Parliamentarians of the European Union have expressed concern over the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and will vote on a travel advisory for the Maldives on Thursday in Strasbourg, France.
Europeans make up nearly half of the tourist arrivals in the Maldives, and a travel advisory may have a devastating impact on the country’s economy as it depends largely on revenue from tourism.
Nasheed’s 13-year jail term on terrorism charges in a rushed trial last month sparked international outrage over lack of due process. The charges relate to the detention of a judge during his tenure.
The seven parliamentary groups in the EU parliament have each submitted a motion for a resolution, all of which noted a lurch towards authoritarianism in the Maldives.
In addition to the imprisonment of opposition politicians, MEPs also raised concern over growing radicalization, a crackdown on the freedom of speech, press and assembly, deteriorating conditions for migrant workers, slow judicial reform and the reinstatement of the death penalty.
At Wednesday’s debate, UK MEP Charles Tannock said human rights were deteriorating in the Maldives at an “alarming rate” and urged the Maldives to “unconditionally release former president Nasheed, and take the necessary steps to reform the judiciary in order to restore confidence in the rule of law.”
Tannock said the resolution by the conservative MEPs calls “for warnings to be given to EU tourists visiting the Indian Ocean tourist destination,” and said he hoped the Maldives as a commonwealth country could be brought back from the brink.
The resolution also calls on the EU to freeze the assets abroad of Maldivian government officials if democratic gains backslide further.
Netherlands MEP Marietje Schaake said Nasheed’s charges were politically motivated and expressed concern over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August last year.
Rise of Islamic radicalization in the Maldives and recruitment for the Islamic State is “very troubling,” she continued, and said the liberal MEPs also support a travel warning for tourists on the “possible risk of instability.”
UK’s Richard Howitt, MEP of the alliance for socialists and democrats, called for “European tourist advice to be explicitly used to apply pressure for change.
“The Maldives may be small dots in a large ocean, but we will not stand by when its democracy and respect for human rights is disappearing beneath the waves.”
The vote comes ahead of a major antigovernment protest on Friday.
The opposition has vowed to hold a 25,000 strong march in the capital Malé, but police have threatened a crackdown saying they’ve received reports protesters are planning to attack the security forces and residences of government officials.