The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has highlighted concerns raised by the UN Committee on Human Rights (UNHRC) that civil society organisations in the Maldives have allegedly received threats after submitting evidence to the inter-governmental body.
According to the MDP, the warning came during the closing stages of the Committee’s consideration of the Maldives’ report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel and State Minister for Foreign Affairs have spent the last few days defending the country’s human rights record before the committee, which received a series of reports critical of that record from numerous local and international organisations.
An emergency point of order was raised by the Vice Chair of the Committee during the closely stages of the committee hearing.
The committee had, the Vice Chair said, “received extremely worrying reports that civil society groups in the Maldives which gave information for this meeting have been the subject of threats as a result. This includes the worst kind of threat – the threat to life,” the MDP cited in a statement.
Reprisals against such organisations and individuals for cooperating with international human rights bodies was a serious concern, the panel noted, and urged the government to ensure civil society was protected.
The MDP noted that with the statement, the Maldives had joined other States to have received such warnings including Bahrain and Sri Lanka.
President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News that the government had “received complaints” from former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK, Dr Farhanaz Faizal, “that she has been receiving death threats, and we have brought this to the attention of the High Commission in London and the police.”
Minivan News was awaiting clarification from Dr Faizal at time of press.
Separately, Minivan News obtained an email sent by President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad to the Helios Life Association, a Swiss-based NGO which submitted a report to the UNHRC claiming that “the growing political and institutional influence of radical Islamic groups has undermined the Maldives’ progress towards realisation of rights guaranteed under the ICCPR.”
The Helios report noted that “this growing radicalisation resulted in the creation of a coalition of political parties in December, called the 23rd December Coalition for the Defence of Islam.
“As well as extremist religious elements, the 23rd December Coalition comprised of a range of political groups and individuals linked to the country’s former autocratic leader, Mr Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The Coalition had been formed in direct opposition to the observance of international human rights law, particularly to the undertaking given at the UPR process that a national debate will be held on ending forms of punishment not consistent with Article 7.”
The report drew the Committee’s attention to the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, to the Maldives and the vitriolic reaction to calls she made for a moratorium of the flogging of women for extramarital sex.
“The [December 23] Coalition proceeded to carry out a coup d’etat on February 7, which was executed by elements of the army and police loyal to Mr Gayoom, his close allies and former members of his government, and other parts of the 23rd December Coalition, following a call by the then Vice‐President, Dr Mohamed Waheed, to ‘defend Islam and the Constitution’”, the Helios report alleged.
“The coup saw elements of the police and army threaten the Maldives’ first democratically‐elected President, Mr Mohamed Nasheed, his family and colleagues from the ruling Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), with physical harm or worse unless he resign by a certain time.”
In the email sent to the Helios Association, Imad asks the organisation’s President, Dr Anna Barchetti Durisch, for the “names and positions” of the report’s authors, and whether a delegation from the organisation had visited the Maldives to assist in the drafting.
Speaking to Minivan News, Imad said that the picture on the front of the report – consisting of several police officers holding a baton to an old man with a bloody head injury – was a “fake picture” that had been photoshopped.
As for the report’s content, “much of it is biased. It sounded like a joke to me,” he said.
Pictured: The Helios report cover image the government alleges is fake.