Foreign Ministry calls for investigation of attack on silent protest

The Foreign Ministry has called on “relevant national institutions”, including police and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), to investigate allegations of violence that led to the hospitalisation of blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed on December 10.

The statement came in response to Amnesty International’s expression of alarm at the government’s failure to prosecute a group of men who attacked the blogger with stones for his participation in a ‘silent protest’ calling for religious tolerance. Images of the attackers were provided to police and posted online by the protesters, despite threats against them if they did so, however no arrests were made.

Rasheed was designated an Amnesty ‘prisoner of conscience’ after he was arrested and detained for 24 days while he was investigated for his role in the protest, and the content of his blocked blog which the Islamic Ministry had earlier deemed anti-Islamic. He was released on January 6 without charge.

In its response to Amnesty, the Foreign Ministry stated that Rasheed was “treated in full accordance with his human rights as guaranteed under domestic law”.

“The Constitution of the Maldives affirms that Islam is the religion of the State of the Maldives. The Constitution does not allow for freedom of religion,” the Foreign Ministry stated, observing that the Maldives “maintains a reservation [on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] under Article 18 on freedom of religion and conscience.”

“The basis of the police investigation into Mr Rasheed’s blog was therefore reflective of and in accordance with domestic law and with the Maldives’ international human rights obligations,” the Ministry argued.

The Ministry noted “with concern” the attack on Rasheed, but criticised the protesters for failing to inform the authorities about the protest, “a step which would have allowed the police to maintain order and protect him and other members of the public.”

“The right to freedom of assembly is enshrined in Maldivian law. However, under the law, while it is not necessary to seek authorisation for assemblies from the authorities (in line with international human rights norms), it is necessary to inform the authorities so that protests can be effectively policed,” the Ministry argued.

“Mr Rasheed and others participating in the December 10th gathering did not comply with these legal requirements, a fact which unfortunately contributed to the breakdown of law and order on that day when the protesters were violently attacked,” the statement read.

Speaking to Minivan News this week following his release, Rasheed observed that prison conditions “have not changed since [former President] Gayoom’s time”.

The blogger was locked for three weeks in a small, three-sided room with 11 other people. Despite the opening there was no airflow, the room was unventilated and the fan in the room was broken, he said.

The room was so small and crowded it was impossible for 12 people to fully stretch out and sleep properly, and despite requirements that  inmates be allowed out for at least an hour’s exercise every day, no one was allowed outside during his detention, Rasheed told Minivan News.

The blogger also expressed concern that some of his fellow inmates had been remanded in custody for up to three months without charge pending police investigations, trapped in “legal limbo”.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry said it “takes note of comments made by Mr Rasheed in the press regarding mistreatment while in detention.”

“The Foreign Ministry notes in this regard that, as a State Party to the Convention against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT), a national mechanism exists to investigate such claims and related issues such as conditions in places of detention – namely the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM).

“The Foreign Ministry therefore expresses its confidence that the NPM will immediate look into the claims made by Mr Rasheed and will publish its independent findings.”

The Ministry concluded by “welcoming” Amnesty International’s “interest in and engagement with human rights issues in the Maldives.”

“The government has a strong and positive relationship with Amnesty International at both a domestic level and at the level of the UN, and looks forward to a continued constructive dialogue with them and with other international human rights NGOs.”

President Mohamed Nasheed was himself designated a prisoner of conscience during his incarceration by the former government.


35 thoughts on “Foreign Ministry calls for investigation of attack on silent protest”

  1. Good response by the Foreign Ministry.

    Does the word sovereignty mean nothing to institutions such as Amnesty anymore?

  2. There is currently no law against silent gatherings calling for religious tolerance, so attacking the gathering was slightly out of order and arguably constitutes assault. So yes, it should be investigated and those involved should be counselled to refrain from vigilantism.

    Though in future, the reasonable course of action would be to delianate the specific consequences for advocating religious tolerance in our penal code.

    Perhaps a hefty fine for the first offense, imprisonment and then banishment for repeat offenders. If they cannot be reformed, garroting them may also be appropriate.

    The matter of fact is, if the state were actually responsible in carrying out their duties, our citizens wouldn't be victimized to the extent whereby they feel the need to take justice into their own hands in order to defend the rest of us from religious tolerance, which is deviant and undesirable.

    So at some level, it is hard not to sympathize with these so called "attackers". The Islamophobes cannot forever persist in provoking the rest of us without having to suffer the consequences.

    "Religious tolerance" indeed. Islamophobia is the more appropriate word. Neither of which we can allow to fester here.

  3. @Tsk tsk

    "For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretences; you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

    - Melian Dialogue -

    This is as true now as it was 2000 years ago; it is as true within the international sphere, as it is within the domestic sphere; it is as true to India, as it is to the Maldives.

    If the West (and I am Maldivian to clarify) really wanted to encroach on our sovereignty, they could. Resisting them would be quite ineffectual. You, who considers yourself a pragmatist, surely must realize this?

    So instead of lamenting this and that, work within the context offered by those terms. We are a small country and we do not have the ability nor resources to influence those terms to the benefit of what we (the majority) ideally desire.

    Also, the terms of sovereignty are set out in the U.N charter (refer to article 2[4] and [7]).

    With reference to your understanding of international law, how has the sovereignty of your country been violated by amnesty?

    It is an international body that has tasked itself with monitoring the human rights situation globally. Commenting on when violations occur is perfectly within the bounds of their normal practice with regard to these occasions. Do those comments in and of themselves violate your sovereignty?

    Sovereignty only exists to the extent that your fellow denizen states of the world community allow it to exist. They will take it way with guns and ship; or with loans and bribes, in either case there would be nothing you could do about it.

    But they do not take it away with harsh words and condemnations of the domestic policies of nation states with regard to how they treat political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. That itself is not a violation of sovereignty. Sovereignty is something you enjoy, be glad. I certainly am.

  4. The retarded Maldivian lawyers and government officials do not realise that a call to change a clause of the constitution that you do not like is not the same as breaking that clause of the constitution and therefore is not a crime.

    If this is deemed a crime then the constitution is full of contradictions because it allows for change but any act to change it a crime - so essentially the consitution cannot be a reasonable and respectable document and therefore should be void...

  5. Hillath please stay in home otherwise????? been???? foreign minister couldn't change any laws and regulation...

  6. "The Constitution does not allow for freedom of religion,” the Foreign Ministry stated, observing that the Maldives “maintains a reservation [on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] under Article 18 on freedom of religion and conscience."

    A very important point and very well put indeed. Most members of the United Nations maitain various forms of reservations on International Covenants and even International Law!

    I hate to bring Israel into this argument, but it's a very good example. International Law forbids annexing disputed territory resulting from wars. However, Isreal steadfastly rejects that (it's not even a reservation!).

    So, before hordes of people lambast the poor old Maldives for holding "reservations" on such laudable Covenants, think again!

  7. I also call for investigation of human abuse by the current dictatorship! Where is Sandhaanu Ahanmaidhee and Matheen? They are toiling away in prison!

  8. How come no one has asked to investigate about hijack of Finance Minister Inaz by MDP thug Dhonbilleh Ahmed and his gang.

  9. @ZA on Fri, 13th Jan 2012 10:35 AM

    "Where is Sandhaanu Ahanmaidhee and Matheen?"

    Yes, it's deplorable that they've been banged up in Police cells for the crime of saying that the government is controlled by Christian clergy!

    Let's look at this way. If a group of people went up on American TV claiming that Obama's government was controlled by outside Muslim Clerics, would they get banged up in a Police cell straight away? I certainly don't think so!

    So, why did Zuhair suddenly start getting hot under the collar over this issue (I sometimes think Zuhair is more of a liability than anything else). A lot of other baseless rubbish have been thrown at each other by both sides over the last 3 years. For example, Gayyoom and has family have been alleged with all sort of crimes from embezzling state funds to arms running. None of these have been ever proved in a court of law. Neither have the instigators of these calls ever appeared before Police.

    There has to be a single law for everyone in this country. Nasheed's regime must indeed be feeling the heat over this allegation by Sandhaanu Did. After all, Didi just reiterated what Sandhaanu Luthufee said a short while ago. There's no smoke without a fire...

  10. radhun its very true , for this government , who advocate for gay right is more prominent than a minister

  11. Sandhaanu Did is, unfortunately quite experienced with Police cells and Police brutality and it's no surprise that he's very vocal in his criticism of the government.

    By locking him up, Didi will become a hero for a lot of people. I don't support what Didi said on TV, but I can't help feeling that there's something afoot, given the speed with which the government and Police acted against him.

    After all, our Police service is not known for either its efficiency or its effectiveness in anything under their remit! Murders committed in islands with less that 200 people go unsolved for years, if ever.

    However, when it comes to locking up those that the government doesn't like, our Police service is as quick as lightning... North Koreans will be proud of that.

  12. Minivan news,

    I wonder how to forgot to report that the famous political activist Sandhaanu Didi was arrested last night and taken to Dhoonidhoo jail. We are now entering a new era of dictatorship. Our president just cannot digest criticism against him.

    I call on the Amnesty International to put pressure on

  13. Last week my house was robbed, probably by the criminals released by the president under the second chance porgrame, or third, chance, i lost count. A few wweks back my neigbours son was assaulted by crimainals on the street. A few months ao, our bangladesh office staff was mugged by gangs, Why doesnt the foreign minister call for an investigation??????? At the end of the day, it will be maldivians who will be voting, not david hardingham or mike mason! And we maldivians are fed up with this govnments antics and efforts to increase foreign influences and benefits to their wie masters

  14. They wont investigate it. Even that day the police did not even take any reports from eye witnesses. they refused to take it and took only Hilath's report.

    I have reported to police several times about this guy on twitter ( He have been threatening people that he suspects to be supporting the secular cause. he is doing it openly and was one of the people who threatened hilath and some others who went to the gathering BEFORE they went. He is a close friend of an opposition MP, and allegedly affiliated with certain gangs (he claims so). Just go through his tweets and see for your self. THERE IS NO HOPE FOR JUSTICE OR PEACE HERE.

  15. Maybe the Internal Ministry (does it exist?) should also call for investigation in to why has this infamous, gay, islamophobic blogger who also happens to be a drug addict was released without court order. This man Hillath is a problem for everyone including the government and the people. Some of his colleagues have definitely conned Amnesty to think he is a saintly figure. Its so easy to fool lawyers, you see! 🙂

  16. "Last week my house was robbed, probably by the criminals released by the president under the second chance porgrame, or third, chance, i lost count. A few wweks back my neigbours son was assaulted by crimainals on the street. A few months ao, our bangladesh office staff was mugged by gangs, Why doesnt the foreign minister call for an investigation???????"

    My my, what wretched lives we all lead. All because of the neglect of our very own leaders at that.

    Perhaps having our system be supplanted by foreigners would not be so terrible after all; if competence is what replaced sovereignty.

  17. The reservation submitted in relation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights did not refer to freedom of religion but referred to the constitution. When the Maldives registered its reservation the constitution did not have a clause that required all Maldivians to be Muslims. The Covenant required the Maldives to align its domestic laws to what it agreed in the Covenant. Instead it went ahead and changed the constitution in contravention of the Covenant as agreed, by limiting citizenship to Muslims only. That is like committing cheque fraud.

  18. Adam barthelow, thats precisely what the british used to say about the " savage natives" during colonisation....... And u missed the point. The point is this overnment is releasing criminals to stay in power to please their white masters.

  19. Fuly agree with idrees
    "Maybe the Internal Ministry (does it exist?) should also call for investigation in to why has this infamous, gay, islamophobic blogger who also happens to be a drug addict was released without court order. This man Hillath is a problem for everyone including the government and the people. Some of his colleagues have definitely conned Amnesty to think he is a saintly figure. Its so easy to fool lawyers, you see! "

  20. @Ahmed bin Addu bin Suvadheeb
    i normally find your comments enlightening and very reasonable, but this one where you compare American democracy & ours. Im not the biggest fan of Anni, but i think as long as we pretent to be a 100% muslim state and all the laws made within the tenets of islam whereby all citizens MUST be sunni muslims including the president, i think we can pretend its ok to shut those who call the president a christian... IF we had a secular state, i think your argument stands credible..

    my point is its obvious every nutcase is using religion to gain some public attention whenever they are not relevant in the public sphere and THIS has got to stop.

  21. It is completely judicial that the attackers on the protesters on December 10 for religious freedom to be brought to justice. No one has right to attack anyone whether criminal or not. The constitution presumes innocence unless proved guilty. So, though the protest may be unlawful the protesters cannot be punished until they are convicted by a court. The attackers on Hilath took the law into their hands which is widely recognised as an offence.

  22. Imagine expressing the same concerns in comments verbally in a room with different believers and politicians.

    Imagine Nobody fights and personally attacks each other. Imagine what we can achieve by sharing concerns and solving the issues with discipline.

    I would then believe we have achieved a mile stone in democracy or tolerance.

    But this dream is far from achieving for now. We have yet to get rid of xenophobia.

    It could be parliament which is teaching intolerant debating skills to the Maldivians.

    My thoughts are that people need to travel around the world and learn the beautiful lives they live with discipline.

    Japan can be considered as a good example for their good discipline in dealing with food and helping in their tragedy.

  23. Nothing will happen to these people.

    The actions were carried out by Zahid Rameez under the direction of Ahmed Nihan who is actually just a puppet for Maummon Gayoom.

    Strangely the other people involved in this include Ibrahim Lutfy (in Switzerland), his involvment is for mostly personal gains to do with his immigration status which came into question when Mohamed Nasheed was made president, as Lutfy is a refugee in Switzerland having fled Maumoon's regime. He now supports Maummoon to stay in status.

    Nihan or Gayoom has bought tickets for Zahid Rameez to leave the country. He will be leaving within 72 hours.

  24. We don't have to travel around the world to learn about tolerance. It will help, of course. Travel broadens the mind. Afterall, Muslims of the past were pioneers in travel and trade, which led to the spread of Islam.

    We should start with something more achievable. Getting school kids to debate will be a very good way forward. We can only build a solid foundation for society with the young. Teach them how to agree to disagree. It's also a way of encouraging young people to participate more widely in society, rather than staying hooked on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of "social" networking all day long.

    In response to "dhon' aisa on Sat, 14th Jan 2012 3:49 PM", Japan is a very good example, but it's not one you can easily emulate. The Japanese society is the way it's today because of thousands of years of history and transformation. They are especially known for their tolerance; living in some of the most crowded cities in the world. You can't easily graft that on to another society. We can learn their good habits and teach that to our children.

    We are a very old society too, but we've only recently started to live in cramped conditions and with people of vastly dissimilar views. Throughout most of our history, we've lived rather isolated lives. This is what characterises the indifferent nature of the average Maldivian.

  25. Japan is ethnically homogoneous and do not contain (from their perspective) religious undesirables.

    So yes, there are certain aspects we may emulate from them.

  26. "Wine and Pork Lover on Sun, 15th Jan 2012 12:35 PM

    You haven’t heard of the Ainu…..obviously."

    They could easily be garroted and disposed of if the authorities in Japan considered them a nuisance.

    In fact, Japan has been highly succesful in combatting the spread of foreign religions on their soul; for instance, Christianity was effectively wiped out during the days of the 16th century shougunate.

    Under the right circumstances, I would even call their conduct highly admirable, and we would be wise to emulate them in certain regards.

  27. This is no business of Foreign ministry. They should stay out of it. The police and law enforcement agencies should deal with this issue. The FM has many other things they should focus on.

  28. Can any one tell me if the constitution forbids one from asking for religious freedom?


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