“Maldives backtracking on democracy”: International Federation for Human Rights

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) yesterday released its report into human rights in the Maldives, titled “From Sunrise to Sunset: Maldives backtracking on democracy”.

In a statement accompanying the report’s release, the group stated that it had witnessed a deterioration in the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the press as well as the “influence of radical groups detrimental to women’s rights”.

“The appointment of close allies of the former dictator Gayoom the new administration these past months, is another worrying sign that questions the respect for democratic principles and the rule of law in the country,” read the statement.

FIDH arranged a fact finding mission to the Maldives at the end of July, meeting with politicians, activists, civil society members and journalists.

The Paris-based group’s President Souhayr Belhassen called on the government to respect democratic gains made in the country, particularly implementing the recommendations of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) and strengthening independent institutions.

The CNI’s final report, whilst absolving the current government of any wrong-doing during February’s transfer of power, acknowledged that the police had been guilty of acts of brutality on February 8 which must be investigated.

The FIDH report describes how the past decade’s democratic reforms have stalled owing to political polarisation and institutional inertia.

“The 2008 constitution guarantees most of Maldives’ human rights obligations; however these have so far failed to be translated into domestic law,” it says.

It also suggests that the failure of the Nasheed administration to prosecute past human rights offenders has contributed to a “culture of impunity for perpetrators of past human rights violations.”

Civil society that was “flourishing and vocal during the democratic struggle became less visible during the presidency of Mohamed Nasheed”, says the report, arguing that it had become another casualty of the polarised environment.

The report detials the difficulties the country has had with separating the powers of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary which had previously been dominated by former President Gayoom.

“Tensions with the judiciary and the opposition-dominated parliament, led [Nasheed] to take unilateral decisions that exceeded his prerogatives, such as ordering the arrest of opposition leaders and a judge without following due process, or by declaring the Supreme Court defunct. Since Mohamed Waheed took over power, executive interference has continued,” read the report.

Regarding the state of the judiciary, FIDH argues that testimonies gathered from its members show that, “under the successive administrations, no political party has actually ever shown any willingness to establish an independent judiciary since each seems to benefit from the existing system.”

FIDH also notes that the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has been accused of a wide range of human right violations, including violent harassment of street protesters, torture and harassment of pro-opposition media as wells as legal and physical harassment of the opposition.

“Practices to silence political dissent that had disappeared in the course of Nasheed’s presidency, have once again become prevalent under Mohamed Waheed’s presidency,” said FIDH.

The report highlights what it sees as impartial investigations of crimes, citing in particular the attempted murder of blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed.

The issue of the use of religion for political gains is criticised in the report: “The exploitation of religion for political gains has posed a threat to the drafting of new legislations by potentially limiting existing human rights.”

FIDH also expressed its concerns that tentative gains in women’s rights, as typified by the recent domestic violence bill, could be reversed if government aligned religious groups push for full implementation of Sharia law.

The report also criticises the apparent enthusiasm amongst politicians for implementation of the death penalty, saying: “With the current state of the judiciary and the incapacity of the police to properly investigate crimes, analysts fear judicial errors would result in the death of innocent people.”

In its recommendations to the Maldives government, FIDH urges the Maldives to remove from the domestic legal framework provisions that restrict individual right based on “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other statu” to conform with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Amongst its other recommendations, the report urges the government to strengthen independent institutions, to enact relevant legislation which will enable the country to fulfil its human rights obligations  and to order a thorough investigation into the attack on ‘Hilath’ Rasheed.

“The situation remains at the time of release of this report relatively confused and uncertain,” concludes the report, “however, the coming weeks will be crucial to test the Government’s ability and willingness to prevent further acts of police brutality and, in general, a deterioration of the human rights situation.”

FIDH’s report follows the release of an Amnesty International report last week which highlighted a number of politically motivated attacks by police on February 8.

Following the government’s claims that Amnesty had produced a one-sided report without seeking comment from the government, an Amnesty spokesperson stressed that the organisation was without political affiliation and had not been the only group to highlight human rights violations in the Maldives this year.

“In compiling our report we talked at length with government and police officials in Malé and Addu during our visit to the country in late February and early March. On the occasions they responded we have included their comments in our documents,” said the spokesperson.


11 thoughts on ““Maldives backtracking on democracy”: International Federation for Human Rights”

  1. As I had mentioned before, my reservations about FIDH have proven true.

    Its only and first engagement with the Maldives was in highlighting the attack on Hillath Rasheed. The NGO has no past experience with the local situation and therefore seriously lacks the familiarity to assess any situation in the Maldives let alone one which is rife with political intrigue.

    This whole rent-an-NGO circus has to stop. Its like anyone with the right contacts can get these people to issue statements favorable to their political agenda these days.

    Also contrary to what Nasheed may have told you the capital city of Male has a fairly large literate class who does not appreciate the obvious distortion of facts used by organizations such as FIDH. Your shameless twisting of the truth only results in loss for us all. You lose credibility among the Maldivian population while we unfairly get labeled in the international sphere impacting travel and commerce.

    I sincerely do not like Nasheed's anything-goes policy when it comes to politics. MDP must really look to others for leadership if party members truly have any affection for their own country.

  2. What this report fails to outline is the United States' role in orchestrating the coup that ousted the democratically elected leader. It is in the US interest to stir up radical Islam, to keep the radical Zionists in power in Israel, and to create the market for its #1 export - arms and military force - so that it can sustain its own economic growth. An added bonus for the radical religious right in the US is a hastening of Armageddon, for they believe that the one true God is on their side, and they will have dominion over the world when the final battle is over.

  3. Mr. tsk tsk. If you could ever stop turning each of your comments into a personal attack, people would take you more seriously.

    Also, it reeks of high hypocrisy when you whine about 'anything goes' policies, while refusing to recognize the human rights of other humans.

  4. Oh, and I humbly ask that you visit Mal'e some time soon, instead of depending on your VTV. That'll open up your mind.

  5. tsk tsk, you clearly haven't read the report. Of the 29 pages, the Rasheed topic has 5 sentences.

  6. there you go tsk tsk a.k.a. kutti Nasheed. you cannot bear when the world knows what really goes on in Maldives - most of it still stemming from a regime you are closely associated with and whose crimes like Evan Naseem's custodial death you tried to hide in vain.. and still try to white wash the blood stained record of your hero Gayoom... and the repressive culture you have tried to emulate and propagate all your life. Your Malaysian education certainly left with a warped world view.

  7. On what do you base your drivel C Karen Stopford?

    Let's have some anecdotal evidence to support these spurious claims you make.....anything....something....please. Yeah, I thought not.

  8. It is a fair assessmet of our affairs. A change for the better cannot precede acknowledgement. It is obvious that human rights abuses is institutionalized in our archaic laws. Even during Nasheeds' presidency victims of crimes were arrested. The fact is we need to have a pradigm shift in our society. This mess of a society cannot form a puralistic political system.

  9. TSK TSK is right. This NGO came into light in Maldives only with the Hillath issue and not before then.

    Also their report is always biased since they only talk to MDP hardcore members and never get the opinion from any other person in Maldives.

    They were being cheated by MDP and they probably thinks that entire Maldives is MDP and only handful people are not agreeing to MDP .

    But the truth is that majority of Maldives does not like Anni and his policies .

    So i demand this NGO not to interfere with our internal politics and you will never accepted in by the majority of Maldivian as long as you are sided with Anni.

  10. @ Kutti Nasheed/tsk tsk

    Where exactly are the lies in FIDH's report?

    Obviously you are the shameless liar here.

  11. This is a very biased report. It made countless baseless and false allegations about the current government. It looks like a desperate attempt to sell the made claims by Nasheed.

    This is disgusting to bring only one side of the story. What we saw was incredible tolerance by the Maldives Police towards the demonstrators; indeed better than the reaction of UK, US and other western countries' towards demonstrations in their countries. What we saw was the the Nasheed's cult members who demonstrated intentionally disrupted peace in the country by destroying public property and attacked police. Those who were more severly injured were police officers; not the demonstrators. There were no fire arm were used as in other countries.


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