The Maldivian government has hired a law firm owned by Cherie Blair, the wife of UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair, to “strengthen the legislative framework of the government.”
In a joint press release today, the foreign ministry and the attorney general’s office said the hiring of London based Omnia Strategy LLP “underscores the government’s commitment to strengthen democratic institutions of the State and to promote a culture of respect for human rights in the Maldives, adhering to international norms, while retaining its unique character.”
The foreign ministry declined to reveal the cost and length of the contract or the details of Omnia Strategy’s work in the Maldives.
Omnia Strategy, which has recently opened an office in Washington DC, describes itself as a “pioneering international law firm that provides strategic counsel to governments, corporates and private clients.”
In addition to providing legal counsel, the company specializes in public relations.
The firm advises the governments of oil-rich Gabon and Kazakhstan. Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, was elected in 2009, after his father who ruled over the country for 42 years died in 2009.
The UK’s Telegraph in March 2014 said Blair employs around 50 staff with a yearly wage bill of over US$ 3.5 million.
The firm’s appointment comes amidst growing international criticism of the Maldives government over the imprisonment of politicians, including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The European Union parliament and US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed have called for Nasheed’s immediate release, while Canada on Tuesday said the deteriorating rights situation in the Maldives must be discussed at the Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
Nasheed has also appointed high-profile international lawyers consisting of Amal Clooney, founder of Freedom Now Jared Genser and UN rights chief on counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson.
Former President Mohamed Waheed employed Baroness Scotland for legal advice concerning the Maldives’ suspension from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
State auditors discovered she was paid £50,000 without signing a formal agreement in addition to a consultancy fee of £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) agreed upon in the ToR.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom employed UK PR firm Hill and Knowlton during the pro-democracy protests of the mid 2000s and reportedly paid the firm US$ 800,000 in a three year period.