The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) NGO has today called for the international community to send observers to Male’ in time for the release of the findings of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).
With the CNI expected to publicly release its findings on Thursday (August 30), FIDH said that it was “extremely concerned” about the potential for violence in the build up and aftermath of the report’s release.
“The CNI was established in May to determine the nature of the transition of power in February, which led to the so-called resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed,” the NGO stated.
“These events were followed by continuous unrest in the streets of Male’ and severe repression of demonstrations by state security forces. FIDH calls on the international community to immediately send observers to Male’ to prevent further deterioration of the human rights situation in the country.”
The NGO’s statement comes a day after the Maldives Police Service (MPS) launched an operation to introduce increased scrutiny of the Male’s streets and surrounding waters in order to try and control fears of a potential outbreak of unrest ahead of release of the CNI findings.
Maldives Police Service Assistant Commissioner Hussain Waheed today told reporters that authorities had decided to strengthen security across the capital and other islands, in order to “not give any opportunity to create unrest”.
However, Waheed claimed police would provide full support and security services to demonstrations held “peacefully and within the contours of laws”.
Discussing the current political situation in the Maldives, FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen claimed the NGO was concerned with a number of cases of violence and a “deterioration” in media freedom since February’s controversial transfer of power.
“Since last February, we have witnessed fast-increasing political violence in the Maldives, as well as the multiplication of arbitrary arrests, sexual harassment of female protesters and legal and physical harassment of opposition leaders, including murder attempts,” she claimed. “In such a context, the wait-and-see approach adopted by the international community has become unsustainable and irresponsible.”
During a visit to Male’ by the NGO earlier this month, FIDH claimed it had witnessed an ongoing “deterioration” in press freedoms since February.
“The influence of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the extreme polarisation of the media have been a cause of concern throughout the [constutitional] reform process, and since last February, the authorities have been accused of harassing pro-opposition media,” the NGO said in its statement.
FIDH President Belhassen noted particular concern with the violent attack earlier this year of local blogger Hilath Rasheed, who was left in a critical condition after being stabbed in the neck near his home in Male’ last month.
FIDH alleged that the attack was conducted by religious extremists based on interviews conducted with Hilath after he had to fled the Maldives after partly recovering from his injuries. The government has denied there was proof of any religious motivation behind the attack, claiming it had been carried out by rival gang members.
“FIDH found that the general public has little trust in public institutions, and that these institutions are seen as ineffective in breaking impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations. Authorities also have failed to investigate police violence impartially,” Belhassen stated. “Moreover, despite all the evidence available, the investigation of the attempted murder of human rights defender Hilath Rasheed has not progressed.”