Amnesty International has announced that “significant human rights challenges” need to be addressed following a nine day visit to the Maldives, where it met with senior government figures and civil society organisations.
In a statement released Thursday (April 25), Amnesty International said that despite the country making “considerable progress” during the last few years in promoting and protecting civil rights, it retained concerns over issues like freedom of expression and wider accountability in the criminal justice system.
The findings were made as part of initial observations by Amnesty’s South Asia Director Polly Truscott and the NGO’s South Asia Researcher Abbas Faiz following a visit to the country between April 16 to April 24 this year.
Speaking to Minivan News at the conclusion of her visit this week, Truscott detailed some of the key human rights challenges facing the country. Among her observations was the controversial flogging sentence handed to a 15 year-old girl over charges of ‘fornication’, which she believed to be just the “tip of the iceberg” in regards to wider issues over how sexual offence victims were treated in the country.
The current government has already appealed the flogging sentence, while also pledging to move ahead with wider legal reforms concerning the possibility of reviewing the use of flogging as a punishment.
“On a positive note, Amnesty International welcomes the efforts now made by Maldivian authorities, in particular the President of the Maldives, to strengthen measures to ensure that any child who has been sexually abused receives protection, not punishment,” the NGO’s statement read.
“These include a review of all cases of children who have been investigated for ‘fornication,’ that is, sex outside marriage. Under international human rights law no one who either engages in consensual sexual activity or who is a victim of sexual assault, should be criminalised or punished, regardless of their age.”
Amnesty said it also held concerns over a lack of “effective investigations” into several high-profile attacks on media personnel, as well as the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.
The NGO has called on the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed to end an alleged culture of “impunity for the arbitrary and abusive use of force by security forces against demonstrators” following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012.
Amnesty International said its calls regarding allegations of “excessive force” by police were in line with recommendations included in the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) released last year.
The full Amnesty International statement can be read here.