts and communities, and provide speedy and efficient justice services to the public.

“I understand that making courts open and accessible is one of the key priorities of the newly appointed Supreme Court Bench. I believe the webcast of the hearings will bring Courts closer to the people. This is a step towards increasing public trust and confidence. UNDP is committed to continuing support to the Maldives in achieving SDG 16, which is focused on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions,” said Akiko Fujii.  

Digital devices were also handed over to Employment Tribunal later in the day. “Employment Tribunal expresses gratitude to the generous assistance afforded by UNDP to alleviate the unforeseeable challenges posed by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The digitalization of Tribunal’s hearing rooms would ensure uninterrupted service to the people of Maldives. We look forward to the continued co-operation and partnership of UNDP to enhance the capacity building initiatives of Employment Tribunal,” said Hassan Ibrahim, Member of the Employment Tribunal.

Equipment handed over to Employment Tribunal

The digitalisation items were supplied as part of UNDP’s COVID-19 Integrated Response Offer 1.0, which supports the health emergency measures as well as longer-term socio-economic recovery. Under its Integrated Governance Programme, in partnership with the Australian Government, UNDP works closely with justice sector institutions to enhance access to justice and human rights, and to increase citizen participation for a more effective and inclusive governance system to achieve SDG 16.