The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over violent protests and use of “excessive force” against demonstrators.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Spokesperson for High Commissioner Navi Pillay, Rupert Colville, observed that “instances of apparent brutality have been captured on camera. These include the seemingly deliberate and uncalled-for use of some kind of spray on former President [Mohamed] Nasheed, and the driving of police vehicles at high speed into crowds of protesters.”
“Such actions deserve immediate investigation, and firm action should be taken by the authorities against those responsible for excessive use of force,” stated Colville. “We appeal to all parties to refrain from violence and create conditions for political dialogue and reconciliation.”
Police initially denied pepper-spraying former President Nasheed during a rally on July 14.
“Maldives Police did not use any excessive force nor was pepper spray directed to anyone’s face,” police said in a statement.
However a video released of the incident showed a riot police officer reaching over a crowd of people surrounding Nasheed and spraying him in the face. Nasheed turns away as the spray hits him, and is taken away by his supporters, but later returned to the protest.
President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said the government had no comment on the matter as it was under investigation, “and in due course the Human Rights Minister [Dhiyana Saeed] will address the concerns.”
The UN Office for Human Rights also noted the criminal charges that had been brought against Nasheed concerning his detention of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his final days in office.
“We… stress that any such matters must be handled with full respect to the due process rights and fair trial safeguards guaranteed by the Maldives’ Constitution and international human rights treaty obligations,” Colville stated.
In a statement, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) criticised the charges as “politically-motivated, and designed to remove the current regime’s political opponents from the public sphere.”
“International bodies including the UN Human Rights Committee and the International Committee of Jurists have also voiced serious doubts as to the independence and impartiality of the judiciary; showing that it will be impossible to conduct a fair trial,” the party said.
During the Maldives’ defence of its human rights record before the UN Human Rights Committee earlier this week, a panel member noted the “troubling role of the judiciary at the center” of the controversial transfer of power on February 7.
“The judiciary – which is admittedly in serious need of training and qualifications – is yet seemingly playing a role leading to the falling of governments,” he observed.
In a preliminary statement following the Maldives’ appearance, the Committee said it was “deeply concerned” about the state of the judiciary.
The State has admitted that this body’s independence is seriously compromised. The Committee has said the judiciary is desperately in need of more serious training, and higher standards of qualification. As 6 of 7 Supreme Court judges are experts in Sharia law and nothing more, this court in particular is in need of radical readjustment. This must be done to guarantee just trials, and fair judgments for the people of Maldives,” the Committee stated.